Biopharma Jobs: Where Have They All Gone?
Probably the most important news for my firm, Clark Executive Search, is about biopharma jobs, since I recruit in the life science area and for mostly R&D jobs. Over the last month or so I have noticed quite a few announcements regarding job cuts, the outlook for the industry and the availability of both biopharma jobs and academic jobs for PhD scientists, which I share below.
1. Roche announced they are closing their old Nutley, NJ site including 1000 employees. Some of the research will go to Europe and they will be opening a new small translational science center soon on the East Coast. This is a huge loss to New Jersey as more biopharma jobs disappear entirely or are sent to either California or the Boston area.
2. Sanofi will close one of its French sites and will lay off 2,500 people. Instead of internal R&D, the company’s CEO, Chris Viehbacher,“has pledged to seek new drugs from external sources to complement internal R&D to bring new products to market.”
3. Recently AstraZeneca completely overhauled its neuroscience unit to rely on external discoveries using a virtual model, as reported in a piece by EvaluatePharma. “Having previously employed 900 scientists the company’s virtual neuroscience Innovative Medicines Unit – Astra’s chosen term for its R&D therapy sections – now employs only 35-40 full time employees”. And over at Nature they reported a closure of Novartis neuroscience unit in Basel, Switzerland. Because it is so risky developing neuroscience drugs, many companies are similarly abandoning this therapeutic area. This has contributed greatly to the cut in R&D biopharma jobs.
4. Meanwhile over at AstraZeneca’s biotech arm, Medimmune, it was announced that they would cut 200 jobs and relocate 100 others. And of course AZ will be doing more external deals to bolster their pipeline. All too familiar.
5. Tiny QLT is having drastic cuts too. They announced they would drop 146 biopharma jobs, leaving a staff of 68 in place. Many of the top executives are leaving too , including the CEO.
6. Another small biotech, Chelsea Therapeutics announced severe cuts in biopharma jobs, including many of its executives. The will be “retaining only those employees necessary to gain marketing authorization” of their drug in the US.
7. The Washington Post wrote an article entitled: “US pushes for more scientists, but the jobs aren’t there”. While the White House presses for more scientists, in reality it is very hard for those with lab science backgrounds and PhDs to find jobs in either biopharma or academia. This is because, “only 14 percent of those with a PhD in biology and the life sciences now land a coveted academic position within five years, according to a 2009 NSF survey.” And, of course, the once alternative to academic positions, the drug discovery companies, are not hiring either. The article goes on to say: “Since 2000, U.S. drug firms have slashed 300,000 jobs, according to an analysis by consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.” And the hardest hit are the chemists: “Largely because of drug industry cuts, the unemployment rate among chemists now stands at its highest mark in 40 years, at 4.6 percent, according to the American Chemical Society, which has 164,000 members. For young chemists, the picture is much worse. Just 38 percent of new PhD chemists were employed in 2011, according to a recent ACS survey.”
The lack of positions has led many PhD life scientists to extend their postdoctoral fellowships from the normal one or two years to 5 or 6, often at very low wages. For one former postdoc “After earning her expensive doctorate in neuroscience over seven years, which she financed by working and drawing down her savings,” it was all too much and she left science to take an administrative job. But Razib Khan writes on his blog post entitled, “The wages of a life science PhD (not high)” that we should dismiss the Post article and just focus on the PDF that it was based on. He goes on to state that most PhDs are given wages and don’t have to go into debt. Other comments on the post agree with this but they all state that after 7 or 10 years of training, a PhD candidate is at “0” in terms of wages compared with someone who starts working right after a bachelor’s degree. Add to this the difficulty in landing a job after all the education and it makes for a gloomy future for PhDs right now.
8. To round out all this bleak biopharma jobs news Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology news wrote “ Biopharma Job Outlook Bleak Through the Mid Decade“. They go on to mention all the recent job cuts and finish with: “Big pharma’s contraction has sent thousands of workers scrambling for jobs at the smaller companies and research-based institutions likeliest to hire in coming years. Job competition for people entering biopharma is expected to be high through mid-decade, when the patent cliff ebbs enough for industry job gains to again exceed job losses.” But they were a bit rosier about small to mid-sized companies stating “Unlike big pharma, smaller biopharmas are expected to grow…….Less than 5% of small- to mid-sized companies expect their staffing to decrease, compared with close to 15% of biopharma giants”
Overall I would say the biopharma jobs market has still not recovered and probably won’t for quite some time. Sorry about all this depressing news.
Updated ( 02/17/2013): For Hire: Suffering of Unemployed Chemists is Unlikely to End Soon
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