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.

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