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Biotech & Pharma Biomedical career opportunities in industry PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Biotech & Pharma Biomedical career opportunities in industry. Overview. Science at a Company vs. Academia Attributes for Success at a Company Biotech vs. Big Pharma Biotech : Innovation and Risk Job Opportunities Getting Hired. My Experience. MS Toxicology

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Biotech & Pharma Biomedical career opportunities in industry

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Biotech & Pharma Biomedical career opportunities in industry

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  • Science at a Company vs. Academia

  • Attributes for Success at a Company

  • Biotech vs. Big Pharma

  • Biotech : Innovation and Risk

  • Job Opportunities

  • Getting Hired

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My Experience

  • MS Toxicology

    • National Taiwan University Institute of Tox 97, 98, 99 brought me to Science

  • PhD Pathology URMC 2001-2007

    • Initiated professional interests in metabolic syndrome and reproductive endocrinology

  • Scientist at Vaxin Inc. 2007-2009 – Influenza Vaccines (Joined with 15 employees, left with 6 employees, running out of cash by August)

    • Learned many fields ranging from adenoviral based vaccines, cell biology, pre-clinical trials, immunology

  • Postdoctoral fellow at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, 2009-10 (60,000+ employees)

    • Provided expertise and technical skills for developing strategic initiative of integrated biomarkers (miRNAs, OMICs, Toxicogenomics, FACS, Immunoassays) assessing testicular toxicities

    • Learned what a Big-Pharma like

  • Senior Scientist at Pfizer Drug Safety 2010~ (110,000+ employees)

    • provide development and assessment of integrated biomarkers in support of both efficacy and safety biomarker needs in research and drug safety

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Science at a Company

  • Scientific endeavor on a project can be carried out at a scale that is very rare in a University setting

  • Teams of competent people aligned toward a common goal can accomplish more than any individual scientist

  • Discoveries can be translated into therapeutic opportunities with the potential to create new drugs and technologies

    • Understand molecular and cellular pathways defining a particular biology and how it goes wrong in disease

    • Create a drug to impact those pathways

    • Explore how that drug works in animals and humans

    • Design Clinical Program to prove that the drug is safe & effective

    • Register the drug with the FDA and Rest of World

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Differences Between Academia & Industry

  • You will have access to more resources, equipment, core facilities, and collaborative colleagues to advance your project

  • Academics offers more freedom to pursue personal interests (“do what you want to do”) whereas industry wants employees to “do what needs to be done” for the company.

  • You may be asked to switch to (or add on) new projects

  • Although you will report to one person, you will interact with many Scientists instead of a single PI

  • Participate and present in cross-functional meetings where data is vetted and the future directions of a project are established by discussion and consensus

    • More heads are better than 1!

  • You are likely to publish and attend scientific conferences

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Differences Between Academia & Industry

  • Universities provide a more diverse intellectual environment plus “the joy of teaching and the wonder of learning”

  • University positions are tenured, whilst industry considers downsizing a virtue

  • Industry salaries are higher and perks, creature comforts, support services, and perks are much better

  • Policies and management style are more rational, or at least more market-responsive, in industry

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Some Myths of Industry

  • You have failed if you don’t pursue an academic position

    • That’s what some told me, but there are many incredibly competent people doing Science & Drug Discovery in Industry

  • The working day is 9-5

    • Hard, effective work is expected and rewarded!

  • Compensation is dramatically better than academia

    • Entry level scientist positions (3-5 year postdoc) are compensated similarly to Assistant Professors, but much better than post-docs, and there are stock options!

    • However, opportunity for advancement is more frequent and more rapid than Academia

  • You never get to publish

    • Publishing is highly encouraged. Also, compensation is based on contributions beyond publishing

  • You can’t move from Industry to Academia

    • More and more, Universities value Industry experience and perspective, making a reverse move more likely

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Attributes for Success at a Company

  • Team player who can collaborate effectively with others

  • Ability to become interested in a wide variety of different scientific areas - learning is a continuous Life-long experience!

  • Superb analytical, communication, and presentation skills

  • All of us have particular skills that make us good Scientists, although my exact skill set may not be the same as yours

  • Contribute your particular talent and expertise toward the common goal

  • Success means that your project grows so that hundreds of people work on it!

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What individual characteristics correlate with success in the Pharma/Biotech industries?

  • Integrity

  • Intelligence

  • Presence

  • Communication ability

  • Disciplined work habits

  • Group process skills

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Biotech vs Big Pharma

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Small companies

  • Greater opportunity for career advancement and range of experiences

  • Long hours

  • Fewer creature comforts

  • Equity participation can lead to accumulation of wealth

  • Resource-constraints and very real risk of company going belly up

To dig deeper


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Large Companies

  • Little risk of company failure

  • More structured career paths

  • Greater resource availabilityMore opportunities for travel and relocation (including overseas)

  • Tendency toward formality and hierarchy

  • Easier to get lost in back

Small vs large is not a one-off decision. It is certainlypossible to go back and forth

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Biotech : Innovation & Risk

  • Biotech companies have traditionally been founded to exploit cutting edge ideas and technology. Examples include:

    • Using our own cytokines, growth factors, and enzymes as drugs

    • Engineering human fusion proteins, combining functionalities to achieve new properties

    • Creating Humanized and Human Monoclonals as drugs

    • Transcriptional control

    • siRNA

    • Ribozymes

    • Aptamers

    • Gene Therapy

  • Many Biotech ventures are unsuccessful, often because there is not a realistic business plan of how to create an income-generating product before their ability to raise money runs out

  • You need to assess whether the company’s scientific and business plan makes sense, their history and future potential of raising capital, partnering deals they have closed, and how soon they will generate revenue

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Entry Level Positions in Biotech

Research Post-Doctoral Scientist

  • Analogous to Academia, except more resources and mentoring available

  • As in academic post-doc, a good publication record should allow return to Assistant Professor route

    Pharmaceutical Post-Doctoral Scientist

  • Contribute to Clinical Development Projects or Core Technologies in ways that may not result in high profile publications

  • Would lead to a career in Biotech/Pharma


  • 2-5 years post-doctoral experience

    Staff Scientist

  • 3 years experience following Post-Doc

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Typical Career Path

Going in entry level positions:

  • Bench level or project-level research programs, working under the close supervision of more senior scientists or scientists. Starting PhD’s typically have an office, technician support, and their own lab space.

    After 3-8 years, scientists:

  • Continue in laboratory and project work at the level of senior scientist or independent investigator

  • Become involved in technology management, often rotating through other areas

    After another 3-8 years

  • The pack begins to spread out, and individuals identify as managers, scientific leaders, or broad-based support personnel

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Typical Career Path

  • Expect to change jobs every 5 to 10 years and work for 7-8 companies during your career

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Scientific Ladder - Criteria

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Scientific Ladder - Criteria


Scientific Expertise[ Foundation / Competent / Professional / Expert ]

Documentation / Communication




Business Impact – Within AZ

External Impact – Outside AZ

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Criteria – Scientist (4a)

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Criteria – Sr. Scientist (4b)

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Career Opportunities Outside of “Research”

  • Preclinical Development

    • Assay Development & Sample Analysis from Human Clinical Trials

    • Formulation Development

    • Pharmacology - Assessing Drugs in Animal Models

    • Toxicology – Assessing Drug Safety in Animal Models

  • Protein Sciences

    • Cell line generation to overexpress recombinant proteins

    • Protein characterization

    • New technology and assay development

    • Protein Manufacturing Process Development

  • Program Coordination & Management

  • Core Facilities

    • Methodology Oriented (DNA, in situ, FACS, Mass Spec, Biacore)

  • Clinical

  • Regulatory - understand FDA Guidance, liaison for company to FDA, EU

  • Scientific Writing

  • Quality Control

  • Business Development

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Finding a job

  • It’s a match-up thing. Companies will need you as much as you need them but the process is frustrating because recruitment is very inefficient. Downsizing has cut “human resources” to the bare bone

  • In general, you have to find jobs, they don’t find you

  • Pursue all avenues

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Pursuing all avenues

Begin by

  • being clear in your own priorities

    •preparing a spiffy one-page CV (resume)

    The go after

  • Personal contacts, including family and friends

  • The web. Virtually every company now has a website with employment opportunity sections

  • Ads in the Back of Science, Nature, C&E News, CraigList, Boston Globe + Regional papers

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Application & Hiring Process

  • Typically, job descriptions are posted, applications solicited

  • Human Resource personnel (non-scientists) review applications, winnowing down to those that match job description, and pass on to Hiring Scientists

  • Unsolicited applications to HR and Hiring Scientists can sometimes hit paydirt and find an opening before it’s even listed

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CV & Cover Letter Essentials

  • Must communicate to multiple audiences

    • Scientists - trying to figure out if you have the raw materials that they can mold into a productive scientist and useful contributor

    • Human Resources - non-scientists checking for a match between your CV and a job description

  • Usually your First & Only Chance to make a positive impression

  • Should convey your

    • Intelligence & ability to communicate (Clear Writing = Clear Mind!)

    • Perspective of your field beyond your own project

    • Accomplishments - aimed at a non-expert and placed in context of the open questions in your field

    • Skill set - techniques that you really know as well as those for which you may have a passing knowledge and vocabulary

    • Enthusiasm!

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  • Same CV can be used for all applications

  • Need not be 1 page - can be 3-4 or longer

  • Research summary

    • explain in 1 paragraph your projects and conclusions

    • aimed at someone who is not in your field

    • Can also briefly describe rotation & graduate research

  • Clearly identify core skill sets

    • Don’t exaggerate - you’ll get busted

    • just because you have seen a mass spectrometer doesn’t mean you should list it as a core competency!!!

  • Presentations

  • Awards/Grants

  • Initiatives that you’ve undertaken outside your core requirements

  • Publications - including submitted / in preparation

  • Supervisory & Collaborative experiences

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Cover Letter

  • Ideally should be customized for each application

  • Should connect your skill set and experience to the job you are applying for so that it’s easy for HR to understand and pass on to hiring scientist

  • Should describe your project and findings in the broad context of your field - often the best way to convey to the Hiring Scientist that you were not just a skilled set of hands directed by your PI

  • Rarely is an applicant “perfect” for the job - often we look for someone that appears to be smart, communicates well, and can grow into a job

  • Therefore, it’s usually a stretch to say that you can “make company a success…”

  • More reasonable to emphasize your flexibility and ability to learn quickly…

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