Monday, May 19, 2014

Biotech: Dear Pharma, Please Stop Eating Our Seedcorn. Thanks.

From the LifeSciVC blog, a cri de coeur about where biotech's next employees are going to come from (emphasis from the author): 
...Two recent events sparked my interest in this topic of where young talent develops and emerges in our industry.  A good friend and “greybeard” med chemist forwarded me a note from a chemistry professor who was trying to find a spot for his “best student”, a new PhD chemist.  I said we tended to not hire new graduates into our portfolio, but was saddened to hear of this star pupil’s job challenge. Shortly after that, I had dinner with a senior chemist from Big Pharma. He said the shortest-tenured chemist on his 30+ person team was 15-year veteran. His group had shrunk in the past and had never rehired. Since hiring a “trainee” post-doc chemist “counted” as an FTE on their books, they haven’t even implemented the traditional fellowship programs that exist elsewhere. Stories like these abound. 
This is exactly what worries me, as the seeds are being sown for a major talent crisis in our industry...
I'm pretty sure that I had this exact conversation on the phone with a friend of mine in either 2009 or 2010. Oh, well, I hate it when I'm right sometimes.

Read the whole thing -- it's quite good and there's a lot to think about there. I'll be writing more about this post, since it really talks about some important issues, especially for younger Ph.D. chemists who wish to work in small molecule pharma. 


  1. Bring the MoviesMay 19, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    To me, its not so much eating all the seed corn, more planting the top 10% and using the other 90% for popcorn.

  2. Would you rather that the 15+ years experience folks be discarded? Young graduate students chose to enter such an oversupplied field. Those who have been doing it for 15-30 years probably will not get hired anywhere else due to being over experienced.

    Want change? Don't get mad at companies for not hiring. Write your congressman to decrease the amount of H1-B visas until we can find positions for US citizens!

    1. 1. No.
      2. Considering that their professors cannot agree that the field is oversupplied, I'm not convinced that they have gotten that message.
      3. I agree that the field (ideally) should prioritize incumbents at least equally to new entrants.
      4. I agree there is little justification for H1-Bs in chemistry from a supply perspective.

    2. "Write your congressman..."

      if you want a piece of really high-quality paper with a fancy old-timey letterhead under which is a form letter that probably discusses illegal immigration.

      Maybe if someone posted a collection of their inane, tone-deaf, incoherent response letters, it might embarrass them into listening. (If Congressmen care about anything, it's their egos.)

  3. Today's job market for PhD chemist is what it ought to be. It's the late 90's and early 2000's that was the aberration. If you are stupid enough to spend the best of your youth in a windowless lab until your early 30's for the remote prospect of an 80K$ job in a big pharma, then maybe you deserve to be unemployed and end up shooting yourself behind the shed...

    Stop pretending to be a victim. You are not victims: you are just stupid...

    1. Sensitivity appears not to be your strong suit. Therefore, avoid all professions requiring empathy. Go to Wall Street.

      Or work for Pfizer.

    2. Naw, I work on Wall Street (after spending up to my early 30s in actually a pretty nice lab with an ocean view) and that guy sounds like an a-hole to me.