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GEN Exclusives provide you with unique, in-depth, and critical coverage of key industry developments, market moving events, and scientific advances, as well as interviews with life science thought leaders. Also included are feature articles from GEN’s print edition.

Insight & Intelligence™: Nov 21, 2014

Filling the Biotech Job Pipeline

Positions go begging in big data, translational medicine, and payer reimbursement.

Filling the Biotech Job Pipeline

Data overload in basic and clinical research as well as in business strategy assessments has opened a wide variety of job opportunities for those who are trained in bioinformatics and statistics. [Rawpixel/Fotolia]

    Medical liaison

    Gone are the days when biopharmas can just flood doctors’ offices with tchotchkes bearing the logo of the company or a heavily-pushed drug, thanks to laws like the U.S. Physician Payments Sunshine Act. Yet companies have not given up on building relations with physicians as a key piece of their strategies for generating sales. Enter medical liaisons, whose duties include “providing deep and advanced disease state and product information” to educators, investigators and other “scientific experts” (Eli Lilly). They “build scientific partnerships Phase II forward with healthcare professionals and decision makers” in order to “support the development, launch and commercialization of drug products” by informing researchers, clinicians, and other key opinion leaders (Novartis). Depending on the company, liaisons must hold or should hold doctoral degrees, with proven abilities to grow relationships and influence peers.

    Outcomes scientists

    With securing payer reimbursement a growing concern in healthcare, someone has to furnish all that evidence of a drug’s value. Enter the outcomes scientist. Duties include providing “scientific expertise and effective project oversight to ensure successful fulfillment of the health outcomes research agenda to deliver better patient outcomes that are valued by payers and providers” (Eli Lilly), as well as “strategic guidance and robust evidence development relevant to achieve optimal global patient access by demonstrating the value of products, thus helping ensure optimal reimbursement and access of the launched product portfolio” (Pfizer). Most companies require doctoral degrees (the rest allow a minimum masters’ degree) as well as industry experience in health economics and outcomes research (HEOR), market access and/or reimbursement.

    Project lead

    As drug development focuses beyond basic research, so too the types of projects overseen by leaders.  Novartis sought applicants recently for a clinical project lead position at its Alcon ophthalmics unit; the position oversees planning, conduct and reporting of all clinical trials for a development program, and contributes to the project development plan, including high-level clinical trial design. At Roche, a project lead for companion diagnostics (CDx) development is required to develop and lead CDx assay strategies for the Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) portfolio clinical molecules, and develop an overall CDx strategy for pRED that is aligned with the CDx development organization of its Genentech subsidiary. Requirements include a doctoral degree, and development experience ranging from five years (Roche) to seven years (Novartis).

    Research scientist

    For all the outsourcing and/or cutting R&D carried out in recent years, biopharmas continue to hire researchers. At Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), researchers in the Molecular and Cellular Sciences group must possess “a solid background in cell biology, phenotypic and metabolic analysis of cell lines, as well as molecular biology skills.” Johnson & Johnson expects scientists to work toward “the goal of identifying and validating biomarker signatures in connection with therapeutic discovery projects, aimed toward clinical translation and beyond.” AstraZeneca is also focused on target discovery, leading to “the identification of drug candidates, and the generation of compelling preclinical data packages.” Jobs usually require doctoral degrees, though BMS’ minimum qualifications range from PhDs with 0-4 years’ experience, to MS graduates with 4-6 years, to BS grads with 6-8 years.

    Sales professionals

    In the biopharma wars, sales professionals are the foot soldiers: They are “diverse and dynamic professionals” (Eli Lilly) who can “effectively communicate the clinical and economic benefits of the products” (Amgen) and “function independently with a high degree of sales proficiency” (AstraZeneca). Their duties go beyond the obvious one of achieving sales growth; they also “conduct analyses on product & market trends” (Pfizer). The more advanced the degree, the less sales experience companies require candidates to show, though companies prefer experience within the industry, especially in their key therapeutic areas.


    Biopharma is a heavily-regulated industry, so companies need many professionals to make sure all the rules are followed, especially on the manufacturing end. Techs oversee detailed-oriented tasks; they could include “detoxification and purification of Diphtheria Toxin / Toxoid” (Sanofi), to “appropriate encoding for tracking and batch release” and “anything else that may have an impact on the quality, effectiveness and safety” (GlaxoSmithKline). Education requirements usually call for a bachelor’s degree, but positions can require “knowledge of the application of QA rules in the pharmaceutical sector” and “knowledge of GMP”; at least a year’s experience is preferred (GSK) though two can be required (Sanofi). 

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