**this article is re-used and modified by its original author. Its initial version was first published on the American Chemical Society's Younger Chemists Committee website.
Many sources would agree that the biotech industry is growing rapidly. Biotech had a record-setting year in terms of funding with $7.3 billion, and raised $9.3 billion across 471 deals in 2017, making it the best year out of the last seven. Another indication is the Nasdaq Index of the industry, which jumped more than 21% last year. Thought leaders from leading venture capitals (VCs) predict 2018 to be another strong venture funding environment in this field. As innovation and company creation continue to grow, so does the demand for talent that is much higher than what has previously been seen[3,4].
For the first time, young talented scientists can be selective in choosing their next career move that aligns well with their goals. With experience advising VC-backed biotech clients in leadership management and organization building, Beau Wangtrakuldee PhD, the founder of AmorSui, outlines characteristics of successful biotech companies that you should look for when choosing an employer that is the best fit for you.
Biotech companies are often funded by investors, including wealthy individuals, angel groups, VCs, pharmaceutical companies, and universities. Players in the biotech industry associate high-quality biotech companies with the credibility of the main investors that support them. You can identify major investors of each biotech company in two ways. First, take a look at the company website; oftentimes a member of the main investor group will have at least one seat on the board of directors of the company. Second, the major investors are listed as leads on financial websites. One that I have found useful in the past is crunchbase.com.
2. Financial Status
Biotech companies with capital resources equal stability for your job. You want to see that the prospective employers have raised significant funds within the past few years and are expecting to receive additional capital in the near future. Another indication that a given biotech company will gain financial support is the positive clinical data reported in a spontaneous fashion I recommend following leading biotech news and sources such as Fiercebiotech or Biocentury to determine the financial status of any prospective employer in biotech.
3. Management and Leadership Team
The individuals who are leading the organization are the face of the company and will often dictate whether or not the company will advance to the next stage. Investors will also evaluate the leadership team to determine the possibility of a startup's success. Most prosperous biotech companies feature management and leadership teams with diverse backgrounds who work well together as a team. Teams should be made up of a combination of individuals with scientific, commercial, strategy, financial, and management expertise with experience from both academics and industry. One red flag for a leadership team is having a company with a lot of turnover. This can indicate that the organization has either internal leadership or technical issues that the leadership team cannot agree on. Poke around the company website, LinkedIn, and the biotech sources I mentioned above to gain insight into the leadership team. The most important question you should ask yourself is “Would you trust your future in these people’s hands?”
4. Diversified Assets
An ideal biotech company to work for would have multiple candidates at different clinical stages (Ph1-4) in the pipeline. Commercial products would provide financial support for the company while early-stage assets offer sustained discovery work for early-career scientists. Assets should target multiple indications in case one clinical trial fails. An expanded pipeline of multiple assets also provides additional opportunities for you to move into different functions within the biotech company. You can find more information about the company’s pipeline on its website or Biocentury.
5. Future Exit Outlook
Biotech companies, like all businesses, are working toward exit goals which can include being sold or acquired by larger biotech or pharmaceutical companies. When this type of transaction occurs, a significant organization restructure will often follow, with large lay-offs or a change in employee responsibility. You can often predict such events based on the company pipeline, as a company will not be sold or acquired with some positive clinical data. However, we have seen several companies recently sold in earlier stages of growth. An important question you should ask your prospective biotech employer is “what is your future exit plan? Or “when do you anticipate an exit if any?” You should have a clear understanding of the company’s future plans and when you career involvement may end with your future employer.
I hope my insights have provided some of you who are looking at careers in biotech with useful information on how to find the right fit in this high-growth sector. For me, it is better to be well prepared than caught off-guard. Good luck!
PS. Leave your questions or thoughts in the comments section below.
Founder & CEO of AmorSui
In addition to leading AmorSui's day-to-day operations, Beau previously served as a senior associate in Korn Ferry’s biotechnology practice, providing growth strategies through leadership/executive searches for venture-backed, high-growth companies with novel technologies that benefit patients. Prior to Korn Ferry, she served as a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Trevor M. Penning at the Perelman University of Pennsylvania Medical School, leading R&D efforts for new prostate cancer therapies. In addition to her R&D background, Beau has experience with consulting and intellectual property from multiple roles at Wharton Penn Biotech consulting group (PBG) and Penn Center for Innovation (PCI). Beau received her BA in Biochemistry from Kalamazoo College, MI, and her PhD and MS in Chemistry from Northern Illinois University. She is a recipient of the 2016 Young Investigator Award in Enzymology and the 2013 ACS-Younger Chemists Committee Leadership development award.