From The Editor | October 24, 2012

5 Areas For Life Science Career Growth


By Lori Clapper, Editor

The pharmaceutical industry is undergoing a historic shift in the way it does business. Since its inception, the industry has adhered to an integrated business model, with all stages of a drug’s development and production contained within one company. However, this archaic strategy is breaking down. Today, many pharma companies have decided to concentrate on their core strengths and outsource everything else — from discovery to clinical trials to marketing. This trend, along with increased pressures of patent cliffs, dwindling pipelines, revenue losses, consolidation, and supply chain failures, can make your future feel quite bleak.

Susan Hershenson, Ph.D., consultant with Pharmaceutical Transformations, challenged a packed room of AAPS attendees to step back, and take a look at the big picture. “In comparison to other industries, the integrated model is very striking and unusual,” Hershenson said. She explained how, for decades, the high-tech industry has utilized suites of companies to manage everything from component creation to the building and marketing of its products. “Pharma and Biotech is now changing to this modular model. From a higher perspective, this paradigm shift shows the industry is actually growing and thriving globally.”

In the midst of this revolutionary industry shift, opportunity can abound for life sciences careers. So, how can you take advantage of this monumental change? Hershenson outlined five areas of opportunity in the life science sector, where you can use your experience to turn a seemingly disheartening outlook into personal growth in your career.


There are now well-established companies in the generics industry, as well as a growing number of new companies venturing into the biosimilars markets. Hershenson said this opens up a lot of exciting opportunities to be on the cutting edge, especially with the expansion into biosimilars research . Did I mention they are looking for experience across all functions in the drug development industry? “The more experience, the better,” she said. “Time is of the essence for generics companies. Experienced staff that can help get companies quickly to where they need to be — and to help avoid mistakes — are like gold.”


CROs and CMOs are seeing explosive growth in two main areas: to serve the established pharmaceutical companies, as well as servicing drug companies that are growing into emerging markets. According to Hershenson, outsourcing companies are having difficulty keeping up with the demands from drug development companies – thus they have a great need for well-trained employees across all functions. In fact, she said the amount of knowledge and experience within a CRO’s and CMO’s outsourcing staff could make or break a deal with a drug development company.

Big And Medium Pharma Companies

Despite a downsizing trend among large and medium pharmaceutical companies, Hershenson indicated there are some functions within those companies that are expanding. One area of opportunity stems from recent supply chain failures: “Because of these failures, there is a significant demand in the quality sectors — QC, QA, and regulatory affairs — driven by the need for more interaction with regulatory agencies around the globe,” she said. She also mentioned business development and partnership management as two other areas of opportunity in these companies.

Small Pharma

The small companies  are also primed for growth. “These organizations are another area to consider as the industry transforms. They can provide very exciting career opportunities because you wear a lot of hats. You won’t be slotted into a particular function,” Hershenson explained. “I have colleagues who work in that sector. It’s a thriving, stimulating, creative sector. They look at their career in terms of a sector and ecosystem, not dependent on a single company.”


The growth of the nonprofit sector is driven by funding from other foundations. It’s a small part of the industry, but nonetheless it is showing growth. “Nonprofit companies present many interesting problems and challenges. However, those who have moved into these environments are finding very satisfying careers,” according to Hershenson.

In conclusion, Hershenson advised that, if you have found yourself jobless or if you are in a career slump, make adjustments in tune with these emerging trends. Look at areas you haven’t considered previously and reconsider long-term objectives. You can also get involved in industry working groups and organizations (such as AAPS). “In an era where the only constant is change, you can make a contribution, build your leadership skills, and also enhance your visibility and your ability to find out about the new opportunities — and in some cases, let the opportunities find you,” she said.