TIPS: What advice would you offer someone interested in pursuing a career in the pharma industry today?
I’m tempted to say ‘Run for your life!’ But that's not quite accurate, or not yet. What I would emphasize, though, is that it's a terrible time to be an undistinguished scientist doing drug discovery, at least in a high-wage country. The grunt work is easier to hire out to people who will do it for less money, so my advice to people is to try to give them something that they can’t buy so easily in Shanghai or Bangalore. And even as these places get more expensive, and the acute phase of outsourcing passes, the point remains that you should always have a good answer to the question ‘Why do we pay you?’ You should try, as much as possible, to be able to do some things that no one else around in the company can do, which will usually mean keeping up with new research ideas as they emerge. Or thinking up your own, of course.
Other advice: you’ll probably find yourself starting with, or working at, smaller companies than you might have imagined. I think that there's a shift in the population of drug researchers, with proportionally fewer of them at the large organizations and more in the smaller ones. So you’d better be prepared to move from job to job as well, because the smaller companies are probably going to be a bumpier ride. A corollary to that is to strongly consider moving to an area that has a good startup culture, so that there's a better chance of finding somewhere else to go when and if the time comes.Well, that's all over good news.