Friday, July 9, 2010

What's the 'funding line' for a Big Pharma senior scientist these days?

A recent comment at In the Pipeline summarized something I've been meaning to think about for a while. AlchemistOrganique writes:
I suspect that the career fair at the upcoming ACS Meeting in Boston will be a zoo, regardless of job speciality (Pharma, Environmental, QA/QC). As if Boston weren't already a competitive job market for organic chemists, every grad student or postdoc from "top-tier" groups will probably be scheming to get positions that are suited for those with just the right amount of industrial experience. Any thoughts on what would be an "ideal" candidate for an entry-level position in MedChem or Process?
Academic readers will be familiar with the concept of the ever-rising "funding line" or "pay line" for grants submitted to NIH. What is the equivalent expectation for Big Pharma these days?

A cautious guess as to the (less than 200, I suspect?) candidates who were hired for entry-level Ph.D. positions for major pharmaceutical companies in the last 2 years or so (2008 to 2010). I suspect that (WAG):

1. most or all obtained their doctorates at very prominent universities from "name" professors.
2. over 75% had postdoctoral fellowships, again at very prominent universities or institutes.
3. the median CV probably had more than 6 publications during their academic training.

Readers in the know, what do you think?


  1. I just wonder if there is an exit strategy for the run of the mill scientist ... who has evolved to do this because it's a job, and is ultimately any job.

    I mean, the real reason why I do not want to be a professor, is because I don't know how I, in good conscience sell this life style to anyone. "Well, the science is GREAT, but you are going to spend at least a decade watching your friends settle down and have lives, and moving around the country ad nauseum, and by the time you MIGHT get a steady paycheck ... you are going to be the only geezer left."

    If I wanted to be a martyr for the cause, I would have done something like anthropology, philosophy, french literature, or marine biology. Then I could be justified living a like a hobo wandering the world. As for chemistry? We gutted it out because it offered better promise of not necessarily getting rich, but having a life and doing things that normal people do ... like raise a family.

  2. Option 4: Had recently been made redundant from another local Big/Mid Pharma after a short period of employment (<2 years)

  3. Examples that don't fit your criteria (personally witnessed):

    1. Worked for big-name PhD prof, got no publications, got directly hired by big pharma company where several relatives worked.

    2. Worked for mid-tier PhD prof, got big-name postdoc, no got no publications from either, still landed several offers from biotechs.

    3. Worked for mid-tier PhD prof, got no publications, good presentations landed several job offers from Big Pharma.

    4. Worked for mid-tier PhD prof, got 3 publications, hired straight out of grad school by mid-level Pharma.

    5. Worked for fading mid-tier PhD prof, eventually got 2 post-partum publications, hired straight out of grad school by big Pharma.

    Aside from tangible metrics, "soft" skills and manuevering are crucial. I just feel bad for those students and postdocs who are doing neat work for no-name professors. Most of the time, even a foot in the door is hard to get w/o the big name.

  4. Anon6:15a:

    Could you give approximate dates for your 5 examples?

    Re foot in the door, you're more or less right, unfortunately.

  5. A lot of my fellow Chem graduate students have to put off graduation until the job market clears up.

  6. @Chemjobber 6:43A 7/9/10

    All these examples occurred between 2004 and 2008, post-Pfizer-Pharmacia merger and pre-Pfizer-Wyeth merger. Although all grad students and post docs can have career aspirations, it's a bit discouraging to hear industry reps at a Gordon Conference say, "We only consider people from certain research groups or programs."

  7. @anonymous on 6-9-10

    I second your observation. Was told by a hiring manager from Big Pharma at the last Boston ACS "There's really no need for us to recruit outside of the Northeast. We have plenty of qualified candidates in Boston. Sure, we'll always consider applicants from a few places in California and Europe."

  8. Anon1:31P:

    God, that's depressing. It's probably true, considering the relatively few positions folks are hiring for these days, and the relatively large number of excellent synthetic groups in the Boston-NYC-Philadelphia area.

  9. Dude what time zone are you in? Do you ever sleep? You also gotta get some more posting traffic, legit of course.

  10. Anon5:57p:

    The time zone clock on the postings, I believe, are in the Pacific time zone, which I am not, (sadly, sort of). I get enough sleep, but not as much as is recommended.

    I'd love to get more posting traffic -- how do you think I should go about getting it? E-mail me, dude (or dudette.)


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20