Patrick M. Donovan says he “stumbled into the diagnostics field” after losing his job at now-defunct Epix Pharmaceuticals in Lexington, Mass., in 2008. In the midst of a job search, he noticed an online posting for a senior biochemist position in Walpole, Mass., at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, an industry giant.
Despite the fact that he is not a biochemist, but rather has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Boston College, Donovan applied for the position because his skills closely matched the job description. The company was actually looking for a synthetic chemist to make chemiluminescent labels to enhance its diagnostic detection technology, but it used the biochemist title to cover positions in many research areas including chemistry and microbiology. He was hired for the position at the end of 2008.
Donovan says he’s not sure what gave him the edge in landing the job, but notes that the compounds he now works with are similar to the kinds of molecules he focused on in graduate school. Another plus, he says, may have been his postdoc experience at contract research organization Organix, as well as his work as an analytical quality control chemist for Armstrong Pharmaceuticals before graduate school.
Donovan is happy in his new field. One satisfying aspect of his job, he says, is that his group works on molecules that can be used in a variety of assays for many tests in many areas. That contrasts with chemistry R&D done in pharma companies, which sometimes is more specialized, such as targeting a particular drug for a specific disease, he explains. “Our research can help a broad patient base of people all over the world, which is very rewarding.”Why does it seem like Dr. Donovan is moving in the right direction, working for a medical diagnostics company, as opposed to a smaller pharma company? Is medical diagnostics "up the value chain" from pharma? (I don't really think so, but it seems that way sometimes.) Perhaps it is that medical diagnostics does not seem to be as astronomically difficult as pharma -- now I'm really talking ex recto. Readers?
Also from Ms. Ainsworth, an article in this last week's issue regarding the jobs at small companies on the East Coast. There was also an accompanying short article talking about how best to position yourself:
To fill a single position for a medicinal chemist, “we might sift through about 100 résumés to find 10 candidates who are very well qualified,” says William C. Shakespeare, vice president of drug discovery at Ariad Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Mass. “We then face the challenge of making the final cut,” he says. “In short, we are looking for people who are not ordinary. We are looking for the cherry on top.”
In particular, Ariad looks for outstanding medicinal chemists who can also contribute to its overall drug discovery efforts in other ways. Often that means that they have some background in structure-based drug design or protein biochemistry or experience in other areas such as absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) studies, Shakespeare says.
Candidates who have “helped provide a unique solution to an extraordinary problem—such as identifying a drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics property associated with a molecule—are more likely to stand out,” he says. “Those are the kinds of things that we look for.”It's great to get numbers on what small companies are looking for. In this case, it is quite clear that Ariad is looking for fairly experienced medicinal chemists and certainly not new graduates.
More on both of these articles later, but I wanted to bring them to your attention.