By Vivienne Raper, PhD
A U.K. startup developing therapeutic RNA delivery methods is recruiting people from a wide range of relevant backgrounds. Tina Flatau, PhD, Sixfold Bioscience’s chief business officer who will be speaking about U.K. skills and workforce planning at BioProcessUK in November, says that Sixfold has looked beyond the RNA and oligonucleotides industry when building its scientific team.
The RNA industry is growing fast, but few people have years of postdoctoral and industry experience so the company must be flexible about where people come from and help them keep their skills growing on the job, notes Flatau. She is interested in reaching people with more generic biotech experience of sequence-driven therapeutics.
“We’ll take people from the get-go, including graduates and postgraduates who’ve done work in computation and proteomics—areas that are applicable to what we do—because, when we’re working with RNA, we’re chaining together [many different] skills, abilities, and processes,” she tells GEN.
Building the business case
Flatau explains that the U.K. Bioindustry Association has been building the business case with the U.K. government since Brexit to ensure that expertise can be brought in from elsewhere and used to improve skills domestically. This means post-graduate recruitment but also includes ensuring that the U.K. university sector strategically handles overseas students.
“If people have studied here, they ought to see some route forward to start their career because, otherwise, studying in the U.K. is going out on a limb,” she adds.
At the BioProcessUK meeting, Flatau will also be speaking about the importance of close partnership with senior recruitment agencies, to aid the recruitment of high-level staff. But she emphasises the importance of technical apprenticeships as a way of creating expertise. Sixfold has good things to say about entry-level technicians with A-level education (high school diploma in the U.S.) who didn’t want to wait to start their careers.
“There are a lot of bright people who go through school thinking points mean prizes, and you get points for getting into university,” she says. “When I talk to schools about A-level choices, I always mention that university isn’t the only pathway open, even if [students] might think it is.”
This is especially important, she says, in areas of the U.K. that are building advanced therapies, R&D, and supply chain.
“People don’t always want to [be burdened with] a huge amount of debt going to university, but if they shift to a scientific apprenticeship, they should be able to take on skills and academic qualifications as they go.”