Pharma and Biotech companies investing in R&D (Part 1 of 3)

March 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

High-throughput science a new emphasis for investment, and future

Big Pharma and biotech companies need each other in order to make the necessary advancements in medicine. Biotech has the brainpower and the entrepreneurial spirit to pursue new ideas, while Big Pharma has the financial and manufacturing resources to market a new drug and to produce it in mass numbers. Biopharmaceutical research companies in the United States invested a record $67.4 billion last year in the research and development of new medicines and vaccines – an increase of $1.5 billion from 2009.  Some of that research and development went into high-throughput science and technologies, a science driven by robotics and high-throughput instrumentation such as microarrays, microscopy, mass spectrometry and next generation sequencing.

An example of such collaboration on high-throughput sciences is a new partnership between RainDance Technologies and Ambry Genetics. Their new collaboration effort will focus on the development and commercialization of a comprehensive drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) genetic screening panel for use on next-generation sequencing (NGS) systems. In recent years, Big Pharma and biotech companies have been performing ADME screenings earlier in an effort to reduce the significant costs associated with failed drug trials and hospitalizations due to adverse events. Scientific studies indicate that more effective indicators of atypical drug metabolism and molecular pharmacology could help reduce hospitalizations associated with adverse drug events by 50 percent or more.

Although the budget for the sciences may still hang in the balance, the budget for the National Institutes for Health rose $32.1 billion for this past fiscal year, up 3.2 percent from the 2010 budget approved by Congress and signed by Obama. That budget focused on five strategic priorities: applying genomics and other high-throughput technologies; translating basic science discoveries into new and better treatments and diagnostics; using science to enable health care reform; global health; and reinvigorating and empowering the biomedical research community. Continued scientific investment from the federal government is critical, as U.S.-based biopharmaceutical research does not just lead to tomorrow’s new medicines (hence “winning the future”)– it also supports jobs today.

According to a recent study conducted by Archstone Consulting, roughly 655,000 people in the U.S. worked for America’s biopharmaceutical research companies in 2008 (the most recent year that data were available). Importantly, each of those jobs supported 3.7 additional jobs, with a total of nearly 3.1 million jobs supported by the sector. This is great news considering the unemployment that exists today in this country, and the difficulty of finding a quality researcher or scientist.

One way that biopharmaceutical research companies support additional jobs is through the collaborative research ecosystem that helps America maintain its place as the global leader in worldwide medical innovation. One of those collaborative research ecosystems is iAMscientist, where leaders from all over the world in science, medicine, technology, and engineering can come together to conduct research, like biopharmaceutical research, to solve some of society’s biggest problems.


Pharma and Biotech investing in R&D (Part 2 of 3)

March 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Firms hiring specifically for research and development

States all across the country are reporting a hiring boom among pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies: Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts, just to name a few. Even business schools are seeing an increase in the number of folks these firms are hiring. Although a hiring boom is great news for those post-docs and professional scientists that are unemployed, this trend is also indicative of several other factors: the place for approved orphan drugs is shifting, the question of funding needs new answers, and

“It’s still a talent war.”

BDO USA conducted a survey in January to see how many technology companies would be hiring in 2011. Forty-six percent of the 100 chief financial officers polled reported that their companies will increase staff levels this year.

Businesses need to “bolster the research and development group to keep the best product out there,” said Hank Galligan, leader in the technology and life sciences practice at BDO USA, in PC World. “You need people that can actually sell technology. Then the next area is research and development, which needs certain skills. So what I’ve heard on the street is that there is still a talent war going on for those research and development folks.”

Even universities are tapping into talent by encouraging inter-disciplinary science, or “team science”. A group of campus-based grant experts, known as the National Organization of Research Development Professionals, has ballooned from 32 to 232 members in the past two years, with what its leadership sees as a focus on promoting inter-disciplinary science.

Universities are putting an emphasis on shared projects, says the group’s president, Holly Falk-Krzesinski, part of the research-support staff at Northwestern University. The universities see it as “the strategic positioning of research development,” she said in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Team science also gives universities an arguably healthier alternative to replace budgetary earmarks, which Congress is now promising to ban. Some 500 universities collected more than $2.2-billion in earmarks in 2008, mostly for scientific research, according to a 2008 Chronicle analysis. The emergence of large federal research grants helps university researchers “think strategically, and I think that’s a good thing for universities to be doing as opposed to just going up to the Hill and asking for an earmark,” says Tobin L. Smith, vice president for policy at the Association of American Universities.

New Funding from Capitol Hill?

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of congressional representatives introduced a bill that would make permanent a research-and-development tax credit, a proposal for which the technology industry is lining up its support.

“To keep from falling behind our global competitors and to make sure America is the first choice for R&D jobs we need to modernize the tax credit, strengthen it to encourage companies to make greater investment in research and jobs and make the credit permanent so businesses have the confidence to make long-term investment decisions here in the United States,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the bill’s sponsor, said in The Hill’s technology blog.

This new bill, if passed, would make this tax credit permanent and would increase the amount companies can write off for such investments from 14 percent to 20 percent. This tax credit has been in place on a temporary basis since 1981.

With our lawmakers making a commitment to research and development, now may be the time to invest and to look for quality scientists who can contribute new solutions to age-old problems.

iAMscientist featured on

March 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Blog on ideation, innovation, and technology shares site of scientific referrals to the world

This week, idea blog featured iAMscientist and it’s international referral network. Ideabing presents new ideas to the world for free, and, since its inception, the website has featured over 300 other startups and guest posts from successful entrepreneurs.

This is the second time in a month that iAMscientist has gotten attention for its work and its mission: to make the recruiting and connecting of global leaders in science, medicine and engineering that much easier. Previously, iAMscientist was featured on Xconomy.

U.S Not World Leader in Science and Engineering

March 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

Need for internationalism in research and development

In an interview with Subra Suresh, the Director of the National Science Foundation, Suresh remarked on the troubling landscape of science and engineering the United States:

Other nations are investing heavily in science and engineering. The U.S. is not the world leader in terms of gross R&D expenditures relative to GDP.… U.S. students are not performing at the top of the charts in international math and science assessments. Foreign students who contribute significantly to the science and research enterprise at American universities and colleges have many more options to study and work in their home countries.

Unfortunately, Suresh is right. Despite the fact that ALL 10 jobs of the future, according to career specialists, have something to do with the sciences, technology, and engineering (even a social media manager needs a little technical know how!). But, compare those top 10 to the ten that CollegeBoard determines to be the occupations to be the ones with the most openings in the coming decade. This list barely has any science jobs on it, with computer systems analysts and computer engineers up there and that’s pretty much it. Even more troubling are the statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics on the most popular majors in American universities. It isn’t until the doctoral level do engineering and the hard sciences become popular. This may mean that students who study those fields during the undergraduate years are more likely to go on to higher degrees, but it also means that we need more students taking up these fields at the undergraduate level. Although these statistics also demonstrate the the number of these students taking up these majors are on the rise, it’s still not enough to cover the gap we have compared with other countries.

Will it only get harder?

Recruiting scientists remains difficult in this recession, but will it only get harder in the coming years? It doesn’t have to if we take a look outside the United States for quality talent. Although the status of the situation in this country does require attention, more time should be spent working with other countries to develop global solutions rather than putting the pressure on ourselves to come up with the solutions for everyone else. Other countries have talented, budding scientists and researchers and are doing great things as well (so many foreign students wouldn’t be studying at American universities if they weren’t talented). Our government may want to practice isolationism, but there’s no reason why the science community has to practice the same.

Magazines about the Inter-disciplinary Sciences

March 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Reading is just plain good for you

An aspect of inter-disciplinary science and research that hasn’t been touched upon on this blog yet is the importance of keeping up with what other researchers and scientists are doing. Knowing what’s happening in the global scientific community could help break a dry spell on a research project, or help in finding a collaborator with the necessary skills and expertise. It’s also a good thing to do as  scientific professional, just how reading about current events is a good thing to do as a citizen.

Need a few ideas for worthwhile reading material? Try some of these magazines and publications. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and additional choices can be found at Yahoo!’s magazine directory or at Nature’s own publication index.

American Scientist – A bimonthly magazine about science and technology, each issue of American Scientist is filled with articles written by prominent scientists and engineers, covering work in fields that range from molecular biology to computer engineering. Published by the scientific research society Sigma Xi, American Scientist is a good choice to read for the latest research in a variety of fields.

Nature – A weekly international publication that covers the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences and clinical medicine (and much more), Nature was founded in 1869 and remains to this day as one of the most prestigious scientific magazines in the world. It’s one of the few magazines that also cover just about anything and everything, targeting a primary audience of research scientists and professionals.

New Scientist – This magazine not only covers the latest news in scientific research, but provides detailed analysis of “its industrial, commercial and social consequences.” New Scientist specifically targets business leaders and decision makers who have a keen interest in science and technology.

Science Magazine – Published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science Magazine was founded by Thomas Edison and publishes the best research from the best scientists all around the world. The magazine also has several different websites that cover breaking scientific news, science careers, research articles, and translational medicine.

Scientific American – The oldest continuously published magazine in the United States, Scientific American has always been on the cutting edge of reporting scientific trends and has published the work of over 140 Nobel laureates in addition to government officials and industry leaders. Truly an international publication, the magazine produces 14 local language editions worldwide, is read in more than 30 countries, and has a worldwide audience of more than five million people. A third of Scientific American readers hold postgraduate degrees.

Saw an article you liked in a recent publication? Maybe you could contact the person and tell him or her your thoughts at iAMscientist. iAMscientist is a global community of researchers in medicine, technology, economics, math, statistics, physics, energy, and engineering. Members can not only put up a profile and connect with others with similar (or different) expertise, put also post their research and track the interest of their work in the scientific community. Be part of this scientific community, and let that author know that you were interested in their research.

Unemployment lower for Ph.Ds than general population

March 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

Finding qualified Ph.D. candidates tough despite recession

According to a report released in January 2011 from the National Science Foundation, the unemployment rate for doctorate recipients in science, engineering, and health was at 1.7 percent in October 2008, much lower than the unemployment rate of the general population at 6.6 percent at the same time . Among the doctorate recipients, the rates ranged from one percent among recipients in mathematics and statistics to 2.4 percent for those in the physical sciences.

The number one employer for doctorate recipients was four-year educational institutions, where 41.4 percent of those surveyed worked in 2008. Private for-profit firms came in second, employing 32.6 percent of the doctoral workforce. These were followed by private non-profit firms, the federal government, and the state/local government respectively.

Of the approximately 662,600 doctoral degree holders in the labor force in 2008, about 651,200, or 98.3 percent, reported being employed full time or part time. About one quarter of those employed had earned a doctorate in the biological, agricultural, or environmental life sciences; 17.7 percent had doctorates in physical sciences; 17.8 percent in engineering; 15.2 percent in psychology; 12.5 percent in social sciences; 4.6 percent in mathematics and statistics; 4.4 percent in health; and 2.5 percent in computer and information sciences.

Across all fields, full-time employment was at 77 percent, ranging from 67.3 percent for psychology to 91.4 percent for computer and information sciences. Part-time employment was most likely among those earning doctorates in psychology at 21.1 percent. Female doctorate recipients were less likely than their male counterparts to be employed full time, but were more likely to be employed part time.

Overall, recruiting the right scientist is still a tough job, but not impossible if you look in the right places. This also means that those scientists in the 1.7 percent should have a much easier time finding a great job or research opportunity. Either way, the goal can be accomplished at iAMscientist, a global community of doctorate recipients and scientific professional who are not only doing excellent research, but also looking for quality talent with things like RFAs, jobs, funding and research opportunities.

The Growing Importance of Scholarly Societies

March 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

(Or, the need of scholarly societies to become more important)

The main purpose of scholarly societies is to encourage the creation and dissemination of new knowledge within their discipline by publishing scholarly books and journals. These societies has been a major facilitator in scholarly communication, and this promotion and production of information has been the primary work of the over 4,100 societies in existence.

Steven Wiley, lead biologist for the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, argued that scholarly societies are losing their relevance to younger scientists in a time when memberships are either stagnant or on the decline:

Currently, many different fields in biology are undergoing a revolution in approach, driven by genomics, computationally intensive data analysis, and mathematical modeling. Once again, these new trends are being driven mostly by young scientists, who likely see the potential to make new discoveries and avoid competing with their elders… If scientific societies truly want to promote their field of research and the careers of their members, then they should embrace new perspectives and approaches. If a society were helping me deal with the rapidly increasing rate of innovation and discovery in biology, then it would give me a great reason to bother remaining a member.

Although Wiley’s example primarily focuses on biological societies, like the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the need for scholarly societies to diversify their approaches to researching their respective fields and to incorporate inter-disciplinary expertise is applicable to all scholarly societies. If societies want to recruit the best scientists and publish the best work, outreach to junior scientists has to be relevant to their research and how its being conducted.

Scholarly Communication is More than the Journals

Looking for a way to liven up scholarly meetings to encourage a higher variety of communication and presentation methods? Though not specific to the sciences and engineering, Dan Cohen of the Digital Humanities Blog and his readers offer several great suggestions!

Another page for great suggestions is George Williams’ column, If I Had My Own Scholarly Society, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Williams highlights the online presence of scholarly societies, how this presence can be more user-friendly and more in-sync with its membership.

John Dupuis also piggybacks off of Wiley’s arguments in this post, and posits several questions that scholarly societies and scientists can ask. Dupuis expresses that societies still serve a valid purpose, i.e the journals and the conferences. But that societies also need massive improvement in membership outreach and in keeping scholarly publishing up to date with the Internet and online communities. Dupuis also further demonstrates where scholarly societies are now and where they need to be in a question and answer session with Kevin Marvel, the Executive Director of the American Astronomical Society.

Looking for a scholarly society? Try some of these sites!


Scholarly Societies Project

Directory of Hi-Tech Organizations in the Engineering and Medical/Life Sciences

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