Here’s What You Need to Know About Biotech and Pharma to Land a Job in 2017

Published: Jan 09, 2017

Here’s What You Need to Know About Biotech and Pharma to Land a Job in 2017 January 5, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

The calendar has flipped and it’s the start of a new year. Your resumes are polished and you have a plan of action to land a new job at a biotech or pharmaceutical company this year.

At BioSpace, we want to make that job hunt as easy as possible, particularly for those life science hopefuls just launching their careers.

The new year promises to be an exciting one for biopharma. Not only are there a number of companies going through serious spurts of growth due to pipeline expansions and M&A activity, but the government is also helping spur some growth through the 21st Century Cures Act, which was overwhelmingly passed by Congress earlier this month and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec. 13. In addition to receiving wide support in Congress, the Cures Act was also backed by PhRMA, the lobbying arm of the pharmaceutical industry.

The government’s infusion of $5 billion into these initiatives through the NIH grant program will spur biotech and pharma companies to invest heavily in their own R&D efforts—which means the need for more researchers. The funding has the potential to be a catalyst for growth, which means more new jobs.

NIH Boosts Young Researchers

The 21st Century Cures Act includes a section on how the U.S. National Institutes of Health can improve opportunities for biomedical researchers.

1. Under the legislation, the NIH will be authorized to establish a “Next Generation of Researchers Initiative” that will establish training and mentoring programs, as well as policies to create greater diversity in the workforce.

2. Young researchers should take note that the law will create prize competitions to promote the development of therapies for serious diseases. This will allow the NIH director to require groups who receive grant funding to share the data generated by NIH-funded programs in an effort to contribute to the development of those new therapies. This funding crowd sharing provision is aimed at supporting emerging scientists.

3. Another part of the bill that will certainly benefit young researchers looking for work is the establishment of a task force set to examine barriers to candidates entering the field. The NIH will collect data on the biomedical research workforce to inform training, recruitment, and retention programs.

The federal legislation was spurred in part by calls for additional funding of biomedical research, as well as the need to update the approval process for medical innovations.

In a release from the White House, President Obama said the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act represents significant investments in “innovative technologies and research that could find a cure for Alzheimer's, end cancer as we know it, and help those who are seeking treatment for opioid addiction.”

The 21st Century Cures Act builds on earlier healthcare initiatives pushed by the Obama administration, including the precision medicine initiative and last year’s “moon shot” effort to develop an end to cancer. The new legislation will invest $1.8 billion toward that end as well as invest $1 billion into combating the opioid addiction problem.

That funding is part of the $4.8 billion in additional monies the National Institutes of Health will receive over the next 10 years. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will receive an additional $500 million for its regulatory efforts.

One benefit for drug companies is that the legislation will help speed up the approval process for drugs and medical devices. The legislation calls for “real world evidence” that could spur faster approval of drugs that work in small populations. However, streamlining approvals has sparked criticism from watchdog groups who say the legislation will open up the market to drugs that may not be safe.

Streamlining the FDA

There are other ways the 21st Century Cures Act will streamline FDA reviews.

1. Breakthrough medical devices will now receive priority review, which would accelerate their entry into the marketplace. Also, the priority review voucher program for rare pediatric diseases will be renewed until Oct. 1, 2020.

2. The regulatory agency will have greater flexibility to approve antibiotics for life-threatening infections. Under the new law, the FDA has the authority to make those approvals based on positive results from smaller clinical trials.

3. The FDA will also have more flexibility in approving therapeutic products developed through cutting-edge technology such as gene and cell therapy.

4. These changes to the FDA will also allow the agency to hire additional staff at rates competitive with the private sector and academia. The FDA will be able to retain employees and not lose them to higher-paying gigs in the private sector. BioSpace previously reported about the hiring goals the FDA has set to meet its expanded public health mission. The FDA is looking to fill a minimum of 400 positions that will allow the agency to speed up review of applications for approval of new drugs as well as implement food and safety standards.

Possible concerns

A new Trump administration coming to Washington could derail some of the provisions of the law. U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement that Congress will have to “exercise its oversight duties” to ensure that the funding mechanism is kept in place. The administration of President-elect Donald Trump could prove disruptive to some of the grant mechanisms, but, Trump has called for some loosening of regulatory authority at the FDA. Whether easing regulations would cause his administration to be tighter with FDA funding is unclear.

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