Five (Plus One) Trends that Affect Biopharma Recruitment


Many of the trends that affect biopharma recruitment are trends that affect healthcare in general, as well as other industries. Paul Strouts, global managing director for Hays Life Sciences, a recruiting firm, takes a look at the five major trends that are affecting the industry.

  1. Emerging market. Or what Strouts calls “pharmerging” markets. It’s no surprise, for example, that the biopharma industry is working hard to gain entrance to the Chinese market. After all, with 1.3 billion people and a growing middle class, it represents an enormous market potential. But Russia and the Middle East are also viewed as hot markets for the drug industry. Strouts says, “This trend bodes well for candidates seeking global opportunities, especially those with international experience and language skills.”


  1. Healthcare costs. At least in the U.S., healthcare costs continue to rise and it’s an area caught in a political tornado. The Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act was barely given a chance to go into effect before the Trump administration did its best to dismantle most of it without any clear replacement policies. PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) recently projected that 2018’s medical costs trend is 6.5 percent, the first increase in three years.

As a result, Strouts believes it will pressure the pharma supply chain universally, which also includes clinical researchers, analysts, marketers, sales reps and patient engagement specialists. And although the furor over drug pricing died down a bit after the U.S. presidential election, it’s possible it will heat up again as the 2018 mid-term elections in November come into focus.


  1. Specialty pharma. The traditional pharmaceutical business model developed treatments that affect the largest populations. In 1983, Congress enacted the Orphan Drug Act, which gave financial incentives and other inducements for companies to invest in and develop treatments for rare diseases. A similar act, the Humanitarian Device Exemption (HDE), was passed in 1990. As a result, many companies turned their focus toward this now-lucrative market. It’s tended to create an overall impression of high drug prices among consumers, because a company that spends billions of dollars to develop a drug for only thousands of patients needs a very—often shockingly high—price tag to recoup expenses and become profitable. Nonetheless, most drug companies are still focused on developing drugs for rare and “orphan” diseases, and some companies solely focus on these diseases.


  1. Increased mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Biopharma companies routinely buy smaller companies or merge as a way of improving revenues or, increasingly, acquiring promising pipeline products or moving into newer areas. In fact, one business model for many startup biotech companies is to develop a compound to proof-of-concept or Phase I clinical trials, then be acquired by a larger company that has the resources to take the compound into the more expensive and larger clinical trials.

Because of lower tax corporate tax rates, most investors and analysts expected 2018 to be a big year for M&A in the biopharma industry, and it started out promising, with Sanofi acquiring Bioverativ for $11.6 billion and a week later, Ablynx for $4.8 billion. The year seems to have cooled down some, at least compared to 2016 and 2017, but the conditions are good for continued deals.


  1. High-powered technology. Strouts notes, “One of the most powerful trends of the last few years—and showing no sign of slowing—is the blending of healthcare with technology.” Just today, Gilead Sciences and Verily Life Sciences, a Google/Alphabet company, announced they were teaming up to focus on rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and lupus-related diseases. They will use Verily’s Immunoscape platform, which combines immunogenomic phenotyping and advanced computational analysis to profile the molecular characteristics of inflammatory diseases. And this is just one example of tech companies, such as Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google, turning their attention and resources to healthcare.


  1. Diversity. With competition for top talent increasing, companies are recognizing the need for diversity in the workplace. An example is Pfizer recently launched a new ad as part of its “Driven to Discover” effort, that highlights the company’s diversity as part of a recruiting and branding tactic. Although the industry lags somewhat in hiring women, it appears to be making efforts to recruit more and broaden its reach, welcoming talent in all its forms.

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