by Dave Jensen, Search Masters International.
Basic and Applied Science
Ken Armstrong of Armstrong Associates, Encino, California, describes his view of
the hottest technologies: "Although a number of our region's companies
have experienced difficulties lately, there are many which are successfully progressing
in bringing products to market. We see second-generation biotech firms with antisense
or receptor technologies who have products in early clinicals. These "new biotechnologies"
aid in developing treatments for known illnesses, but they will also help to combat
new and emerging diseases."
Drug Discovery - These scientists often have hybrid backgrounds
which include molecular biology, cell biology, and exposure to today's hot biotech
technologies like gene therapy or antisense. Because the category of "discovery
scientist" is a broad and difficult-to-classify area, careers can come up through
a number of disciplines.
Receptor Biology - Another of the multi-disciplined areas where
specific disciplines can be blurred. Examples of healthy job categories include
Receptor Biochemists, Molecular Biologists with experience in receptors and their
ligands, and Cell Biologists with experience in G protein-coupled receptors.
Cell Biology - New fields of research in the cell therapy and tissue
engineering sectors combine with the continuing need for mammalian cells as a production
system for proteins. Cells are the engines and brains of many processes, and the
biologist who understands these new frontiers is on the cutting edge of the job
market. Like all of these positions, a scientist with previous industrial experience
is preferred when it comes to extending an offer.
Bioinformatics - Structural biology, computational chemistry, mathematics
and a love of computing combine in one of the most "difficult to fill"
positions of them all. As the computer becomes a stronger tool in modeling complex
structures or processes, biocomputational specialists may learn to make simpler
molecules that produce the same end results.
Linda St. James, Search Masters International, specializes in those positions that
go beyond basic science and support implementation in the clinic: "It's
exciting to work with companies who are getting closer and closer to putting a new
drug on the market. We see lots of opportunities for chemists and biochemists to
tackle fresh problems in order to deliver therapies that few of us barely conceived
of a decade and a half ago. The most "in demand" profession would have
to be clinical research, though, which is so key to bringing products successfully
through the FDA and to the market."
Bioanalytical Chemistry - Analytical chemistry has long been relegated
to the QC lab in traditional industries. In biotechnology, however, those who develop
and validate the critical assays needed by both R & D and clinical manufacturing
teams are in strong demand. Judging by the number of open positions in this field,
this will continue.
Formulations and Drug Delivery - This is another career choice
that can be quite multidisciplined, both chemists and engineers are found in this
category. Generally, a Ph.D. Pharmaceutical Chemist or Biochemist with experience
in formulation chemistry and/or drug delivery technologies (i.e. controlled release)
will have no problem in the job market. There are very few academic institutions
that teach these special skills, and it is a supply and demand job market.
Clinical Research - This is a huge category of positions and career
tracks, but if you ask any Human Resources person what their more difficult recruiting
projects entail, there is a strong likelihood that many of them will come from this
category. A strong future is easily forecast over the next decade for those with
careers in the clinical side of biotechnology. Although it is certainly true that
our industry can't support 1500 biotech companies in this country, we may have
trouble even supplying one-third of that group with CRAs.
Bioprocess Engineering - Scale-up of bioproducts is still a hot
topic in the job market. This career choice is helped along by the growth in the
non-medical areas of biotech, which consultant Roger Shamel of Consulting Resources
says will double as a percentage of overall biotech sales in the next ten years
(biochemicals, biopesticides, enzymes, etc.).
Joe McMahon, Management Recruiters, advises that his client companies are all running
bio-manufacturing operations. "For us, the hot positions are those in which
organizations are taking products into the scaleup or manufacturing mode. We've
been watching growth in areas like downstream processing, utility and project engineering,
and validation and believe that they will continue to represent strong career choices."
Plant Engineering - Always in demand by the mid-sized and larger
companies are the chemical or mechanical engineers with hands-on experience. This
experience might include a working knowledge of processing equipment and supporting
utility systems. As in the case of all engineers, previous capital project management
experience is very valuable.
Validation and Regulatory Compliance - A biotechnologist can develop
a validation career with a life sciences background, an engineering degree, or as
one key manager says, "Any kind of degree as long as they have a proclivity
for detail work." Ask a validation specialist how many calls he or she had
in the last week from headhunters and you'll get a feel for what the future
holds for these folks.
Regulatory Affairs - This is another field for which there is no
direct route out of academia, so disciplines and degree levels can vary widely.
Despite which biotech technology sector we are referring to, there remains a solid
growth for regulatory people at all levels. Most in- demand are those senior professionals
with a combination of large and small company experience, preferably with both a
CBER and CDER contact base.
Manufacturing Management - A myriad of career opportunities has
opened up for those technical professionals who wish to escape the bench and move
into operations. According to human resources consultants, the undergraduate-degreed
professional who may encounter frustration in a Ph.D.-dominant research lab will
find that there are unlimited opportunities for growth on the operations side of
a biotech business.
Mitch Mandell, an Arizona biotech business recruiter, describes what he calls the
"hidden" job market in the biotech supplier category. "The growth
in life sciences research has created a market of instrument and consumables suppliers
that fill the huge demand for the tools that these scientists need to do their job.
I've found that the most difficult-to-find employees are the technical professionals
with an interest in business, perhaps sales or marketing. These people are always
Sales and Marketing - One of the best places to excel with an undergraduate
education in the life sciences remains the sales and marketing career. Good opportunities
abound, in either the healthcare market for new biotech products, or in the supplier
marketplace. Sales positions are tough competitive jobs that demand long hours and
travel, but they can be very personally rewarding. Marketing positions generally
require a minimum of some sales and business experience.
Business Development and Licensing - With the number of "deals"
that are done in our industry, it is no wonder that Business Development and Licensing
positions continue to be hot. Licensing executives are also recruited heavily by
universities, at competitive packages to industry. Licensing is a critical connection
between industry and academia,and will remain a hot career choice.
Intellectual Property - Many recruiting firms have found that the
demand continues to be very strong for those life scientists who have gone on for
either a law degree or for their Patent and Trademark Office registration. Having
a legal degree without a science background does not provide entree to this private
club, and with as many intellectual property issues that exist right now in both
foreign and U.S. registrations, this will no doubt hold true for the future.