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Industry Insights from Biotech and Pharmaceutical Careers

By UCL Careers, on 12 December 2014

On 26 November 2014, UCL Careers brought together a panel of industry professionals to talk about their careers, share advice for students and graduates hoping to get into the Biotech and Pharmaceutical field.

Linsey Chrisman, has written a selection of their key insights and advice. The panel were:

  • Dr Jane Bentley, Executive Director Project Management & Global Oncology Operations Lead, Worldwide Clinical Trials / Institute of Clinical Research
  • Richard Bolton, Service Owner, IT Director, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Adam Manhi, Assistant Manager, Healthcare & Life Sciences, KPMG Life and Health Sciences
  • Tony Ring, Operations Manager, Abbott Diabetes Care

What’s happening in the industry?

  • It is an unstable time in the industry with companies reluctant to commit to long term spending and hiring on temporary contracts. Most of the hiring that’s happened at Tony’s facility in the past year has been on temporary contracts. Roughly a third of temporary hires get permanent jobs with the company.
  • Big pharma companies are shrinking the number of people they employ directly in the UK. Increasing amounts of work, including research and development, is being contracted out. Many jobs are still there – but they are in the smaller organisations which have contracts with big pharmaceutical companies, not in the big companies themselves.
  • Many small biotech companies are ‘virtual ‘, ie. a few founders without physical office space or a lab, and contract lab work out to other organisations. This might be contract research organisations or just organisations that have lab facilities, such as research institutes and universities.

Ways to get in

  • Companies in this sector are often looking for graduates to work in IT. This can be a way in to other roles.
  • Work in manufacturing can be a way in to roles in Research and Development and Quality Assurance.
  • Many companies use agencies to hire temporary staff. Research recruitment agencies that work with this sector, register and keep in touch with agencies proactively.
  • Contract research organisations often take on staff to help compile reports for regulators. These positions may not be advertised, so consider applying to organisations speculatively or registering with recruitment agencies.
  • Don’t get hung up on graduate schemes! There are very few in this sector. No one on the panel had ever done a graduate scheme. They all built experience in a combination of internships and temporary entry level jobs before getting into the job they were aiming for.

What are the biggest challenges facing the industry at the moment?

  • There are regulatory changes on the horizon. The FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) is expected to start requiring all of the raw data from clinical trials to be supplied to them in set formats. The UK MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency) and other regulatory bodies are expected to follow suit. It could be resource intensive to get the data to conform to mandated formats and companies are concerned about the costs.
  • Richard said one of the biggest challenges he saw in the industry was that ‘it’s getting harder to know what you know’. In other words, research and clinical trials produce vast amounts of data, and it’s a big challenge to store and organise it in a way that’s meaningful and useful, not just to the team that produced it but to other people within the company and regulators.

Please see the speaker profiles here. You can also get more information on this field on the Life and Health Sciences Week web page.

– Linsey Chrisman, Information Officer, UCL Careers