A recently read a review of a new book entitled “Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development” by Toby Freedman, 2008, Cold Spring Harbor Press. Freedman is a PhD molecular biologist that has moved into life sciences recruiting. Since I’m alway interested in career development, and biotech is a field I don’t know enough about, I thought I’d check it out.
I must admit I was highly impressed with the material. The book discusses current conventional wisdom for scientists who are concerned about their careers. Freedman totes that “there are lots of jobs in the biopharma industry”, so it’s worth looking there for options. But what are those jobs? Freedman then proceeds to give a comprehensive answer to that question.
Along the way, she provides a detailed description of the drug discovery process.
The first 6 chapters of this book provide general career advice, giving an overview of what is expected in the biopharma industry, what it takes to succeed, how to write a resume, network, etc. Most of the advice applies to all jobs, but some is specific to science or these industries. The advice is very good, and includes lots of details, examples, and resources for further information. Freedman provides a balanced overview, pointing out both the good and bad points of this industry.
The industry she is focusing on includes both biotechnology and drug discovery & development, also called biopharma. These industries have a great deal in common, and similar career paths and positions are available in each. The entire process is very complex, and often not well understood by those who have not been immersed in it.
The second, and major, part of the book breaks the drug discovery enterprise down into its various stages, describes the role of each step in the process, and details positions available at each stage.
The positions described range from those that require a PhD or MD, to those that are accessible to those with a college degree.
Freedman describes the types of positions, typical job titles and career paths, roles and responsibilities, typical tasks, relative salaries and other compensation. She also describes in detail the pros and cons of each field, how to excel in the field, and what personal characteristics are most often found in those who succeed in that field.
She predicts where the field is going and what job prospects will be like, and also talks about how to get started in each field.
Finally, each chapter ends with recommendations for training, professional societies, and other resources. The entire volume is well organized, with important points in callouts, and many clarifying diagrams.
Anyone who reads this book will come away (like I did) with a deeper understanding of the drug discovery industry, and how complex it really is (and perhaps why marketed pharmaceuticals really cost more than you’d think).
Hopefully, they will also come away with several ideas of places they might fit into that industry, and the resources and inspiration to start investigating those options. I would have liked to have seen more statistics and numbers (salaries, etc), but understand that data would get dated quickly, and ACS members can get current information from the Salary Comparator.
As further proof of the growing importance of this field, ACS has started an Industry Forum and their first speaker is from Wyeth Drug Discovery and Development. The free teleconference is coming up on Thursday, September 11th. While I may never work in a traditional job in this field, it is certainly an area I am going to keep an eye on, and learn more about.
This article was written by freelance technical writer Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants.
Author of: “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006)
ACS Careers Industry Forum: Monthly Teleconferences featuring Luminaries in the Chemical Sciences.
We feel this is a great opportunity for practitioners in the chemical sciences to listen in to top industry leaders in their industries and will assist in making informed career decisions. Guest Speakers include
ØSeptember: Dr. Abou-Gharbia, Senior Vice President & Head of Chemical & Screening Sciences, for Wyeth Drug Discovery & Development.
ØOctober: Dr. Carolyn Ribes, Process Analytical, Dow Benelux, B.V., Terneuzen, The Netherlands.
ØNovember: Michael Strem, Ph.D., President, Strem Chemicals, Inc. founded Strem Chemicals in Newburyport, MA.
ØDecember: No teleconference to be scheduled.
ØJanuary: Dr. Tom Lane, to be President of ACS.
ØFebruary: Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr., Vice President, Chlorovinyl Issues for OxyChem and works on public policy issues and communications related to chlorine and PVC. He is also Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana where he teaches polymer chemistry.
Please join us to discuss economic and employment trends with top industry executives in the chemical sciences. Go to register now. This is a free service via conference call.