Friday, June 1, 2012

How many chemists do pharma companies employ?

Did they really have 900 chemists, or did they just
march the same 300 chemists through the courtyard 3 times?
In 2009, Derek Lowe had this comment about pharma company headcount:
A reader who's (unfortunately) in a position to know the details sends along some numbers on Pfizer's chemistry shakeout. According to his figures, Pfizer (pre-Wyeth merger) had about 900 chemists. The Wyeth deal brought in about 350, but no one expected the merged department to stay at 1250 - instead, the guess was that the new chemistry staff would be in the 1000 range, which is what I would have guessed, too. 
But the chemistry head count is now apparently headed to about 850: smaller than it was before the merger. 
I think it is interesting that it would take someone "in the know" to give a simple headcount of chemists -- then again, I'm not entirely surprised.

If you would have asked me what a typical pharma company's chemist headcount was, I'm not sure I could tell you -- there aren't any really good numbers out there. For the most part, I understand -- Big Pharma is loathe to reveal the details of its R&D spend, and headcount would be a pretty decent proxy. Revealing an exact number of chemists would seem to be unwise, somehow. (There's also the problem of breaking those numbers down: How many analytical chemists? How many associates? How many QC chemists? How many process chemists? Who do they work for -- manufacturing or R&D?)

What is the best way to determine pharma company R&D chemist headcount? Are there proxies that can be used to determine this number? 


  1. Given the job security, one way may be to count profiles on LinkedIn? I would think a significant proportion (most probably a majority) of chemists have registered with at least a job title.

  2. We'll end up with 0 soon enough. Does it really matter at what rate we're getting there?