Subscribe

Forum

How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby SUA » Mon Jan 30, 2017 12:43 pm

I have 6 years of postdoctoral experience with expertise in lung and kidney diseases at two different Ivy league universities in United States. I did my PhD studying signal transduction of a protein that has functional role in breast cancer and lung fibrosis from a well renowned university in United Kingdom. Although in a small lab, during my first postdoctoral tenure, I gained expertise in lung diseases including acute lung injury and lung fibrosis. Being exposed to Ivy league university, I gained expertise in all molecular biology techniques including global proteomic profiling using mass spectrometry. After completion of 3 years I moved to a metro area in a big lab where my current PI is dean of an Ivy league university. Although the reason for the move is due to a family reason, this step made me to remain as a postdoctoral associate for 6 long years. However, during my second postdoctoral tenure, I gained expertise in kidney diseases including acute kidney injury and kidney fibrosis. In current university, I gained expertise in CRIPSR/Cas9 technique (functional genomics) and proteomic and phosphoproteomic profiling experiments using mass spectrometry. Also, I started an online specialization course and am trying to get a certificate (in 6 months or so) in “genomic data science” which includes expertise in programming skills for analyzing next generation sequencing data. So far, I have 4 first-authored original research articles, 7 first-authored review articles and 5 co-authored publications in decent journals. Furthermore, my petition for I-140 was approved under EB-1A category and I hope to get employment authorization document (EAD) in 3 months and permanent residency in 6 months or so.

In my current university, after about 6 months from the date of joining, I asked my PI to allow me to apply for my career development grants. He asked me to publish the two projects I started first and then apply for grants. So, I have written two manuscripts, out of which one manuscript is planned to submit to a high impact journal. Once this submitted, I plan to submit a second manuscript in a month or so. After this, I plan to write a grant outline with specific aims and ask my PI whether it is time to apply or not. The reason is I don’t know what does he mean by publishing two manuscripts since getting papers published can take up to several years. I am going to ask this after I have submitted both my manuscripts and to check whether I am on track to become tenure track professor.

Equally, I am aspiring to become a principal scientist in a biopharma/biotech industry transitioning from academic background. However, I am very new to industry environment and seeking some advice here. Given my expertise in genomics and proteomics in pulmonary and cardio-renal diseases and 6 first authored original research publications and mentoring experience what are my chances to get an investigator/supervisor/principal scientist position in biopharma/biotech industry? What are the other criteria that I should meet, for example obtaining any grant money from organizations, networking with hiring/lab managers etc? How can I meet these managers (what conferences etc to network) who hire principal scientists? How long does it take to get an official confirmation from the interview for the above position? Is it a good idea to get principal scientist position in a smallish company in any biotech hub and move to a top R&D biopharma/biotech industry?

Any suggestions or advice is highly appreciated.

Thank you very much.
SUA
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:51 am

Re: How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby Rich Lemert » Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:31 pm

You have a lot of information in your post - probably too much for someone to really address well, and you'd probably benefit from significant 'trimming' to remove non-essential information, and for targeting one or two specific key questions.

If I have the details right, you've already completed 6 years of post-doc, and you're starting another long post-doc. Is that right? If so, you may already be past the "best by" date for applying for career development grants. These tend to be restricted to individuals within a few years of receiving their PhD, and six years is probably stretching (or beyond) the typical limit. Furthermore, you seriously risk branding yourself as strictly an "academic" not willing or able to transition into an industrial career, and in fact you may already be wearing this brand.

I also detect strong signs that you're relying on your PI for your career development, and that is one of the worst things you can do. While you want to stay on his/her good side, your PI's primary interest is in forwarding their own career - and that frequently (in their minds) requires keeping post-docs around as such well-beyond the period where the post-doc receives substantial benefit from the relationship.

As far as how to proceed, I think you've recognized the key element - the need to network, and you need to find the right people to network with. My suggestion here is to start with the literature in your areas of interest (e.g pulmonary and cardio-renal issues in general). Some abstracting and indexing services include an "affiliation" index - heck, with all the on-line searching availability these days "affiliation" should just be another search term. Find the people with industrial affiliations, and get on the phone to talk to them.
Rich Lemert
Advisor
 
Posts: 2551
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Re: How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby SUA » Mon Jan 30, 2017 8:07 pm

Thank you very much Rich Lemert!

To clarify few things – I am not starting another long postdoc. I am in my second postdoc stage where I just completed 3 years and still continuing in the same lab. Counting all my postdoctoral experience, I just started my 7th year postdoc.

The reason why I gave more information (both publications and technical expertise) is give a clear picture and to get some advice whether I am ready for principal scientist position in industry or not? Because, I don’t have any record of independent grants in my career so far. Would getting any career development grant increase my chances to become principal scientist or not? Because this will allow me to focus on either completing publications and securing a training grant or just completing publications.

Any suggestions are highly appreciated.
SUA
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:51 am

Re: How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby D.X. » Tue Jan 31, 2017 4:43 am

Hi Sua,

Do note that a principal scientist is usually a relatively high ranking Job in a Company, in the bigger companies they are middle management (Job Level wise) in small ones they could be Senior Management but they share in common that they are the pricipal investigators or final signatory for the Research Projects under thier lead. The will have a few direct reports. Usually, the entry Level carries a "Research Scientist" title for those holding a PhD - where you'll spend a number of years in that role. In one Company i worked for (a big biotech), Progression to the next Levels to include principle scientist was a function of successful achievement of Project Milestones that includes Transfer to the next Level of development. It will take some years in a Research Scientist role before you get there - with a few stars aligning, i.e. you've shown great Project managment skills, leadership competencies, a Team Player and you've had a few Project successes (moving them to the next Level).

So just to manage your expectations Job wise and how to get there.

With respect to Networking, i would look at companies to include small biotechs that are investing in that Level of pre-clincial Research. I think this is where you Need to start thinking Business wise with respect to where companies are investing in your disease Areas of interest. If you start thinking Nephrology/ Cardio-Renal with an aim to develop a drug for speciality use for over arching kidney disease or cadio-renal syndrome, I would advise that you won't find much - alot of companies that once invested in Neph are no longer doing so at early-stage as well there's not much to grab any more if you consider the landscape. There really isnt much room anymore for another ACE/ARB, statin,or Epo, or anything targeting the General Primary disease with your traditional outcomes studies (mortalty/hosptization endpoints).

However, you can look at is those that those Rare Disease palyers in Kidney Disease (Orphan Drugs)- there you'll find some Players - i.e. Shire, maybe Opko etc. in other words start finding the companies that are investing strategically in consideration of market Dynamics -ist different there vs say traditional specialty - do consider that in the landscape alot of companies are not playing in certain Areas due to Little return onf Investment or high barriers to success (i.e. pricing and market Access) - the Areas have products that will be different to Show incremental value overs so they move away. So be targeted.

With repsect to Pulmonary, there are Players but again this is an area with Little Investment vs. the past, most companies are either invested in late clinial stage or have acquired an already marketed product, i.e. J&J targeting Actelion (a leader in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertention and some Rare Disease Investments). Look again to Rare Disease or Oncology here. So - Focus on the biotehcs with Focus on Rare Disease and Oncology Investments at the pre-clinical Level, start Networking.

Good luck,

DX
D.X.
 
Posts: 1035
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

Re: How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby Caroline Ritchie » Tue Jan 31, 2017 8:49 am

Hi Sua,

I think that Rich and D.X. have already given some good advice, but I wanted to add a bit more.

To reiterate D.X.'s point, a Principal Scientist is a higher-level role. The only way to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech is to work your way up through entry-level then mid-level positions in industry. Whether you have secured your own funding through grants is not really a factor in industry, as it is in academia. Additionally, having 4 first-author papers versus 5 is not going to make or break your chances of securing an industry position. The important thing is that you have many years of bench experience, have managed your own research projects, and have produced/published data. This places you in a similar position as every other PhD applicant for entry level scientist roles.

Now you have to find a way to stand out amongst those other applicants. This could be through applying for positions that utilize experimental methods you are already an expert in, networking, etc. I think your biggest challenge will be portraying to hiring managers your desire to move into industry. The longer you stay in a post-doc, the more red flags it raises that you are applying to industry as a back-up career (in my experience).

I recommend you shift your focus from applying for grants and writing manuscripts to networking and applying for appropriate level positions. As already mentioned by others, your career is in your hands (not your PI's), so you need to look out for yourself and make your own choices in order to be successful.
Caroline Ritchie
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:07 am

Re: How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby SUA » Tue Jan 31, 2017 5:42 pm

Thank you ever so much DX! That is a great advice and thank you again for giving some direction. I will focus on small biotech companies that invest in rare diseases and oncology at the pre-clinical level.

Thank you very much Caroline Ritchie! I will keep that in mind and will apply for appropriate positions.
SUA
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:51 am

Re: How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby Nate W. » Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:45 pm

Dear SUA,

Welcome to the forum and your thoughtful post. DX and others have given you some excellent advice. It appears you have an outstanding research background. Building on what DX said about medical specialty. Given your background, I would generate two resumes that emphasize the following:

1) Your disease and therapeutic expertise and research experience in those areas. Pick your strongest areas of expertise.

2) Your technical expertise in mass spectrometry and differential phosphoproteomic profiling.

A background in mass spectrometry and proteomics is extremely useful. Many larger biotech and pharma companies will always be looking for a talented mass spec. individual and have core facilities in proteomics. You should not overlook scientist positions at reagent companies; there some excellent options available.

Recently, I saw an applications scientist position within the sales department of a reagent company that offered a starting package of 150-180K per year (located in the SW) with relocation expenses covered. They were looking for a skilled mass spectrometry scientist with a proteomics expertise. The recruiter couldn't find anyone qualified; so they raised the salary twice. This is a good skill to have if your background is quite strong.

Don't try to appear like the most versatile scientist. Tailor the resumes based on the ad and your strengths.

Best of Luck.
Nate W.
 
Posts: 406
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:48 pm

Re: How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby SUA » Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:39 pm

Thank you so much Nate W.! That is a great suggestion. Tailoring resumes with emphasis on particular skills as per the job requirements. This will make resume look more precise and strong in particular expertise.

Adding to this, once I gain expertise on genomics, I will have the ability to combine large datasets from different high through screening platforms (genomics and proteomics) run on the same sample to generate in depth biological understanding. Skills like this will be a huge asset for target identification purposes to any biopharma/biotech. So, does anybody know companies that look for candidates with combined skill set (genomics and proteomics)?

Any suggestions are highly appreciated.

Thank you very much.
SUA
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:51 am

Re: How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby Nate W. » Wed Feb 01, 2017 10:07 pm

SUA wrote:Thank you so much Nate W.! That is a great suggestion. Tailoring resumes with emphasis on particular skills as per the job requirements. This will make resume look more precise and strong in particular expertise.

Adding to this, once I gain expertise on genomics, I will have the ability to combine large datasets from different high through screening platforms (genomics and proteomics) run on the same sample to generate in depth biological understanding. Skills like this will be a huge asset for target identification purposes to any biopharma/biotech. So, does anybody know companies that look for candidates with combined skill set (genomics and proteomics)?

Any suggestions are highly appreciated.


Thank you very much.


Try siRNA, genomics, and microRNA companies like Illumina, Regulus, and Incyte. There is a big one in Boston; forgot the name.

Even IVD companies that are dealing with targeted therapies and personalized medicine (i.e. oncology) need a proteomics mass spec scientist-----Lab Corp, Caris Life Sciences, Roche Diagnostics, or Quest.
Nate W.
 
Posts: 406
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:48 pm

Re: How to become a Principal Scientist in biopharma/biotech

Postby SUA » Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:55 pm

Noted and thank you so much once again Nate W.!
SUA
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 30, 2017 11:51 am

Next

Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests