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3 More Industry Trends To Help PhDs Develop Their Business And Commercial Acumen Skills

strong business acumen skills | Cheeky Scientist | non academic phd in business
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.

Industry trends?

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.

how to develop business acumen skill | Cheeky Scientist | commercial acumen skills

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.

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.
  • jackie johnson

    this article is fantastic. Biotech incubators are valuable resources for startups, true, but also for PhD job seekers! Oftentimes the incubators will have internal job boards. Given the nature of the beast, it is also common for companies in these incubators to pass along strong candidates to other neighbor companies. Great point arunodoy! I also like that you draw attention here to the futuristic therapies. I suspect that these IPOs around CRISPR-based technologies will be huge.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @disqus_DulfOE68aD:disqus incubators can be a great source of employment opportunities for those trying to transition into the industry as they house multiple startups. As you pointed out the IPOs of so-called “futuristic” technologies such as immuno-oncology or CRISPR based startups are definitely going to be huge once they get initial clinical trials data. Thanks for reading my article.

  • Sonja Luther

    I’ve been fascinated by wearables since my dad had to wear a heart-monitoring patch. It not only took his pulse 24/7 for a week, but transmitted the information wirelessly back to the company that produced it, and the doctor was able to make decisions about my dad’s cardio care based on the data.

    I had no idea at the time that data collection and wearables would be transforming the pharma-bio industry, but of course in retrospect it makes sense.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Sonja Thanks for reading my article and commenting on it. Wearables are surely going to grow even more and will result in development of more collaborations between pharma and IT companies.

  • Matthew Smithson PhD

    I know that deer-in-the-headlight feeling when you go for your first industry job interview. Thanks for this awesome follow-up post, Arunodoy, it’s great for anyone facing the job search. Also, it’s fascinating reading about these trends even if you’re not looking for a job!

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Matthew, It is important to read about these trends even if you are not looking for a job as one should always remain updated with the latest info about the industry. Thanks for reading my article and I’m happy to know that you found it useful.

  • Kathy Azalea

    It’s encouraging to know that incubators and accelerators are providing more jobs for PhD-level applicants. Thanks for giving us some concrete ways to stay on top of industry trends, Arunodoy, and showing us some of the emerging industries that should make such a huge difference in the field. 🙂

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi Kathy, Thanks for your positive comments about my article. Incubators and accelerators can act as the ideal gateway into industry roles for PhDs who are stepping out of academia. The emerging fields and startups based around these technologies will certainly have major influence on the future of the life science industry.

  • Madeline Rosemary

    I have an interest in cryobiology as a possible means to supercooling and preserving donated organs and other uses that could possibly fall into the “futuristic” category. Perhaps combined with gene editing, we can develop new tissues that react differently to cold and would be more amenable to preservation. It’s great to see that companies are starting to explore more forward-thinking approaches.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @madelinerosemary:disqus as you know cryobiology is already being applied in the field of stem cells and tissue regeneration. With the growth of more “Futuristic technologies” cryobiology will most likely have more new applications in the near future.

  • Julian Holst

    New portable scanning devices that can diagnose head injuries in sports teams are coming on the market, and promise to replace some of the more cumbersome equipment that requires the patient to fit inside. This type of device could actually fit inside of an ambulance as a diagnostic aid to paramedics at the scene of accidents. At least the pharma and bio industries have exciting developments to look forward to. It’s a good time to be in these industries.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @JulianholstUSA:disqus as you rightly pointed out there are new exciting developments in the life science industry and portable futuristic diagnostics that implements new wearable technologies is definitely one area to look out for.

  • Marvin D’Esprit

    I’m really glad to see these two articles because they give me a clear leg up when I get ready to look for that all-important first job in industry. Thanks so much, Arunodoy. 🙂

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @marvindesprit:disqus Thank you for the positive comments about my article and it makes me happy to know that this article provided you information that proved helpful in your search for industry job. Good luck with your career 🙂

  • Carlie Stevenson, PhD

    It’s particularly gratifying to see that Universities are supporting the growth of spin-off incubators meant to help the bio industry grow and learn. I’ve often thought that there’s no point to working so hard in grad school to add to the body of knowledge that we have if there’s no chance to apply it. With these incubators, those PhD’s who are not planning (or able) to continue in academia will have a chance to continue researching ways to put knowledge to practical use.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @CarlieStevensonPhD:disqus industry academia collaboration and generation of spinoffs from inventions of academic labs is an essential part of the biotech industry and this trend it is a growing trend. So work in academic labs with translational value will surely find application. Hope someday you too will be able to contribute through this avenue.

  • Theo

    Thanks for the article. I’m excited about the idea of health apps and their possible role in raising awareness of health concerns and healthy practices. We’re already seeing exercise and meditation apps on the market. Ideally, a patient could use an app to record diabetes records such as blood sugar measurements and medication taken, which can then transmit this information to the doctors’ offices. This would be very useful for patients and doctors alike.

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hi @TheloniusJHolland:disqus as you correctly pointed out apps are being increasingly used in the health/life science sector. I believe they have not yet reached their full potential. Most industry experts agree this as huge economic and beneficial potential.

  • Sissy MacDougall

    I admire the way you’ve taken the time to identify so many trends that will have such a wide impact in the bio/pharma industries going forward. I’m thinking that even in my profession, looking at the megatrends that are looming could have a beneficial effect on career growth and preparation for change in the future. Kudos. 🙂

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hello @sissymacdougall:disqus thanks for reading my article and for your positive remarks. Irrespective of your field you should always remain aware of the trends that are going to influence the sector in the coming years. As you realized yourself this will prove helpful for your career growth.

  • Harvey Delano

    I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head with this article. Until I read your last article, it never really dawned on me how important it would be to get familiar with these trends and use that information to leverage my chances of getting an industry job. Thanks a lot! I really appreciate it. 🙂

    • Arunodoy Sur

      Hello @harveydelano:disqus Thanks for reading my article and glad to know you found the information useful in your search for industry jobs. Good luck with your career 🙂

  • soho

    Hi Arunodoy,

    Could I ask what kinds of resources and sites would you recommend for people to follow if they wanted to keep up with the latest news in biopharmaceutical industry trends etc?