AstraZeneca is throwing open its doors to ideas from scientists near the start of their careers. Through its global R&D Postdoctoral Challenge, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker will equip researchers to pursue novel approaches to treating diseases.Like other large drug developers, AstraZeneca runs a postdoc program. The challenge opens up a new way for AstraZeneca to engage with postdoc researchers and students in the final year of their M.D. or Ph.D. by enabling them to receive funding to study their own ideas. David Goldstein, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the Columbia University Medical Center and one of the members of the judging panel, set out his thoughts on the challenge during a media briefing call.“It really couldn't be a more exciting time to actually allow the postdocs to define their projects. I think we really are at a transition point where we're moving from using animal models to get guidance about targets and their relevance to diseases, to actually using human biology itself to get guidance about targets. But figuring out how to use human biology to get guidance about targets is tough. There's going to be a lot of big data challenges and other kinds of challenges, and we clearly need new, fresh, exciting ideas. This initiative, I think, is perfectly designed to help identify those ideas,” Goldstein said.AstraZeneca is accepting applications until May 26, after which it will whittle the submissions down to a shortlist of applicants who will pitch their ideas to the judging panel in October. The aim is to select the finalists later in the year. AstraZeneca will decide how many positions to fund—numbers from five to 20 were discussed on the call—once it sees how many good ideas it receives.
I presume the vast majority of pharma company postdocs are biologists, not chemists, but as a former large pharma postdoc, I can tell you that we do exist. Like all postdoctoral programs that are not strictly academic postdocs, my thought process is the same: to determine what new training you will be provided, whether or not your work product will be publishable, and what the fate of former postdocs are (i.e. is this a long job interview, or not?) It speaks well of AstraZeneca's current financial outlook at they might be willing to take ~20 folks - I imagine that number is close to the all-time peak, although that's a pure guess. Best wishes to those interested.