6 Trends PhDs Must Know About The Biopharma Market
Written by Tavis Mendez, Ph.D.
I had been working in the same lab for a few years.
Doing the same experiments with the same techniques, not really learning anything new.
I felt like I was going nowhere and not developing any useful skills.
I wanted to leave academia, but what good were my abilities outside of the academic environment?
It seemed like everyone around me just wanted to stay in academia.
I felt stuck in my dead-end academic job until I received a call from an old friend.
She was working in the biotech industry and had moved through a few companies.
To my surprise, she had found many opportunities available to her as a PhD outside of academia.
She explained all the exciting work that was currently being done in biopharma.
I suddenly realized there was a whole other world beyond academia.
I had been living in a miserable academic bubble and was finally seeing what was really available outside the university.
But, I had no idea where to start my job search.
It all seemed so overwhelming.
By networking with my friend, I was able to set up a few informational interviews and learn about the variety of positions in biopharma.
With a lot of research and a little coaching from my friend, I am confidently pursuing a new career in industry.
Why There Are Big Opportunities For PhDs In The Biopharma Market
Biotechnology and pharma have been growing steadily for many years now, and there is no sign that this growth will plateau any time soon.
As reported by Ernst and Young, despite a decrease in biopharma market capitalization last year, the industry still saw a 14% increase in the number of employees.
And this year, the industry has bounced back and is looking strong.
The emergence of strong Chinese venture capitalism and the $30 billion Johnson & Johnson’s acquisition of Swiss bellwether Actelion have set the year off on the right foot.
Additionally, the boom in both medicine and biotechnology has seen some tech industry veterans getting their feet wet in the biopharma industry.
As reported in The New York Times, Larry Page, co-founder of Google, started the company Calico to invest in the study of aging and the diseases that come with it.
For PhDs making the transition from academia to industry, this means traditional biotech and pharmaceuticals companies should not be the only places you are looking at for employment.
There are many new and growing companies looking to hire talented PhDs.
According to the US Department Of Commerce, in a single year, the biopharma industry added $1.2 trillion dollars to the US economic output.
There is no shortage of opportunity for PhDs in the biopharma industry.
But, to beat out the competition and land the industry position you want, you MUST be aware of current industry trends.
Companies are often weary of hiring academic PhDs because they lack the business acumen required to succeed in industry.
Prove that you are a PhD who is ready to become an industry professional by following and understanding the latest industry trends.
6 Current Trends In The Biopharma Market That PhDs Must Know
The world of science and technology moves fast.
It can be difficult to keep track of everything.
However, it is essential that you put in the effort and learn about what is happening in industry.
This information affects you, your job search, and your future job prospects.
Here are 7 current trends in biopharma that PhDs must be aware of…
1. CRISPR/Gene editing.
With the advent of CRISPR, the world of gene editing has changed dramatically.
The CRISPR method holds great potential for use in many applications.
The method itself is known to be inexpensive, compared to older methods, giving it the economical edge for widespread use.
Recently, as reported by Nature, CRISPR has successfully been used to edit the genome in human embryos and fix disease-causing mutations.
CRISPR is also making its way into the antibiotic market.
Fiercebiotech reported that Eligo Bioscience recently acquired $20 million from Khosla Ventures and Seventure to look into research using CRISPR to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
With seemingly unlimited uses for CRISPR in healthcare, there has been an unsurprising rise in CRISPR-related funding and patent applications.
CRISPR is considered to be the discovery of the 21st century, and as more applications are investigated, CRISPR will surely continue to grow.
PhDs with technical experience in CRISPR gene editing should be aware of the many applications of this technology in industry.
By leveraging both your technical and transferable skills, being familiar with the CRISPR method opens a variety of doors in industry.
2. Precision medicine.
The Precision Medicine Initiative, originally formed to create a more personalized cancer treatment method, is now moving toward developing personalized treatment for all diseases.
The one-size-fits-all model for treatment of human diseases is coming to an end.
With this shift in treatment model, there is a need for new developments in diagnostics, treatments, and data management.
In terms of data solutions, there is a push to combine genomic information with clinical and lifestyle data to fill any voids in precision medicine. Notably, companies like IBM, Watson, N-Of-One, and 2bPrecise LLC have entered this field.
There was also a recent analysis done by the Diaceutics Group, where they found that two-thirds of phase 3 pipeline therapies, dependent on diagnostics and biomarkers, were in non-oncology fields.
Last but not least, Illumina and Vertex have been investing their capital into precision medicine, and both stocks have risen significantly.
3. Immuno-Oncology, CAR T cells.
This is a new field where a patient’s own immune cells are modified to fight against cancer when reintroduced into the patient’s body.
The cells are given a foreign antigen from a dead virus, called the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), which allows the cells to recognize tumor cells.
Although a part of precision medicine, attention on CAR T cells has recently overshadowed many other forms of precision therapy and thus, it has been separated into its own category.
Clinical trials have been restricted to patients with advanced stages of cancer, but recently the FDA approved a CAR T cell therapy by Novartis for acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children, marking the first FDA approval in the CART T cell field.
Due to the high success rate of this new therapy, stocks in CART T cell therapy companies such as iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB), BlubirdBio, Juno Therapeutics, and Nektar Therapeutics have risen substantially, as reported by CNBC.
Research into the importance of the microbiome on overall health is a current hot topic.
Studies have linked the microbiome to several human ailments, including obesity, gastrointestinal disorders, and even diseases that affect the brain and behavior.
So, it is no surprise that there has been a high interest in companies researching the microbiome.
In fact, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, the growth of venture-capital investment in companies focusing on microbiome solutions has outpaced the growth of overall venture-capital investment.
Last year alone, there was $616.9 million raised for microbiome companies — this is more than the previous 4 years combined.
Although the highly publicised microbiome news has mainly focused on companies interested in the biomedical uses of the microbiome, such as Human Longevity Inc., other companies are investigating alternative uses for the microbiome.
For example, Indigo Agriculture Inc., has found that microbiome bacteria can be used to make the cotton plant more drought-resistant.
The applications of microbiome research are diverse, just like many of the other trends in biopharma, so as a PhD you need to remember to keep an open mind when looking for industry positions.
5. Antibiotics discovery.
No major antibiotic discoveries have been made since the1960s.
Infectious bacteria are gaining resistance to our current antibiotics, which causes alarm worldwide.
Cases have arisen where none of our current antibiotics are able to fight an infection, and the patient has died.
Antibiotic resistance is not only passed down from drugs, but from our food sources as well.
Recently, fish farms from around the world were able to find and measure antibiotics in their fishmeal, which ultimately led to resistance genes being found in oceanic bacteria.
As reported by Forbes, many big pharma corporations seem to have given up on finding new antibiotics, due to the lack of profitability in these drugs.
However, government funding into antibiotic development has increased.
France recently invested €15 million into companies trying to discover the next generation of antibiotics, such as Destiny Pharma and Summit Therapeutics.
Several European countries and South Africa have come together to invest €56.5 million in the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP).
And, CARB-X is the result of a transatlantic partnership and was given $350 million to combat drug resistance.
With so much concern and funds being shuttled into antibiotics discovery, this field is in the spotlight for venture capitalists investing into startup companies willing to take on the risk of developing new antibiotics.
The antibiotic discovery field highlights that concern industry include for-profit companies, non-profit companies, and government institutions — all of which have positions that need talented PhDs.
6. R&D outsourcing.
We live in a society that demands economical growth, and with greater pressure on biopharma to churn out the next generation of treatments while still making a profit, companies are increasingly outsourcing their R&D work.
Companies are feeling the pressure of R&D costs, as there was a 12% increase in R&D spending last year.
Biopharma companies are looking for ways to reduce this cost, including outsourcing
It is more cost-effective to send your R&D work to an established laboratory than to build the infrastructure and hire the people needed to finish the job using your own capital.
This trend is responsible for the rise of the Contract Research Organization (CRO).
The R&D outsourcing market is also expanding the use of e-commerce.
It is estimated that 70-80% of sales and marketing of life science tools will be done using e-commerce by 2020.
Currently, 8 of 10 pharmaceutical companies have used Science Exchange, the world’s leading online marketplace for such services, to purchase external research services.
No matter where you are in your career, it is always good to keep in touch with the latest industry trends. Not only could knowing these trends lead you to your next job, but it will give you insight on how business transactions are made, which is also important to know in industry. A few trends to be aware of now are the widespread use of CRISPR gene editing, the rise of precision medicine, the development of CAR T cells, the increasing interest in microbiome and medical cannabis research, and the current R&D outsourcing trend. It is time to get out of the lab and start looking for an industry career. It is never too early or too late to start looking at what options lay beyond the horizon.
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