Friday, August 21, 2009
Maintaining Marketability in a Shrinking Job Market
In recent years, the biopharmaceutical industry has experienced a seemingly endless series of mergers, downsizings and company closures. Reasons for this trend are numerous and include:
• Dwindling capital available for research ventures
• Corporate shifts in priority from discovery to development
• Large pharmaceutical firms turning to biopharmaceutical companies to fill their discovery pipelines
• Paradigm shifts incorporating outsourced services as replacements for high cost internal capabilities
Regarding this last point, let's face it - DISCOVERY RESEARCH IS EXPENSIVE!!! This is not to imply that product development, manufacturing, marketing and legal capabilities are not expensive - they are! They are also among the facets of industry that are routinely farmed out. Furthermore, product development, manufacturing and marketing all fall into place once products begin to emerge from discovery research efforts.
Since many small biopharmaceutical firms are focused on research, outsourcing provides a way to, at least on paper, save money. This extra cash is valuable when a firm is being considered as an acquisition target or when planning to move products into early development. Furthermore, in these lean economic times, preservation of cash is a solid strategy against less availability of venture funds.
Having addressed the bullet points listed above, I would like to re-examine the issues listed in my last posting. These are:
• The future shape of the biopharmaceutical industry
• How healthcare reform will impact the pharmaceutical industry
• How to manage the trend in offshoring chemistry activities to CROs
• Where big pharmaceutical companies will rebuild their pipeline of new drug candidates
• Where the chemists of the future will fit into this changing industrial environment
Through my postings, I will address and expand upon each of these areas - though not all at the same time. Primarily, I will focus on answering the question HOW TO MOTIVATE THE NEXT GENERATION OF SCIENTISTS TO PURSUE CAREERS IN CHEMISTRY.
In the first few paragraphs of this posting, I presented an image of a shrinking industry with rationalizations for the four trends listed. From this point on, I want to emphasize that these trends are not indications of an industry hostile to growth - THEY ARE OPPORTUNITIES FOR CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION!!! To be more specific:
• Dwindling capital available for research ventures invites the development of creative financing strategies
• Corporate shifts in priority from discovery to development invites those involved in discovery to utilize their skills in the development arena
• Large pharmaceutical firms turning to biopharmaceutical companies to fill their discovery pipelines invites increased innovation to make small companies attractive to alliances
• Paradigm shifts incorporating outsourced services as replacements for high cost internal capabilities invites development of managerial skills that can cross borders and bridge cultures
In order for these opportunities to become fully open to all, we must all recognize that CHANGE IS A FORCE OF NATURE THAT CANNOT BE STOPPED. We can either adapt or give up. I choose to adapt and continually embrace opportunities to work in all areas related to the pharmaceutical industry. A few examples from my experiences in drug discovery include:
• Recognizing corporate synergies between companies and bridging dialogs between companies
• Participating in intellectual property activities and building experience in patent drafting
• Taking advantage of funding allocated for off-shore activities and driving research projects with international teams
• Maintaining an ability to be conversant across all functional areas of drug discovery and development
While it is crucial for individual contributors to take all opportunities to expand upon their knowledge and skill base, additional forward-looking factors will contribute to successful personnel transitions. Specifically:
• Industry must work to prevent chemistry, a discipline requiring intensive education/training, from evolving into a service
• Academic institutions must continue to provide solid educational programs and degrees in chemistry - incorporating broad based and generally useful knowledge/skills
Through these commitments, scientists will be able to continue to provide innovative solutions and be rewarded through patents and publications. More importantly, the next generation of students will believe that there is a future in chemistry - even in the shadow of a continually evolving industrial setting.