Written by Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D.
“What is your understanding of the latest trends in bio-pharma?”
“How do you keep yourself updated with the latest news in bio-pharma?”
The interviewer stared at me, poised to write down my response.
I tried to hide the feeling of panic that overcame me.
What was he talking about?
It was my first industry interview and I had practiced the standard set of behavioral questions.
I learned as many “business words” as I could.
I was confident my technical skills and solid publication record would set me apart from the other candidates despite having no previous industry experience.
If this was not enough to secure a position, how was I going to get an industry job?
That’s when I realized my technical skills would only get me so far.
It was a rude awakening.
If I was going to get an industry position, I would have to develop my transferable skills and prove I could apply them to professional settings.
Why It’s Important To Know Industry Trends
Very few PhDs have industry experience before applying for their first job.
But the number of PhDs searching for jobs outside of academia is growing.
At the same time, the academic profession is rapidly declining.
Part of this is the result of colleges and universities taking advantage of a wide supply of faculty by only hiring instructors part-time or on short-term contracts.
According to the American Association of University Professors, 68% of all people teaching in colleges and universities in the United States hold non-tenured track positions.
PhDs entering industry have many of the same technical skills.
Most have good to excellent publication records too.
So, what sets them apart?
The answer is transferable skills.
One of the most important transferable skills relevant to getting an industry job is having a deep understanding of industry trends.
Unlike the slow-paced academic environment most PhDs are used to, industry is constantly changing and adapting to new trends and innovations.
Staying up-to-date with industry trends will help you shape a more productive job search strategy and will help ensure that your industry career starts off strong.
3 Trends To Help You Improve Your Business Acumen
Business acumen doesn’t mean the ability to say smart-sounding business words like “costs of goods sold” or “rolling forecast.”
It refers to a deep understanding of current industry trends.
The more you understand the trends in your industry, the better you can handle business situations.
Industries are highly innovative and evolve at a rapid pace.
To be successful, you need to be aware of these trends and the implications each trend has on a specific project.
You must get in a habit of researching new trends and staying up-to-date on the latest news across the biotech and biopharma sectors.
The time to start developing and leveraging your expertise in industry is now.
Here are 3 more top industry trends to help you develop your business and commercial acumen skills for transitioning into the non-academic career of your choice…
1. Growth of startups and incubators
Over the past few years, a large number of highly innovative startups have emerged in the biotech sector.
This trend is expected to continue over the next 5-10 years.
One factor that has facilitated the growth of start-ups is the formation of technology incubators.
These incubators provide startups with essential support during the early stages of the startups’ growth.
The increasing number of startups can also be attributed to restructuring in the large pharma industry, which is often associated with research and development (R&D) budget cuts.
As a result, smaller startups are being formed, saving and providing a substantial number of jobs.
For example, in 2014 alone, organizations with 50 employees or less accounted for 56% of new jobs in the life science sector in California, U.S.
Accelerators, which act as specialized spaces for startups, such as California’s IndieBio, have aimed to replicate the success experienced by similar initiatives in the IT sector.
These accelerators provide startups with logistical facilities such as lab spaces and assistance with the business facets such as accounting and administration.
The success of these startup initiatives in the biotech industry has been demonstrated by their excellent initial public offering (IPO) record of late.
For example, Renaissance Capital’s 2014 U.S. IPO Annual Review showed that the U.S. biotech sector not only experienced a record number of IPOs (71 offerings) in 2014, but it also realized a record total value of 5 billion U.S. dollars.
Incubators have been especially helpful for small startups, or “spin-offs” from academic laboratories.
Recently, big multinational pharma companies have started supporting startups, academic spin-offs, and incubators.
Merck & Co has partnered with and contributed $90 million to the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr) for supporting startups.
Other examples include Bayer’s CoLaborator and J&J’s Innovation Centers
State governments and universities are also facilitating the growth of incubators.
Their goal is to foster the growth of the life science industry as well as the overall growth of the economy.
Some U.S. states such as California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas have 5-6 incubators each.
The Oxford Science Park in Britain, the Bio-M in Munich, Germany and the Genopole in Paris, France are all examples of major incubators in Europe.
Asian countries with growing biotech and pharma industries, such as Israel, China, Singapore and India are also supporting science-oriented incubators.
2. Emerging “futuristic” therapies.
Recently, there has been progress towards commercialization of technologies such as CAR-T and immuno-oncology.
Though, according to reports by Reuters and others, this progress is still under-appreciated.
This progress has been followed by the formation of ambitious startups around these “futuristic”technologies.
AGTC, Voyager Therapeutics and Spark Therapeutics in Gene Therapy, Kite Pharma and Juno Therapeutics in Immuno-oncology, and Caribou Biosciences and Bluebird Bio in gene editing are some noticeable startups that are utilizing these new technologies and have managed to develop a promising pipeline.
Investors have realized the potential of these “futuristic” technologies and are investing capital in these startups.
According to FierceBiotech, Juno Therapeutics raised about $300 million (US) before it went public.
Similarly, Gritstone Oncology received $102 million (US) from VC to develop cancer vaccines and $55 million (US) was raised by Neon Therapeutics.
Once these startups started achieving success at the clinical stage, they attracted the attention of larger biotech organizations.
The growth of these “futuristic” therapeutic technologies has been further enhanced by collaborations with these biotech organizations.
In the gene therapy field, Biogen signed a deal for almost $1 billion (US) with the ophthalmology gene therapy startup AGTC in August 2015.
Additionally, Pfizer initiated a collaboration with Spark therapeutics while Celgene is working with Juno and Bluebird Bio.
However, as none of the aforementioned companies have launched a “futuristic” product yet, the full value of all these novel technologies is yet to be seen.
3. The rise of digital health.
The effect of digital technology on the healthcare industry has become increasingly noticeable in the last few years.
The introduction of wearable technology by patients, the use of electronic data capture in clinical trials, and the sharing of medical data has exploded across all biotech and biopharma sectors.
In particular, the merger of information technology (IT) and healthcare is having a major impact on the functioning of big pharma.
The use of wearables and advanced medical devices are already impacting diagnostics and the evaluation of clinical data.
Technology giants such as Google, Apple and Samsung are showing increasing interest in the life science industry.
In 2014, Google initiated collaboration with Novartis for the development and commercialization of a contact lens with a microchip capable of measuring blood glucose levels.
As announced in Bloomberg Business, Google initiated collaboration with the French pharma company Sanofi for the management and monitoring of diabetes.
This Google-Safoni project aims to produce Bluetooth enabled insulin pens that utilize cloud computing to store and share glucose monitoring data from diabetes patients.
The growing influence of electronic data and virtual tools are pushing large organizations to be more collaborative and “external facing”.
The International Data Corporation predicts that by 2018, at least 70% of life science-oriented organizations will be involved in healthcare technologies such as patient apps, wearable sensors, and remote monitoring tools.
By 2020,the Corporation predicts that there will be major changes in data collection, mainly driven by the need for cost reduction, better data collection, and better decision-making.
Technologies such as health apps and wearables resulting from the marriage of IT and life science will prove to be highly disruptive for the healthcare industry and will be one of the most exciting trends of the next few years.
These trends point to a positive future for the biotech and biopharma industry. Having a professional awareness of these trends is a critical skill to develop if you want to transition into a non-academic career. Use these trends as guides and continue to stay up-to-date with industry challenges, opportunities, and innovations. Doing so will prove to hiring manager and recruiters that you are not only a technical asset, but a valuable strategic resource to your future employer.
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Latest posts by Arunodoy Sur, Ph.D. (see all)
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