Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'd laugh if I wasn't crying: clinical research organization hiring postdocs as interns

From the inbox, yet more evidence of a STEM shortage*:
Camargo Pharmaceutical Services, a leading drug development organization specializing in the 505(b)(2) approval pathway, is adding expertise to its projects and helping postdoctoral researchers gain real-world experience through a unique internship program.

In January 2014, four postdoctoral researchers joined the Camargo team at its growing Durham, N.C., location. Partnering with academic organizations, including Duke University, the internship creates hands-on opportunities across the drug development process. As research associates, the interns assist research scientists during various stages of their work, including feasibility assessments and the design and conduct of nonclinical programs and Phase I-IV clinical trials, as well as FDA regulatory preparation and filings of INDs and NDAs.

“This experience provides an opportunity for postdoctoral interns to gain experience in the regulated environment of drug development, offers a fresh perspective to our research scientists by contributing to the therapeutic breadth and ultimately helps Camargo expand our efforts,” said Gary Barnette, vice president of drug development for Camargo.

The internship can also act as a gateway to a career. In the last 20 years, there has been an increase in Ph.D. graduates countered by a decrease in academic appointments. More and more graduates with a Ph.D. are looking for positions beyond academia and that includes positions in pharmaceutical research.

“Historically, Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers were training for tenured faculty positions, but now only 20 percent of graduates with a Ph.D. will go on to tenured academic appointments,” said Molly Starback, director of Duke's postdoctoral services office. “Today, these postdoctoral researchers are applying for the same positions as established professionals. It has become a very competitive field, but internship programs like Camargo’s are helping some of them get their foot in the door.”           
"Interns", "research associates". There's nothing quite like giving postdocs titles that typically mean "summer student" or "non-Ph.D.-holder."

It'd be interesting to know if/how these folks are being paid, or if they're doing this for free an educational experience. Also, note that there is no comment about using postdocs to um, perform research -- it's all about helping Camargo with paperwork. Good God.

*Note for the literal minded: I am kidding.


  1. I wonder if the research scientists that the interns are assisting have a Ph.D.

  2. I was about to comment that the term 'intern' carries certain legal requirements about learning and monetary value to the company. Then I remembered who owns the laws in this country. Silly me!

  3. I'm a stupid Academic type; could someone explain to me why this would be any worse than post-docing at a regular biotech firm, say Genentech? I would assume the post-doc pay would be good.

    I can't see how this would be worse than post-docing somewhere else, I can clearly see that this could be a company's way to replace salaried workers for cheap temp workers. That, of course, is the American way (!)

  4. Are you getting too hung up on a label as intern? While I grant in sciences and probably most of industry does tend to immediately apply the term to summer student there are many types of professional internships with probably most well known being MDs using such to gain areas of specializations.

    Since being an "industrial post-doc" can carry its own kind of stigma would you rather they used that instead? Frankly from the brief description the program sounds potentially very beneficial as a bridge to pharma as appears may encompass many key areas especially related to FDA submissions that are not exposed to commonly in academia as must learn once do get into industry. The classic route of doing post-docs as pseudo-continuation of PhD area appears less viable these days therefore there is value is movement to an overlapping field of research to expand ones options where this program might be an effective direction to pursue as for the most part QA and Reg personnel are often highly valued because such can often have greater impact on success than the more technical aspects.

    1. First, I think we can agree that what is being described is not another postdoctoral fellowship, right? So it shouldn't be called that.

      The positions seem to be designed as "giving assistance to current staff members" as opposed to "being taken through a formal training process" (like an internship in medicine.)

      Finally, you'll note that Camargo isn't saying "we like them so much, we're hiring them." They're saying "you might be able to get a job in clinical development with this on your resume."

    2. I do not agree as it appears not that different from ads or descriptions for industrial post-doc positions especially if one takes into account this is from a press release announcement meaning has PR and general population language neutralization components. It seems to be offering certain training opportunities as a temporary position, which may not be as highly focused as MD yet predominately educational via potential collaborate type with staff at Camargo while reaching out or taking advantage of a local relationship with Duke to source candidates (no payment for moving cost plus guess effective way to build network) . This sounds like initial stages of the program thus too soon to know if they have hired anyone however for post-docs no companies ever make promises that will lead to a hire (even if not that unusual in practice that post-docs who excel transition to permanent position if companies have/can create a hire) meaning the emphasis is on the experience that is gained. I do not know legalities as there may be implications of how they are labeled as to requirements for pay, medical coverage and vacation time etc. but I would categorize as a non-academic post-doc.

  5. "The internship can also act as a gateway to a career." Let me fix that...

    "The candidates can pretend that the internship can also act as a gateway to a career."

  6. I will note that it is a heck of a lot easier to get a job at a CRO than in research in RTP these days.

  7. Lol! Post-doc interns! That's a bit of a low blow. Maybe they are looking to swipe postdocs in non top-50 chemistry departments who are desperate, even though some of them are probably really good researchers. Anyways, you shouldn't do an internship for a crap company like Camargo as it won't lead to anything like they promise. How do I know it's a crap company? Easy, they try to con post-docs who have a degree and lots of research experience into doing 'internships'.