GSK Seeks Talent to Boost Data Science Capabilities

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Pictured: An employee working on screens at GSK’s AI Hub in London/GSK

Pharmaceutical giant GSK is investing heavily in harnessing data and artificial intelligence for early-stage drug discovery, with a goal of hiring about 100 people this year to work on the effort, according to a company representative.

About half of those slots have been filled so far, said Mike Montello, the company’s senior vice president for R&D digital and tech. The new positions have a hybrid working arrangement and are based out of London, Seattle, San Francisco and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“We’re trying to get the best people here to work on some really hard problems,” Montello said. Those recruits “don’t have to necessarily have a biopharma background,” he explained, “but they work at the convergence of science and tech, so having an understanding—or a learning aptitude and interest in—biology and in chemistry and in medical is really important,” in part because they need to be able to make sense of data from outside as well as inside the company.

To parse that data, the new staff will be working on a research data platform called Onyx that GSK developed. “In one year alone, we generated over 21 billion data points,” Montello noted. “That data needs to be ingested and integrated and linked in the format of knowledge so data science can begin to interrogate that data and find different patterns that help with drug discovery.” The platform also enables GSK to scale its training of AI models, he said.

The principal role the company is looking to fill is in data engineering, Montello said, followed by data infrastructure and platform engineering. Other openings include cloud and DevOps engineers, portfolio management and product management, and product managers and facilitators. Potential candidates can learn more and apply on a dedicated Onyx recruiting site.

Steve Swan, CEO of the Swan Group, which specializes in information technology positions within biotech and pharma companies, said it’s now far from unusual for biopharma companies to recruit heavily for data science positions. He’s seen an uptick in such openings beginning around six years ago. “I think the real driver—just like most things . . . is efficiency,” he said.

Swan added that more than one-third of the positions he recruits for are now in data science. Companies employ data scientists not only for research and development, he noted, but also in marketing and sales. One commonality Swan sees in these positions is that they require experience with the Python open-source software and programming language, which are commonly used to analyze data in the industry. That’s often sufficient for entry-level positions, he said, while for more senior posts, companies also tend to look for familiarity with the types of data sources the employee will be working with, whether that’s clinical or sales.

For GSK, Montello said, the aim is for Onyx to “help us move faster­ [with] better quality targets, higher probably [of] success when we hit clinical development—and it’s going to also increase our cycle times so we’ll be able to do more things faster.”

Shawna Williams is a senior editor at BioSpace. She can be reached at shawna.williams@biospace.com or on LinkedIn.

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