Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Positions go begging in big data, translational medicine, and payer reimbursement.

Amid a stream of largely bleak forecasts that biopharmas will continue to shed jobs in coming years, GEN offered some glimmers of hope a few months back, in the form of 10 research and clinical biotech occupations projected to add jobs through 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.

This week, GEN looks further at promising biopharma jobs by offering a list of 10 occupations for which numerous positions remain unfilled, based on visits to the career sections of websites for 10 biopharma companies between Nov. 7-12. The 10 companies visited were: Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, and Sanofi.

The 10 occupations include positions in R&D, as well as manufacturing, and administrative jobs. The positions reflect the growing importance of data, translational medicine, and payer reimbursement as key factors in biopharma, in addition to traditional science and business know-how.


Even in biopharma, business success depends on making the numbers, which is why companies maintain as many positions as they do for people whose job it is to add up those figures and make sure they don’t point to trouble within the operation. Evidence-based medicine is helping drive demand for number-crunchers. One recent Novartis accountant opening emerged within its Genoptix Medical Laboratory subsidiary, focused on “developing and commercializing evidence-driven diagnostic tests to improve physicians' ability to optimize patient outcomes.”


France’s Institute Pasteur defines bioinformatics as deriving knowledge from computer analysis of biological data. As data continues to drive biopharma research, so too companies increasingly seek to gather, then analyze that data through bioniformaticians. In addition to “writing scripts for multi-dimensional data analyses” and “visualizing large and complex data sets,” they “analyze next generation sequencing and/or metabolomic data sets” (Johnson & Johnson). They also formulate statistical objectives, experimental designs and statistical analyses for complex preclinical/discovery research projects (Sanofi). Depending how senior the position, they require masters’ or doctoral degrees, but in any case also require related research experience.

Environmental Health & Safety manager

Even in the age of outsourcing, biopharmas retain sizeable manufacturing operations that require compliance with environmental, health, and safety laws. Ensuring such compliance is the job of the EH&S manager. Responsibilities include “managing key industrial safety programs and partnering with clients to advance safety culture and manage EH&S risks.” (Amgen). EH&S managers are expected to “maintain compliance with site-wide chemical safety programs” and “coordinate the development and accessibility of safety data sheets” (Roche). While many of the jobs require only a BS, it needs to be in a scientific field, augmented by work experience (number of years varies company to company). The higher the academic degree, the less work experience candidates need.


Before sales reps can sell the product in the trenches, marketing directors come up with the battle plans. They are “responsible for the development and implementation of brand strategy, marketing plans and alliance management” (Bristol-Myers Squibb), which requires them to “review and assess realistic & achievable objectives, strategies & tactics for the responsible product” (Pfizer), though they need the “ability to develop new product concepts derived from consumer insights” as well as “rich experience in qualitative and quantitative research” (GlaxoSmithKline). MBAs are preferred, as is industry experience, though a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business or science is sought at minimum.

Medical liaison

Gone are the days when biopharmas can just flood doctors’ offices with tchotchkes bearing the logo of the company or a heavily-pushed drug, thanks to laws like the U.S. Physician Payments Sunshine Act. Yet companies have not given up on building relations with physicians as a key piece of their strategies for generating sales. Enter medical liaisons, whose duties include “providing deep and advanced disease state and product information” to educators, investigators and other “scientific experts” (Eli Lilly). They “build scientific partnerships Phase II forward with healthcare professionals and decision makers” in order to “support the development, launch and commercialization of drug products” by informing researchers, clinicians, and other key opinion leaders (Novartis). Depending on the company, liaisons must hold or should hold doctoral degrees, with proven abilities to grow relationships and influence peers.

Outcomes scientists

With securing payer reimbursement a growing concern in healthcare, someone has to furnish all that evidence of a drug’s value. Enter the outcomes scientist. Duties include providing “scientific expertise and effective project oversight to ensure successful fulfillment of the health outcomes research agenda to deliver better patient outcomes that are valued by payers and providers” (Eli Lilly), as well as “strategic guidance and robust evidence development relevant to achieve optimal global patient access by demonstrating the value of products, thus helping ensure optimal reimbursement and access of the launched product portfolio” (Pfizer). Most companies require doctoral degrees (the rest allow a minimum masters’ degree) as well as industry experience in health economics and outcomes research (HEOR), market access and/or reimbursement.

Project lead

As drug development focuses beyond basic research, so too the types of projects overseen by leaders.  Novartis sought applicants recently for a clinical project lead position at its Alcon ophthalmics unit; the position oversees planning, conduct and reporting of all clinical trials for a development program, and contributes to the project development plan, including high-level clinical trial design. At Roche, a project lead for companion diagnostics (CDx) development is required to develop and lead CDx assay strategies for the Pharma Research and Early Development (pRED) portfolio clinical molecules, and develop an overall CDx strategy for pRED that is aligned with the CDx development organization of its Genentech subsidiary. Requirements include a doctoral degree, and development experience ranging from five years (Roche) to seven years (Novartis).

Research scientist

For all the outsourcing and/or cutting R&D carried out in recent years, biopharmas continue to hire researchers. At Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), researchers in the Molecular and Cellular Sciences group must possess “a solid background in cell biology, phenotypic and metabolic analysis of cell lines, as well as molecular biology skills.” Johnson & Johnson expects scientists to work toward “the goal of identifying and validating biomarker signatures in connection with therapeutic discovery projects, aimed toward clinical translation and beyond.” AstraZeneca is also focused on target discovery, leading to “the identification of drug candidates, and the generation of compelling preclinical data packages.” Jobs usually require doctoral degrees, though BMS’ minimum qualifications range from PhDs with 0-4 years’ experience, to MS graduates with 4-6 years, to BS grads with 6-8 years.

Sales professionals

In the biopharma wars, sales professionals are the foot soldiers: They are “diverse and dynamic professionals” (Eli Lilly) who can “effectively communicate the clinical and economic benefits of the products” (Amgen) and “function independently with a high degree of sales proficiency” (AstraZeneca). Their duties go beyond the obvious one of achieving sales growth; they also “conduct analyses on product & market trends” (Pfizer). The more advanced the degree, the less sales experience companies require candidates to show, though companies prefer experience within the industry, especially in their key therapeutic areas.


Biopharma is a heavily-regulated industry, so companies need many professionals to make sure all the rules are followed, especially on the manufacturing end. Techs oversee detailed-oriented tasks; they could include “detoxification and purification of Diphtheria Toxin / Toxoid” (Sanofi), to “appropriate encoding for tracking and batch release” and “anything else that may have an impact on the quality, effectiveness and safety” (GlaxoSmithKline). Education requirements usually call for a bachelor’s degree, but positions can require “knowledge of the application of QA rules in the pharmaceutical sector” and “knowledge of GMP”; at least a year’s experience is preferred (GSK) though two can be required (Sanofi). 

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