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 (like you!) can be selective in choosing their next career move that aligns well with their goals. With my experience advising VC-backed biotech clients in leadership management and organization building, I thought it may be helpful to outline characteristics of successful biotech companies to look for when choosing an employer that could be the right 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 spontaneously. 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 group of individuals who are leading the organization is the face of the company and will often dictate whether or not the company will advance to the next stage. Investors also evaluate the leadership team to determine the possibility of the success of a startup. 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 either has 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. Diversify 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 if 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 bigger biotech companies or big pharmaceutical companies. When this type of transactions 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 your 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 for you in this high-growth sector. For me, it is better to be well prepared than caught off-guard. Good luck!
1. Meiling, Brittany. “Six Top Biotech VCs Take a Look at the Latest Trends, and Offer Their Thoughts on 2018.” Endpoints News, Endpoints News, 27 Nov. 2017, endpts.com/six-top-biotech-vcs-take-a-look-at-the-latest-trends-and-offer-their-thoughts-on-2018/.
2. Speights, Keith. “18 Reasons I Like Biotech Stocks in 2018.” Madison.com, Madison, 4 Jan. 2018, host.madison.com/business/investment/markets-and-stocks/reasons-i-like-biotech-stocks-in/article_8830ac68-76e7-5484-a5cd-dbfead94b96f.html.
3. Quora. “Four Biotech Trends To Watch For In 2018.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 16 Jan. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2018/01/16/four-biotech-trends-to-watch-for-in-2018/#74c3eb0e4d96.
4. Connolly, Allison. “A Shortage of Science Talent – Report Card on the Job Market.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 10 June 2017, www.nbcnews.com/id/3072530/print/1/displaymode/1098/.