The life sciences industry — including the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors — is on a serious growth trend, with a range of factors contributing to the surge. Aerotek is the top U.S. staffing solutions partner (Staffing Industry Analysts) for life sciences, and we spoke with two of our executives serving pharma to get their take on what this means for people working in the industry.The state of an industry
There are several forces driving growth within the life sciences, according to Justin Dragoo, a senior account executive specializing in the pharma and biotech sector.
“First of all you have incredible levels of innovation in technology, especially around biotechnology. Then you have changes in government regulations opening up commercial opportunities for small- and mid-size companies around the ‘orphan drug<’ category. Then you have an increasingly aging population, which creates increasing demand for life-extending treatment therapies. Finally, we see new models of collaboration among drug companies, universities, hospitals and venture capital investment groups. It’s a perfect storm, in a positive way, for industry growth.”Innovation, regulation and acceleration
Gina Gauna, a director of strategic accounts serving Aerotek’s top national pharmaceutical and biotech companies, walked us through the process that life sciences companies follow as they move from “idea to molecule to therapy and market.”
“The pharmaceutical and biotech companies are leveraging all these factors of innovation, investment and market opportunity to perfect their product lifecycle model. The typical lifecycle moves from pre-clinical trial, into clinical trials and, if successful, into product manufacturing. Historically this meant that only drugs that promised a certain level of return on investment (ROI) would continue beyond trials into manufacturing. This ROI was a calculation of how many patients were projected to need the drug, usually around 200,000. Drugs that didn’t pass this threshold were not brought to market, they became what’s called ‘orphan drugs,’ ” Gina explained.
“What this meant was the most prevalent diseases and types of cancer were receiving the most attention, while more rare diseases were not. Recent regulatory changes provide incentive to smaller pharma companies that are eager to leverage the existing preclinical development, trial data and intellectual property developed by the original company. Smaller companies are able to pick up these drugs and complete their journey to market at a fraction of the typical cost. For patients with more rare diseases, this is a very positive development. The industry is now able to develop ‘personalized medicine.’ As targeted therapy becomes more affordable, immense life-saving promise is extended to even more people.”Where the jobs are
New industry hot-spots where pharma and biotech job opportunities are opening up at an accelerated pace. We asked Gina and Justin if there were any trends they’re seeing.
Justin offered, “What’s really surprising is we are finding rich pockets of pharma bio development across the entire U.S. While places like San Francisco, Boston and Raleigh-Durham are well known industry hubs, places like Iowa and the Midwest offer just as much opportunity and innovation. You don’t have to move to the coasts to work in these fields — your dream job might be closer to home than you expect.”The full-stack jobs engine
We asked Gina and Justin what these changes within the industry meant for the people who work there.
“There are career paths opening up at every level,” Gina said, “within the pharma bio industry all levels of profession have an opportunity within the life sciences community. Opportunity exists for both technical and non-technical positions. One of the biggest areas of growth includes mid-level or commercial positions within life sciences. We not only service top technical positions requiring a PhD, but we also see high demand in entry and mid-level positions that might not have a major technical requirements.”
Justin added, “It’s incredible, the range of job opportunities in the expanding industry. For people getting out of high school and unsure about a career path, it can be an ideal option. We recommend they have at least their associate’s degree, combined with a passion for helping people. Our relationships with the biggest and the most innovative pharma companies in every region allow us to provide a generation of workers with the chance to prove themselves to themselves.”Challenging the norm
We often talk about understanding a person’s “skills, needs and interests” as the fundamental step in helping them build a rewarding career. Getting this close to knowing someone is essential to placing people in jobs they not only enjoy but also excel at. Justin offered two examples of Aerotek employees that prove how well this approach works for people and the companies where they work.
“Unlike some other more traditional industries, we see leading pharma companies encouraging their more entry level workers to bring out-of-the-box thinking to the job. One of our more creative quality assurance technicians began to ask questions around select data to understand the purpose then based on those questions, she spotted trends that others had missed. Her findings spared her company more than six months of costly rework before it became a problem for the organization, or worse — delayed delivery to market. Her insight not only saved a therapy development program, but it likely saved lives as well.” In asking questions and seeking to know more, this tech was able to ensure that drug manufacturing happened at an optimal level.
“In this industry, like so many others, curiosity can be a key character trait, especially if it’s encouraged by the company. One of our microbiologists in a pharma organization suspected there might be a better, faster and more efficient way to analyze testing data. He created a model algorithm that ended up reducing the time to process and analyze data from 80 hours to four. This is an evolving industry where challenging the existing perspective is changing how science is being done.”
People that are process driven and keen on details will do well in this field. As you can see in the second testimonial above, accuracy is everything. While the life sciences come with many specifics, we’ve found that a creative and curious employee can often distinguish themselves from the rest.The gray collar workforce
As with industries like e-commerce, warehouse and production, life sciences is witnessing the emergence of an American workforce economists are referring to as “gray collar.” Justin agrees. “This is happening in pharma, bigtime. There’s a huge and still growing workforce of extremely valuable people bridging the gap between the pure science people and the patients in market. As an example, we work with a company that has built a massive facility, a cleanroom where we’ve staffed more than 100 lab technicians that ‘gown-up’ each shift to process tissue. This tissue goes on to be used in surgery, on burn victims and skin disease patients, for general wounds and in countless other applications. This growing gray collar is the engine of the pharma and biotech industry. They know what they do is impacting people’s lives in the most essential ways imaginable. And all they needed to get their start was the character and commitment to apply themselves with passion to their career.”
While a traditional, four-year degree in science isn’t necessarily required to do this type of work, curiosity and attention detail is a must have. The ability to follow protocol and process without deviation, and the desire to do work that changes people’s lives will ensure a rewarding career path in many life sciences positions.
If these people remind you of yourself, we invite you to check out our current pharma and bio-tech job opportunities and create your free Aerotek career account today.