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3 Top Biotechnology And Pharmaceutical Industry Trends Every PhD Should Know

biotech and biopharma industry trends | Cheeky Scientist | job market trends
Written by Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.

In the months leading up to my dissertation, I realized I was about to become a statistic.

Like many of the PhDs around me, I had failed to prepare for alternative career paths.

That’s when I decided to change my mindset.

I decided I wasn’t going to be just another struggling academic: underpaid, under appreciated, fighting for research grants, and begging for publications.

But I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

To get ahead, I knew I had to start attending networking events and learning more about alternative career paths.

So, I started attending networking events with industry professionals.

I did my best to strike up conversations but I had nothing to say.

I knew nothing about these professionals’ companies or what made them tick.

These professionals certainly had no interest in my specialized thesis topic.

I had made the all-too-common mistake of thinking my academic achievements were enough to impress people outside of my field. 

I made the mistake of thinking my academic achievements would get me job referrals.

In retrospect, I should have been learning as much as I could about industry.

I should have been keeping up with industry trends and discussing these trends with the professionals I met at networking events.

Understanding and communicating key industry trends is a critical transferable skill that industry employers look for in PhDs.

Where are the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries headed?

Which mergers and acquisitions have recently occurred in these industries?

These are the questions I should have been finding answers to.

These are topics I should have been discussing.

Eventually, I was able to secure a job in industry.

Understanding and communicating key industry trends was the biggest factor in getting the industry job I wanted.

Learning to stay on top of the business aspects of science and how one’s project fits into the bigger goals of the organization proved that, even without direct industry experience, I was the right candidate for the job.

It proved that I could provide value to other industry professionals.

Without building a good knowledge base of industry trends, I wouldn’t have secured my first industry job immediately after graduate school.

Why It’s Important For PhDs To Know Industry Trends

Most PhD students don’t have a clue about what it takes to run a successful business.

These PhDs do NOT understand the factors, innovations, and breakthroughs that are shaping the current markets in industry.

Without knowledge of industry trends such as these, you can come across as naïve and inexperienced at job interviews.

You can miss out on job opportunities that you are otherwise trained for.

Expertise in the field of industry trends demonstrates your enthusiasm for the company.

It demonstrates your understanding of industry strategy, structure, market position and products.

It demonstrates your acumen for the overall industry.

A survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters found that 67% of employers rated “Commercial Awareness” as the top skill shortage among graduates. 

The job search process for PhDs is changing.

Formal interviews are giving way to more informal conversations and it is vital that you take advantage of these changes to highlight your professional value.

labor market trends | Cheeky Scientist | improve your commercial awareness

Top 3 Industry Trends Every PhD Must Know

The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are rapidly changing.

These industries are being influenced by an unprecedented level of innovations, as well as a never before seen amount of global challenges.

For example, while new technologies such as CRISPR and gene therapy are producing exciting breakthroughs, this sector has to face challenges caused by new regulatory laws, patent expirations, having to provide healthcare to aging populations, and modifications to the pricing and reimbursement landscapes.

As a result of these new innovations and challenges, PhD-level hiring in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries is increasing rapidly.

A recent report cited in Fast Company showed that 78% of hiring managers anticipate more hiring in the next 6 months compared to the previous 6 months.

What does this all mean?

Now is the time to increase your knowledge of industry trends.

Now is the time to do your homework and be the expert on industry trends.

Now is the time for action.

Here are 3 biotech and pharmaceutical industry trends PhDs like you should know…

1. Increased regulatory demands.

The life science industry is characterized by an evolving regulatory landscape and growing concerns about transparency for both patients and stakeholders.

As a result, the biopharmaceutical industry in particular has been subjected to increased scrutiny and more stringent monitoring guidelines.

In Europe, new regulations for pharmacovigilance (Good Pharmacovigilance Practices or GVP) and checks for possible counterfeit medicines were recently passed.

In Asia, the FDA has been conducting more regular checks in manufacturing and clinical trial sites located in emerging economies.

In India and China, the clinical trials industrial boom has attracted increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies.

In the U.S., the Physicians’ Payment Sunshine Act was recently implemented, requiring disclosure of physicians with ties to pharma companies.

This is a prime example of patient empowerment. 

In France, Japan and Australia, similar initiatives have been implemented.

A recent Deloitte study predicted that 70% of pharmaceutical products are now being sold in countries which have Health Care Professional (HCP) transparency regulations.

Throughout the world, high profile incidents of failure to adhere to regulatory guidelines has resulted in stronger demands for transparency and the necessity for stricter monitoring by federal agencies.

More and more processes in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries are being regulated.

For example, the FDA recently declared that it’s planning on implementing new laws for expediting the review process for medical devices and started a regulatory body for Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs).

This is the first time such processes have been regulated.

With the growth of digital healthcare records and healthcare data sharing, there is increasing demand for further protecting patient security and privacy.

As a result, federal authorities, healthcare providers, and healthcare payers are planning on new initiatives to ensure security and privacy.

Biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies in the life sciences sector will have to deal with these changes and adapt accordingly.

The shared goal of these companies is to maintain revenue growth and sustain innovation while complying with new regulations.

2. The rise of generics and biosimilars.

A generic drug is the same as a brand name drug in dosage, safety, strength, how it is taken, quality, performance, and intended use.

A biosimilar is a biological product that is highly similar to a licensed reference biological product notwithstanding minor differences in clinically inactive components.

With approaching patent cliffs, rising healthcare costs, and increasing pressure on the biopharmaceutical sector from lawmakers to ensure accessibility of essential therapies, the number of generics and biosimilars in the market will continue to grow.

According to a report by EvaluatePharma, the total value of revenue at risk as a result of patent expiry is expected to be around $197 billion over the next 5 years alone.

However, a large proportion of this is associated with biologics which are much harder to replace than small molecules of earlier decades.

As such, the actual loss in sales could be cut in half to about $99 billion.

Blockbuster drugs which can be replaced by traditional small-molecule generics are certain to face strong challenges from generic competitors over the next 10 years.

Noticeable inclusions in this list are Bristol-Myers Squibb/Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s antipsychotic drug Abilify and Sanofi Pharmaceutical’s insulin treatment drug Lantus.

Both generics and biosimilars are changing the landscape of the biopharmaceutical sector.

This has forced innovators to accelerate the search for novel products.

It has also resulted in a reduction of healthcare expenditures for patients.

For example, the introduction of biosimilar versions of human-growth hormones and interferons has increased the affordability and accessibility of these products by patients.

In the EU, regulatory bodies recently approved Remsima, the biosimilar version of the monoclonal antibody of a drug called Remicade that is used for treatment of Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

A recent partnership between Gilead with generic drug manufacturers in India helped ensure the affordability and accessibility of the hepatitis C drug Sofusbuvir (marketed in India under the brand name Sovaldi).

In a similar initiative, Roche partnered with private insurers in China to ensure the affordability and accessibility of biologics to the Chinese population.

But there are major concerns, especially with biosimilars.

How can the efficacy in replicating the therapeutic values of the drugs these biosimilars seek to replace be measured?

Can these biosimilars meet the same regulatory standards?

Answering these questions are some of the challenges manufacturers will face in the years to come.

3. The restructuring of big companies.

To combat increased regulatory demands and the rise of generics and biosimilars, biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies are being forced to constantly restructure.

Big companies like Pfizer and Parexelare are restructuring to foster a more collaborative approach internally, rather than building robust and specialized departments internally.

Many large biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies are collaborating with Contract Research Organizations (CROs) and Contract Manufacturing Organizations (CMOs).

Pfizer’s collaboration with both PPD and Parexel is a prime example of this kind of pharma–CRO/CMO strategic partnership.

A Global Biotechnology Market Research report by IBISWorld  describes how many biopharmaceutical organizations are restructuring to take advantage of the growing R&D capabilities of emerging economies in countries like China and India.

Additionally, these biopharmaceutical organizations are restructuring to foster collaborations with small startups and academic research labs.

This desire to collaborate with startups and academic labs has indirectly facilitated the growth of industry clusters, or global innovation hotspots such as San Francisco and Boston.

A report in Drug Discovery Today, showed that over the past 10 years, large biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies went through multiple restructurings, mergers, and acquisitions.

Examples include Roche-Genentech, Sanofi-Genzyme, Pfizer-Wyeth and Astrazenca-MedImmune.

It’s predicted that this trend of focusing on novel technologies and an inclination towards collaborations and restructurings will continue.

The future is sure to include more consolidation and restructuring among the big players in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical sectors. These players will continue to combat patent expiration and rising expenditures, likely resulting in more restructurings and more corporation-CRO, corporation-startup, and industry-academia partnerships. As such, it’s essential that you set aside time during your job search to stay up-to-date with the latest industry trends. You can do this by subscribing to industry journals, magazines, newspapers, associations, and even social media updates. By increasing your knowledge base of industry trends, you will further increase your value to industry hiring managers and recruiters.

To learn more about transitioning into industry, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.

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Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.

Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.

Arunodoy is a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology and has training in intellectual property, entrepreneurship, and venture capitalism. He also has experience with global biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies, including clinical trial consulting. Arunodoy is passionate about the translation of academic research to the real world and commercialization of scientific innovation so that it can help solve problems and benefit people. He possesses in-depth understanding of both technological and commercial aspects associated with the life science industry.
Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.
  • Winona Petit

    Thank you for this exhaustive study of three of the biggest trends in pharma and biology fields. This is going to help a lot of PhD candidates get a jump on what they need to know to find a suitable position in industry and use their knowledge wisely. Kudos for a very complete picture! 🙂

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Winona, In the future I plan on writing on some more trends in the pharma/biotech sector. One of my main reasons for writing it was to inform and help graduate students who want to pursue career in this industry. Glad you found it helpful and thank you for reading it.

  • Julian Holst

    Excellent information! I don’t know when I’ve read such a comprehensive explanation of the many challenges facing scientific industry, and I especially appreciate your tailoring of the material to help those of us who are looking at graduating soon. If “commercial awareness” is the largest deficit we have to overcome in preparing for a future, you’ve certainly given us a big hand in becoming more aware. Thank you!

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hello Julian Thank you for reading the article and for the positive comments. Keeping informed about the latest trends in the industry while you are finishing grad school will give you a significant advantage over those who don’t.

  • Matthew Smithson PhD

    It was very wise of you to foresee some of the problems you’d be forced to face when attempting to get an industry job and eschew the many headaches of trying to get a decent-paying professorship. Some of the new PhD’s got a little stuck in the cracks when they realized the tenure track was not going to pan out for them. I’ve never regretted taking a job in industry and highly recommend it to those who are wondering what to pursue following their academic careers.

    The challenges of regulation, generics/biosimilars, and restructuring are going to be impacting the industry for years to come. Thanks so much for pointing these out in such a thorough way.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Mathew,
      Thank you for reading the article. You seem to have taken the right decision by transitioning to academia instead of chasing a tenured position. PhDs are often unaware of opportunities that are available beyond academia.

  • Madeline Rosemary

    It’s true that all of these issues are of primary concern and people need to be aware of them. The fact that you can discuss the issues in such a clear and succinct way should be a standard to emulate for those who haven’t finished their PhD’s yet. Anyone with a thorough grasp of what the companies are facing will stand a much better chance of getting immediate and profitable employment. 🙂

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hello Madeline As you correctly pointed out, it is indeed important to have a through knowledge and recent trends affecting the biotech/pharma sector for any PhD who wants to find employment in these sectors. It is good to know that you found my article helpful and thank you for reading it.

  • Kathy Azalea

    Wow, thank you so much! I’ve got some studying to do! Actually, you saved me quite a bit of work. And I really appreciate all the links, too — that helped a lot. 🙂

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Kathy, Realizing that you need to be informed, is the first step in the right direction. Thank you for reading the article and I’m glad that I could help you through my writing 🙂

  • Harvey Delano

    I think that any of us planning on starting an industry job owe you a big debt of thanks. This really gives me a firm footing on which to start. Really great info to have.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hello Harvey, Thank you for your nice comment. Look out for more articles on trends in biotech in the near future.

  • Sissy MacDougall

    Actually, I don’t remember having to be anywhere near this conversant on matters of concern to the companies and agencies way back when I graduated. I think the job market in general has really changed, and in particular for PhD’s. Fortunately, even though it’s a much tougher market, if anyone can do it, these fresh young PhD’s can! 🙂

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Sissy, You are right the job market and what it demands from a PhD is always changing. I like your positive attitude and faith in the ability of fresh PhDs 🙂 thank you for reading my article.

  • Carlie Stevenson, PhD

    Great job, Arunodoy, on researching these issues and putting them in plain English so that any PhD in the position of looking for a first job or attempting to transfer to a better job can understand them. I think you’ve really hit on the main issues facing all the biotechnical and pharma companies today, and anyone can see how sensitive and all-inclusive these issues can be for the industry. Thanks so much.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hello Carlie, My reason for writing this article was to inform students who are about to finish their PhD and prefer to take the industry career route rather than an academic career. Thank you for your positive comment. In the future I intend to publish more article on similar topics pertaining to the biotech industry.

  • Marvin D’Esprit

    With so many reductions in revenues, I’m just wondering if the jobs in industry will dry up over time. This is definitely the time to get in.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Marvin, There will be always new challenges for the life science industry but if the current trends are any indication you should not be expecting jobs to dry up.

  • Theo

    This is a clear blueprint of what we have to do to land great jobs in industry. Understanding the problems the bosses are facing should mean that interviews go smoother and communication’s good on the job. I think the PhD’s of today have a lot to offer the industry and it’s exciting to be on this leading edge of so much innovation.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Theo, It is very true that PhDs have a lot to offer to the industry and by being informed about what is going in the industry they are trying to get in to will definitely help them in getting hired.

  • Nidhi Khurana

    Such a great article about the aspects that Ph.Ds stuck in academia do not even bother to know about. I have recently started to explore the potential of Ph.Ds in industries and this article served to be an eye-opener about the areas we need to know to keep up with the pace of changing trends in industries.Thank you!!

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Nidhi, Thanks for reading the article. It is good that you have started exploring career options in the industry for PhDs and started looking at related information. You should look into articles of the Cheeky Scientist Association written by other authors also as those will give you a lot of information about industry and how to transition.