Biotechnology Entrepreneurship || Career Opportunities in the Life Sciences Industry

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  • Career Opportunities in the Life Sciences IndustryToby Freedman, PhDPresident, Synapsis Search Recruiting, Portola Valley, California

    Chapter 31Biotechnology Entrepreneurship. 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    There are many career opportunities in industry, nonprofit organizations, and in government for individuals with science backgrounds. Whether you have an interest in laboratory work, business, sales, marketing, or clini-cal studies, there are hundreds of different careers in the life sciences industryand as a consequence, there are numerous opportunities to find that ideal job that matches your unique personality attributes, skills, interests, and long-term goals. A science or medical background is a valuable asset to have. Whether you are writing a patent, marketing a product, conducting a clinical trial, or doing a business deal, having a science background will greatly enhance your career. The chart shown in Figure 31.1 delin-eates over 100 distinct careers in the life sciences industry where you can apply your scientific or medical educa-tional background.

    For those wishing to escape from bench work, the good news is that scientists can transition from bench research to other vocational areas. Most researchers eventually do tran-sition into other careers at some point in time. These addi-tional career areas can provide an opportunity to explore other areas such as general management, team-building, project management, creative writing, and more.


    This chapter provides a high-level summary of 24 signifi-cant careers in the life sciences industry, as shown in Figure 31.1. If you find a career that interests you, I recommend additional reading in the specific area that piques your interest. At the conclusion of this overview there are two sections to help you move into a particular vocational area, one on steps for making a career transition and the other on job-finding strategies.435

    1 Entrepreneurship

    Do you have a fantastic idea that has the potential of being developed into a successful business? There are few things as exciting as starting a new company and attempting some-thing that no one else has ever done before.

    Entrepreneurship can be a stimulating and rewarding career, but it is not for everyone. It helps to be financially secure and to have done it before. However, I have seen postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, professors, and even undergraduates start and manage highly successful ventures without prior business training. If you are consid-ering entrepreneurship, I highly recommend considering a job at one of the growing number of incubators or accel-erators that are cropping up worldwide. An incubator is a supportive place where a cluster of start-up companies thrive. At an incubator, start-ups can share lab equipment, office space, and gain support from fellow entrepreneurs who are working down the hall.

    One highly successful example of an incubator is Univer-sity of Californias QB3 (QB3 stands for California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, which includes three institu-tions, University of California at San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz). QB3s goal is to benefit society by commer-cializing university research to benefit society. QB3 provides a supportive environment where new companies are being founded on campus in the same buildings where professors, graduate students, and postdocs are conducting research. Venture capital, biopharmaceutical, management consult-ing, and accounting firms are also actively partnering and assisting these start-up companies. This type of collaborative environment fosters communication, sharing of knowledge, and innovation. To learn more, visit

    Similar incubators are being created across the United States at top universities such as Harvard University, Uni-versity of Florida, University of Washington, and SUNY in Brooklyn, for examples. Also consider off-campus

  • SECTION | VIII The Later-Stage Biotechnology Company436Law

    Venture Capital &Banking










    Non ProfitsEntrepreneurship

    Sales Marketing

    Medical Affairs

    Regulatory Affairs


    Bio/PharmaceuticalProcess Sciences


    Human Resources+Recruiting



    Bio IT

    Services R&DR&D



    FIGURE 31.1 Career chart. incubators, such as Phoenixs TGen (Translational Genom-ics Research Institute), Kendall Squares incubator in Bos-ton, and many others. Working at an incubator will provide you with first-hand experience in a start-up environment where you will be exposed to the challenges of raising capital, building teams, and developing products. Also con-sider attending boot camp programs which can help you develop your business plan, raise venture capital, and be mentored by experienced executives who have built com-panies before. One to consider is Astia, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering women-led companies: visit

    2 Venture Capital

    A venture capital career is among the most coveted and exciting areas of all the careers in the life sciences industry. This career has real appeal to socially minded and team-oriented scientists because venture capitalists have oppor-tunities to meet and work with successful entrepreneurs that are developing and commercializing ground-breaking technologies.

    Most people think of venture capitalists as the people you go to when raising capital to fund their start-ups, but these individuals must first raise money for their own fund which they then use to invest in start-ups. Venture capital-ists provide considerably more than just a source of money. After venture capitalists invest in a start-up company, they may assume positions on the company board of directors to monitor their investment and also to assist the company with the many challenges that are encountered in emerg-ing businesses. Therefore, an operational background and experience in several successful start-ups is considered an optimal background for a venture capitalist.

    Corporate venture capitalists work in large pharmaceu-tical or biotechnology companies and, similar to venture capitalists, they also fund private companies using money from the biopharmaceutical company that they represent. There are institutional investors (also called equity research analysts), who invest in public companies.

    If you are interested in seeking a career in venture capital, consider applying for a fellowship with the Kauff-man Foundationa nonprofit organization committed to fostering entrepreneurism. Visit for more information. Many venture capital firms also hire associates and advisors (academic scientists or indus-try experts), consultants, and entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs). EIRs are experienced senior-level executives capable of running venture capital portfolio companies and managing their investments.

    There are other venture-type careers that involve work-ing with biotech companies. These include angel investors, who are people of high net worth that financially support private companies, usually before venture capitalists invest.


  • Chapter | 31 Career Opportunities in the Life Sciences Indus

    3 Investment Banking

    There are three major career areas in investment banking: advisory services, sell-side equity research, and sales trad-ing. Advisory service providers are involved in large finan-cial transactions such as helping their clients raise capital, complete initial public offerings (IPO), or mergers and acqui-sitions (M&A). This is a highly competitive career and can involve extensive travel, but the payoffs are quite large, as investment bankers are amply compensated for their hard work. If you enjoy transactional work or have an interest in finance, this is a promising career to consider.

    Sell-side equity research analysts conduct and publish background research on the particular public companies that they follow. These analysts provide ratings of pub-lic companies stock, such as buy, sell, or hold and they publish informative reports for clients. It is becoming more common for investment banks to hire MDs, Ph.D.s, and MBAs who can analyze and ascertain the chances of success for clinical trials, and by extension, they predict changes in stock value. Sales traders conduct stock sales transactions and promote stock sales.

    4 Discovery Research

    Discovery research is very similar to academic research and it probably is the most commonly followed path for science graduates wanting to enter into industry. If you enjoy work-ing at the scientific frontier, have an interest in benefiting human health, are an idea generator with a creative mind that can make unique connections; or if you simply enjoy lab work and would like to apply your laboratory skills to industry, this is the career to consider. There are many career levels within discovery research such as a research associate for undergraduates and Masters students as well as a scientist track for Ph.D. graduates.

    For creative scientists who do not wish to advance up the administrative path to director and vice president (VP) levels, there are the prestigious fellow or staff scien-tist positions which allow scientists to remain close to the research and at the same time minimize their administrative load. There are also nonbench-related positions in discovery research, including project management (see number 10), program management, portfolio management, and more. If your interests evolve over time, discovery research can pro-vide you with an excellent launching pad to other careers in the life sciences industry.

    5 Preclinical Research

    Preclinical research bridges the gap between discovery research and clinical development and encompasses the areas of pharmacology, toxicology, pharmacokinetics, pathology, and chemical optimization. This is where prospective drug 437try

    candidates are tested in animals and optimized before entering into human clinical studies. Because research projects are frequently terminated in discovery research, preclinical sci-entists have an opportunity to work on the winnersthe most promising drug candidates.

    6 Process Sciences

    Like discovery research, process sciences offer many great entry-level industry positions for academic scientists, partic-ularly for chemists and biochemists. This is where the steps for chemical synthesis, production of drugs, or products and scale-up processes are developed. A candidate drug might be easy to synthesize in the test tube, but during clinical trials, methods must be developed to scale-up production of the drug for clinical studies and eventually for large-scale manufacturing. This vocational area is a great way to apply your scientific knowledge and laboratory skills to create products and develop synthesis steps that will eventually be used for large-scale manufacturing. Scientists enjoy this field because they can be creatively involved in designing scaled-up reactions and they have the chance to see the end result of their work-products.

    If you have a background in process chemistry, for-mulation, analytical chemistry, or on the biologics side, a background in cell culture, fermentation, purification or biologics scale-up, there are many jobs available in this area.

    7 Clinical Development

    There are many vocational areas and niches within clinical developmentthe process of testing drugs in human clini-cal trials. Clinical development includes areas such as medi-cal monitoring, clinical project management, or working as a clinical research associate (CRA). There are also posi-tions in biometrics (statistics and statistical programming), medical writing, data management, drug safety, and more. People enjoy working in clinical development because of the rapid pace of the work environment and because there is the opportunity to work with the drug candidate winners developed in discovery research. Generally, clinical devel-opment departments employ people with medical, pharma-cological, nursing, or scientific backgrounds.

    8 Regulatory Affairs

    Regulatory affairs liaisons manage the process of work-ing with project teams and interacting with the regulatory health agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuti-cals for Human Use (ICH). In addition to regulatory affairs liaisons positions, there are a vast array of other career

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    opportunities, such as managing and submitting regulatory information, document management, and publishing.

    Positions within regulatory affairs offer excellent job security. The reason is simply supply and demand: not enough people today have experience in regulatory affairs and at the same time, the FDA has increased its standards, requiring more supporting studies and paperwork before products can be approved for human use. To be success-ful in this position, it helps to be very detail- and process-oriented, and to possess excellent writing, communication, and interpersonal skills.

    9 Medical Affairs

    After a drug has been approved, medical affairs profes-sionals run additional clinical studies: to test the drug in off-label trials for other disease indications, to study drug-drug interactions, or to test the drug in different patient populations. They are also involved in disseminating this newly discovered information to relevant parties.

    There are several departments within medical affairs. Clinical development professionals conduct Phase 4 clinical trials, medical communications executives run medical educa-tional events for practicing physicians, and medical science liaisons (MSLs) provide recently published clinical data to clinicians and doctors of various specialties. Another area of medical affairs is pharmacovigilance and drug safety. This involves monitoring the drugs performance and han-dling adverse drug events as individual cases after the drug has been approved. If adverse events are associated with the drug, these must be reported to the regulatory authorities. The backgrounds for these positions include medical doc-tors, nurses, and pharmacists.

    10 Project Management

    If you are interested in learning about the many nuances of the different steps of drug discovery and development and wish to avoid bench research, consider project management. Project managers dont actually make the critical decisions but facilitate the decision-making process and manage mul-tidisciplinary teams. They spend their time providing vision and leadership, communicating with team members and man-agement, running meetings, allocating resources, doing risk management and problem solving. Each of the areas of drug discovery and development and medical device develop-ment require project management. Common areas include discovery research, clinical, and chemistry manufacturing and controls (CMC). Project managers are also needed in many other areas including finance, facility management, portfolio management, and more.

    This is a wonderful area to develop your interpersonal, influencing, and leadership abilities, and to gain deeper problem-solving aptitude while moving projects forward. SECTION | VIII The Later-Stage Biotechnology Company

    After working as a project manager you will have developed the ability to enter just about any of the vocational areas in a company. If you are interested in reading more about this career, there is a free chapter on project management careers on my website at

    11 Business and Corporate Development

    Professionals in business and corporate development work with the companys executive team to determine the strate-gic objectives of the company. For example, they determine which internal products will be funded and which products will be licensed.

    Corporate development is the department where stra-tegic decisions are made about securing enough financial resources to ensure continued operations and to reach strate-gic objectives. Corporate development executives are often involved in the companys fundraising efforts, whether they are raising venture or corporate capital or doing a private investment in a public entity (PIPE) transaction.

    Business development is the department that creates and implements the deals which are in alignment with the com-panys strategic objectives. A deal can be a technology that is in-licensed (acquired) or out-licensed (sold) to another company. Small biotech companies usually dont have the financial resources to bring a drug all the way through clinical trials. Instead, most small biotech companies rely on out-licensing their initial products to larger cash-rich biopharmaceutical companies that are seeking to fill their own drug development pipelines with new products. In exchange, the large biopharmaceutical companies will pay for part, or all, of the remaining clinical development and provide the small biotech company with much-needed milestone-based cash.

    There are many steps involved in business development, and each step involves different roles for business and sci-ence majors. Examples include commercial strategy con-sultants and advisors who provide commercial insight into finance and strategic directions; portfolio managers who determine which products have the highest probability of success; technology scouts and analysts who identify and evaluate new business opportunities; licensing officers who are involved in closing dealsthey could be involved in negotiations, designing payments, or arranging the final terms of the deal; and finally, alliance managers who imple-ment the deal and manage the partnership. They serve as the main point of contact and ensure that deliverables are met.

    If you are currently a student in academia, one of the eas-iest ways to enter business development is to initially work at the Office of Technology Transfer. There you will learn about patents, technology management, and be exposed to the business of biotech. Alternatively, consider working in sales or patent lawimportant components to business development. If you are currently working in a company,

  • Chapter | 31 Career Opportunities in the Life Sciences Indu

    volunteer to do some business development assessments in your area of expertise. Another great way to gain entry into business development is to work at a trade association.

    One final note for job seekers: frequently, a business development position really means a sales opportunity. In fact, business development is in a way, a sales transactionits just that the transaction is longer and more complicated.

    12 Marketing

    Marketing professionals work with sales executives to deter-mine how products are sold and advertised. They manage brands and determine how the product is perceived by the target consumers. Marketing is about communicating a mes-sage to consumers and developing a business strategy. Lets say that you have a great producthow do you tell the world about your wonderful product within the guidelines and pur-view of the regulatory agencies? There is a psychological component to marketing as wellhow do people make pur-chasing decisions and how do you go about providing the right message to your target market? Marketing is needed throughout a companys life cycle. Even at the early stages of a company, market research analyses might be conducted. Just about every CEO raising money from venture capitalists will discuss the target market in a companys business plan.

    Marketing careers provide excellent training in lead-ership. Many of the large pharmaceutical company CEOs started their careers in marketing. If you have ambitions of eventually becoming a CEO one day, a career in marketing is a great way to acquire some of the strategic leadership training and skills needed to run a company.

    Like business development, marketing is an exciting area and a highly coveted career. Once you have gained some marketing experience, it is easier to navigate between the many careers in marketing.

    Brand management is being commercially responsible for a specific product. The basic areas of brand management in the life sciences include promotional, medical education, consumer, global, and managed-care marketing. New prod-uct-planning professionals help clinical teams strategize on the best market for their drug development plans. In addition, there are other branches of marketing including commercial strategy, data analytics, and forecasting, to name a few.

    One of the easiest ways for science graduates to get into marketing is through sales or market research. Market research is a career involved with gathering data about the size of a market, the target customers, and the customers interest.

    13 Sales

    Sales executives work directly with customers to develop business and conduct sales transactions. They help custom-ers use products correctly, inform doctors about drugs and products, for example, and ensure that any questions and 439stry

    concerns that customers have are promptly answered. Sales can be a highly rewarding and lucrative career for those that are highly motivated and energetic. There are many perks to a career in sales, and quite possibly the best, besides the commissions, is that many sales reps work at home. This can provide an opportunity to live in geographically restricted areas where there are limited jobs (like Hawaii, for example). Plus, you cant beat the commute from your kitchen to your home office! However, there can also be extensive travel in sales in order to meet customers and pro-vide sales presentations.

    Sales positions provide great entry-level opportunities for new graduates and job changers, and companies gener-ally offer excellent training in sales. Once you have mastered sales basics, you will find a multitude of different positions within sales, including sales management, operations, and account management. There are many types of sales posi-tions such as selling reagents, instruments, microscopes, preclinical and clinical trial services, for example. Specialty and primary drug sales reps visit doctors offices to promote their products and to establish relations with doctors. For scientists with a driving interest in making science easier to understand for customers, consider technical salessales for biological and medical research products such as instru-ments, biotools, software, services, etc. You might have an opportunity to work with high-level research execu-tives or well-known professors in academia and help them make technical sales decisions. Working closely with the sales reps, Field Application Specialists or Scientists (FAS) provide their technical expertise to help with sales transac-tions. For recent graduates, this is an exciting entry-level position that will allow you to work with technical leaders in academia and industry, learn business fundamentals, and become an expert in the product that you are promoting.

    14 Management Consulting

    Management consulting is a great way to apply your analyt-ical skills in a fast-paced, intellectually intense occupation where you can drive change and help companies become more successful. Most management consulting firms offer training and some offer a mini-MBA in which you can learn business fundamentals.

    Management consultants serve as high-level strate-gic advisers to companies. They might conduct strategic analyses on just about any aspect of a companys business, including strategy, portfolio management, pricing, opera-tions, productivity, finance, cost reduction, competition, and more. There are several major global management con-sulting firms and many small boutiques that specialize in the life sciences. Also consider the many accounting firms which have life science advisory service arms. Management consulting can involve extensive travel, and the position pays well, accordingly.

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    15 Corporate Communications

    If you have a flair for writing, consider corporate communi-cations. Corporate communications is involved in managing the image of the companyhow the company is perceived by investors, customers, and the general population.

    There are several vocational areas within corporate com-munications. There are investor relations professionals who interact with the companys investors, public relations pro-fessionals who manage the corporate image and news about a company, and government affairs professionals who develop science policies and inform and influence the government. If you are interested in a corporate communications career, consider applying for a policy fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

    Corporate affairs and marketing communications are careers for scientists with an interest in business who pos-sess excellent writing skills. In an entry-level position, you might participate in writing press releases or creating inves-tor packages.

    16 Engineering

    There are many opportunities for engineers in the life sci-ences, particularly in the biotools, biofuels, bio-IT, and medical devices industries. Some opportunities include con-ceiving, developing, and testing human prosthetic devices such as bionic arms, legs, ankles, and hands. There are other opportunities in the development and production of new gene sequencing instruments for researchers in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry. In the biofuels sector, chemi-cal and mechanical engineers are needed for developing new methods for renewable fuel sources and the processing machinery that produces them. An engineering, bioengineer-ing, or biochemical engineering background is needed in all sectors of the biotechnology industry including, therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices, research reagents and tools, bio-agriculture, biofuels, and industrial biotechnology products.

    17 Operations

    Are you interested in the many operational components of a company and how they work together? A career in opera-tions is focused on manufacturing and distributing products to customers at the highest level of quality for the lowest cost. People in operations enjoy making processes more efficient, and are good at problem-solving and delivering on expectations. This is a fast-paced position, with job variety, where you can apply your science and business acumen and directly affect the companys bottom line.

    18 Quality

    If one of your strongest attributes is your ability to pay attention to detail, and if you enjoy developing procedures, SECTION | VIII The Later-Stage Biotechnology Company

    quality role might be for you. Quality positions tend to ave good job security. Most positions require little if any ravel (unless you are an auditor). Quality work ensures hat products and procedures are consistent and comply ith FDA regulations. For therapeutic companies, quality

    nsures that products are pure and safe for human or animal onsumption.

    Quality offers many great entry-level positions for new raduates and career-changers. Quality control specialists est products and make sure that manufactured products eet specifications. Quality assurance provides the docu-entation that production is being done correctly. Regula-

    ory compliance ensures that systems and procedures in a ompany have accounted for quality and are compliant with he regulations. Most biotools and medical device compa-ies have a quality systems branch which is involved in vali-ation of computer systems.

    9 Bio-IT

    career in bio-IT is for scientists with an interest in infor-ation technology, and for computer scientists with an

    nterest in biologyand everything in between. As the bio-ogical sciences have evolved over the years, the need to andle large amounts of data has grown tremendously. For xample, think of the challenges of handling the tremen-ous amounts of data generated in genome sequencing. In ddition, an IT component is needed in almost every aspect f discovering and developing drugs or products. As such, eople with a background in both IT and biological sciences re in high demand.

    Career opportunities in bio-IT are diverse. Besides the ioinformatics and omics fields, there are also clinical ata management, patient registries, IT infrastructure, IT uality, and healthcare IT areas such as electronic health ecords and mobile health, and much more.

    0 Technical and Product Support

    f you enjoy working with customers, product and techni-al support careers are ones to consider. Technical support epresentatives manage phone calls, answer customer-elated questions, and solve technical and product-related roblems. They also become experts in each of the specific roducts that the company develops or in-licenses and, as uch, frequently these individuals later move into prod-ct development. Technical support can be a collegial and riendly working environment and most positions are 9 to 5 nd involve little travel.

    If you have a passion for teaching, consider a career as technical trainer. Technical trainers teach clients how to se new products by developing presentations or setting up orkshops. An added perk is that many trainers work from ome when they are not offering a workshop.

  • Chapter | 31 Career Opportunities in the Life Sciences Indu21 Law

    Intellectual propertypatents, copyrights, and trademarks are often the most valuable assets held by a biotechnology company, especially at the early stages. Patent attorneys and agents draft and manage the patent applications. But there are other equally interesting areas of law to consider as well, such as transactional, corporate law, and litigation.

    Transactional lawyers draft and negotiate business trans-actions. Corporate lawyers incorporate companies and help structure business deals, such as M&As, IPOs, and venture financings. Litigators are involved in lawsuits, typically pat-ent infringements, which have heated up over the years as large successful biotech companies have more money worth suing for.

    There are other law careers, such as regulatory law or working as a general counsel as well as opportunities to work as a patent examiner or attorney at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, VA. Law is a highly competitive occupation, but it also is intellectually interesting and financially rewarding.

    22 Human Resources and Recruiting

    Having the right team in an early-stage start-up is extremely important. It is essential that the company hires people who have the appropriate skill sets and who will also fit in with the team. Your technical knowledge and business acumen can be an asset in human resources and recruiting. The field of human resources, which is managing the corporate cul-ture of a company, employee relations, and governance of employees is generally occupied by people with business backgrounds; however scientists can enter this field as well.

    Recruiting can be a gratifying occupation because you are helping companies identify and hire people with the appropriate skill sets and corporate match, and also helping candidates find promising jobs. There are many different types of recruiting companies ranging from the large inter-national executive retained search, to contingency, temp-to-hire, and staffing firms.

    23 Careers in Government

    Government and nonprofit jobs generally dont pay as well as industry jobs, but they offer much greater job security and pension plansso in the long term, it can balance out. This is a great way to apply your business and scientific training and contribute to society. There are many jobs in the government sector. At the FDA, there are numerous career fields besides regulatory or medical affairs, such as basic research and phar-macovigilance opportunities. To find out more, and for stu-dent internships, visit and

    In addition to the FDA, there is a plethora of govern-ment opportunities, such as working at the Departments 441stry

    of: Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Defense; the CDC, NASA, NIH, Homeland Security, Department of Infectious Diseases, crime labs/forensics, the military, and many more research institutes and government labs.

    24 Careers in Nonprofit Organizations

    Nonprofit organizations can be a stimulating and altruistic way to apply your scientific and business acumen and work with academics, medical advocacy groups, and philanthro-pists. In addition to the traditional nonprofit organizations, new business models are cropping up. Many nonprofits are developing their own drug discovery and development or diagnostics efforts in-house, just like a biotech company. For example, the Myelin Repair Foundation, Melanoma Research Alliance, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation are actively involved in advancing treatments through the FDA. As such, the same types of positions discussed in this chap-ter might also be available in some nonprofit organizations.

    There are nonprofit organizations for just about every known disease. Most nonprofits are philanthropic organiza-tions that provide grants for research or patient advocacy for a specific disease, such as the Alzheimers Association or the American Cancer Society. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foun-dations mission is to improve peoples health around the world. For example, grants are used for research for cures, for vaccinations, or medical assistance for patients, for epidemio-logical research or simply for raising awareness for a disease.

    There are many different positions for business and science majors in nonprofits, including: project manage-ment, social work, development (fundraising), marketing, outreach, operations, scientific affairs, finance, communica-tions, science positions ranging from research associate or scientist to chief scientific officer (CSO), program manage-ment, patent and licensing positions, and much more.

    There are also a variety of jobs at lobbying and educa-tional nonprofit organizations, such as the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), Pharmaceuticals Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), and the Drug Informa-tion Association (DIA). There are many regional nonprofits that serve as lobbying and educational organizations, such as Southern Californias BioCom, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the Massachu-setts Biotechnology Council (MassBio). In addition, scientific societies, such as the American Chemical Society provide job opportunities for business and science majors for example. Also consider government-run trade associations and interna-tional innovation centers that are located at biotech hubs. These are opportunities to gain exposure to many start-up companies.


    Making a career transition can be quite challenging, depending on the economy. Here are some steps that with

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    proper planning and some good fortune, can help you make the transition smoothly. As shown in Figure 31.2, the first step includes self-assessment. Work with career counsel-ors and take self-assessment tests in order to identify your interests, skills, personality attributes, values, and goals. If you are a student or postdoctoral fellow, most universities provide free career services on campus. If you have already graduated, alumni are frequently provided with free career services on campus. If you are employed in a company, speak to a human resources representative or hire a personal career counselor.

    The next step is to identify those vocational areas that best match your self-assessment results to find your ideal career. After researching the many careers and identifying several possibilities, conduct informational interviews. An informational interview is simply a way to interview pro-fessionals currently working in a chosen vocational field that interests you. Note that this is not a job interviewit is a way to learn more about a vocational area or interest. To learn more about informational interviewing, visit your career services department on campus as they generally have an abundance of material on the topic. There is also extensive information available on the Internet.

    There may be additional classes, degrees, or certificates that would expedite a career transition. For example, a cer-tificate in project management would provide you with practical experience using the project management tools utilized in companies.

    As shown in Figure 31.2, the third step is to prepare a resume specific for the new career and to continue net-working by attending local and international conferences and events that are in line with the career area that inter-ests you. For example, if you are interested in a career in business development, you might want to attend the Licens-ing Executives Society association meeting. If you want to







    anapyowFIGURE 31.2 Basic steps for a career transition.SECTION | VIII The Later-Stage Biotechnology Company

    ow how to find the appropriate meetings and societies attend, simply do a Google search and type in business velopment, life science, conference, for example.For readers who are already working and who wish to

    ake a career transition, try to obtain on-the-job training. or example, if you are interested in a career in project anagement, become a team member on a project at your isting company and become familiar with the process. If u are interested in business development, ask to help with

    chnical assessments. If you are in academia, consider vol-teering at the technology transfer department on campus. ost companies provide employees with degreed training ograms at academic institutions, such as MBAs, Masters Biotechnology degrees, etc.


    ost people first look for jobs by applying to the well-tablished biopharmaceutical companies with name- cognition, such as Amgen, Vertex, Genentech/Roche, iogen, Gilead, Pfizer, Merck, etc. These companies are so the most competitive to get into. You should also con-der the less well known emerging venture-backed compa-es and start-ups.

    Other places to consider are the service companiessuch contract research organizations (CRO) and contract man-acturing organizations (CMO). These companies will pro-de you with exposure to numerous different processes and oducts. Because large and small biotech companies tend outsource many aspects of drug discovery and develop-ent, there can be jobs available in the service companies.

    Other industries to consider are the many biotech com-nies that do not develop drugs. For examples, diagnostics, rsonalized medicine, and next-generation sequencing mpanies; biotools, which develop products such as icroarrays, instruments, reagents, and consulting services; e newly emerging and rapidly growing field of biofuels; dustrial biotechnology; systems biology; nanotech; agri-ltural biotechnology; numerous large and small agencies; d the medical device industry. Apply for jobs in govern-ent or in nonprofit organizations. There are many different pes of careers in academia in addition to professorships. or example program directorships, working at the office technology transfer, education-related positions, labo-tory management, core facility directorship, working in blic relations and development (fundraising), working in entrepreneurial start-up on campus, working in doctoral reer services, and more.

    I cant stress enough how important it is to be flexible d open-minded about the types of career opportunities to ply for while looking for a job. Consider job areas that u have not considered before and keep an open mind

    hile exploring your options. Apply for nonglamorous

  • Chapter | 31 Career Opportunities in the Life Sciences Indusjobsthey will provide an opportunity to learn new skills, to network, and to gain industry experience. Also consider working as a consultant or on a contract/temporary basis.


    The vast majority of people in industry found their jobs through networking. The reason that networking is so effec-tive is that hiring managers are more likely to consider candidates who came personally vouched forperhaps a company employee has worked previously with a candi-date, or met him or her at a networking event and can for-ward their resume for consideration to the hiring manager, with an endorsement. Networking is also effective because company employees are frequently financially motivated to bring on hirees. The more people that you know, the more likely someone will recommend you for an opportunity.

    What does networking mean? It means meeting peoplewhether at local and national meetings, on air-planes, at trade booths at conferences, etc. It means devel-oping personal connections and informing your network about your job status and the types of positions that inter-est you. It also means being helpful and supportive of your fellow colleagues so that they can contact you for your guidance and support when they are looking for a job.


    It is very important to apply for, and interview for, as many positions as possible. The more positions that you interview for, the more likely that you will find the ideal job. Like-wise, companies also interview many candidates for each position in order to hire the one with the best technical and corporate match.


    Careers in biotechnology can be as volatile as careers in other technology sectors. The reasons for volatility are due to many factors, including the dynamic nature of the life sciences industry, the ever increasing costs of developing drugs, and the increasing difficulty of getting drugs and products approved by regulatory authorities.

    If job security is your major concern, some careers offer better job security than others. For example, careers in regu-latory affairs or in the government provide significant job security and steady job growth. A particular skill set in a new or uncommon and high-demand area, such as the Clini-cal Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) certifica-tion, is another way to enhance your job security.

    During tough economic times, companies tend to focus on revenues, which translates into a focus on products clos-est to sales. Therefore, careers in sales, marketing, regulatory 443try

    affairs, clinical development, and medical affairs tend to be more stable, whereas early drug discovery research jobs may be more volatile. By nature, early-stage biotech start-ups tend to have less job security than the more-established biopharmaceutical companies.


    I hope that I have provided persuasive evidence that there are a myriad of vocational areas in the life sciences indus-try for you to explore. It is important to find a career that you are passionate about and will enjoy. Make sure that you read about the various career options, and conduct a self-assessment test to determine which career areas best match your skills, interests, and professional and personal goals. Over the years, your interests and personal or professional goals will likely change. You should conduct periodic self-assessments, revisit your ideal career, or change direc-tions based on the economy.

    As opposed to other industries, working in the life sci-ences provides an unique opportunity to make a real differ-ence in the worldto cure diseases, to improve the quality of peoples lives, and much more. This is your chance to make a positive impact on the world and contribute to global health.

    In closing, it is my wish that you will be productive in developing drugs or products and services for unmet medi-cal needs, that you will start companies, and be highly suc-cessful in your career.


    The data for this chapter was derived from my own insights acquired from many years of working as a recruiter and from my book, Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development, (published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press) which was based on interviews with over 200 industry executives. Each chapter describes the aspects of each career area, including descriptions of a typical day; personality attributes to be successful; pros and cons of the job; career potential; experience and educational require-ments, and much more. For more information, visit and

    Job Posting Websites

    Venture jobs in venture-backed companies.Craigs postings of entry-level and higher-level jobs; there is a biotech perhaps the leading bio-tech and medical device job posting website and free life sciences news a good place to source for jobs.

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    Free Life Science News Services (Many Have Job Postings)

    Fierce a summary of biotech research coverage in the life sciences.SECTION | VIII The Later-Stage Biotechnology Company news about the San Francisco Bay Area life a listing of companies which have received venture capital in the life sciences.

    31 - Career Opportunities in the Life Sciences IndustryAn Overview of the Many Different Vocational Areas in the Life Sciences Industry1 Entrepreneurship2 Venture Capital3 Investment Banking4 Discovery Research5 Preclinical Research6 Process Sciences7 Clinical Development8 Regulatory Affairs9 Medical Affairs10 Project Management11 Business and Corporate Development12 Marketing13 Sales14 Management Consulting15 Corporate Communications16 Engineering17 Operations18 Quality19 Bio-IT20 Technical and Product Support21 Law22 Human Resources and Recruiting23 Careers in Government24 Careers in Nonprofit Organizations

    Making a Career TransitionFinding a Job in the Life Sciences IndustryNetworkingInterviewingCareers in the Life Sciences Industry: Job Security and VolatilityFinal Comments and ConclusionsResourcesJob Posting WebsitesFree Life Science News Services (Many Have Job Postings)


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