Questions for physician-scientists in biotech, from an incoming medicine resident

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Questions for physician-scientists in biotech, from an incoming medicine resident

Postby WMJ » Mon Apr 10, 2017 4:03 pm

I'm an outgoing 4th year med student in the US, and excited to start my residency for internal medicine this July. Though I know that it's impossible to prepare for intern year, I think it can make a difference knowing what long-term career options are available and which one I'd like to pursue, so that I'll know where to focus my attention starting early.

One possibility is in doing research. I've been exposed to physician-scientists in universities, have read about those in pharmaceutical companies, but haven't come across much info on those in biotech companies. I'd love to learn more, and have a list of questions prepared.

If anyone in the field could provide some insights, that would be amazing and I'd really appreciate it! I'd also love to hear from physician-scientists in other industries, or from fellows in a medicine subspecialty considering a research-focused career. Thanks!

1. It seems that a career that includes research generally has a significant reduction in salary compared to that of full time clinicians.

Of course if you like doing research, you can't put a price on that. But I can also imagine that it wouldn't be an easy decision for many residents considering this route, especially for those in major amounts of debt.

Despite all of this, what would you say are the deeper motivating factors that influence physicians to pursue this career path, that most others on the outside might not consider or have trouble understanding?

2. What are the major research focuses for medicine in biotech? For example, in pharm the more sought out specialties include oncology, GI, cards, ID etc. How is it split (percentage-wise within the projects available) between basic, translational, and clinical?

3. What’s something you don't like about your job? Can you please give two examples: one that you were expecting before getting into it, and another that you realized only after becoming more involved?

Which aspect of your career provides you the most fulfillment?
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Re: Questions for physician-scientists in biotech, from an incoming medicine resident

Postby D.X. » Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:22 am


I can answer you question, where as you come from a MD physician Background and you question is specific to MD careers in biotech/pharma, These are also applicable to thosse with PhD bio-medical scientist Backgrounds.

1. We don't talk much salary on this Forum but you have a General question that I'll address but don't ask any further Details on numbers. The salaries are not bad in comparison to some medical diciplines if you trade-off lack of insurance rates and ability to have a good Standard of living as defined by ability to have work-life Balance and some intersting experiences. You can do you own Research here, there is plenty in the public Domain.

The key influencing factor is the ability to have direct influence on getting a new drug to market or filling a knowledge-gap when it Comes to disease understanding and product utilization. You get to be on the Forefront of drug development and commercialization - there is a high science componant depending on area you end up in with opportunties to see how many stakeholders from regulatory bodies, (FDA), pre-clinical and clincial scientist in the Company, academic MD experts, insurance companies, government payers, all are working in drug development. There is alot of excitiment to be had, you can have a central role with a breakthrough product, you can be a owner of key Information and expert, and that can be motivating, you'll see data before anyone does - you'll have the backing of a Company with resources.

2. Are are many Areas of Focus, you mentioned Major Areas I would say 2 of them would be Oncology and the other Rare Diseases. Where I say "Major" I qualify it by where high Investment is, and the reason for that is that These are Areas where products (drugs) are linked to what we call "high value" for volume produced - you can get Price premium here though due consider that in the mid to Long term, Oncology pricing has alot of pressure as the "value for medicine" discussion there has intensified, i.e. discusison of relevance of "Progress free survival" as a meaningful clinical and economic endpoint. Then you have other ares where I'll lump into "biologics" dominated spaces - so mainly Inflammation linked, such as GI, Rheum, etc. there is still Investment but you're quickly geting into crowded space with many biolologics in the same catgory (i.e. your TNF-i) and some with newer MOAs but enter the Price discussion, value for medicine in the context of oucomes delivered (not MOA). I call this market, medium value, high volume.

Ohter Areas I call comodotized unless you find something niched, i.e. a new antiboditc against a new pathogen or new resistance, Cardiology, some will disagree with me but I call that comodotized as well as newer innovations will still be benmarked over cheaper, older, and to be honest decent performing products - Value for medicine Story in Cardiology Areas can be challenging. So based on the above you get to have an understanding of where most R&D spend is, Rx drug wise. I have not touch on many other Areas - such as new formulations development, biosimilars,in-vitro diagnotics, PHC or companion diagnositics, ususally Oncology etc.)

In Terms of split of Basic, and tranlational, clinical - use the above
as a guide. In term sof Job - depending on your career choice, you'll genearally be niched into one of the above, as a MD physican you can go into Translational as a Clinical Pharmacologist doing First in Human work (mainly PK/Safety)- here you'll be working with PhD Toxicologists, MD or PhD Pharmacometricians, MD clinicials. You'll contribute mainly to Phase I and some Phase II studies with Input in to Phase III design working with clinical Teams. If you go Clinical you have choices as being the Clinical Program Lead, Trial Lead, a role for you to look at is being a Clinical Research Medical Lead or Program Medical Lead. Or Medical Affairs as a Disease area or Product Medial Lead/Director.

With all of those, you'll Need to start at the begining but Progression is very fast.

3. I hold a PhD but have been Medical Affairs Medical Lead at the Global Level. I have been very commmerically focused and generally have worked with products about to Launch (finished Phase III) and already marketed so study wise responsible for post-Marketing Phase IV, IIIb, and Observational/Real World Evidence/ Health Economic studies and dealing with alot of data communcations via scientific publications, medical eduation etc. working with Marketing (now where I sit) and with external Medical Experts called Key Opinion Leaders.

What I don't like about my Job? The politics. There can be alot within the Company but also the KOLS can be a challange. There is alot of stake-holder Management to be done (relationship Management) and navigating a highly matrixed Environment can yield some landminds from time to time. No comppany is immune to this so its something you'll Need to manage. And that's not just internally - often KOLs, (remember they are mainly MDs) can be a challenge, often the industry gets attacked for certain Engagements with MD physicians but many Forget, it takes 2 to Tango - you can run into some really poltical, greedy, SOBs. Some of which I've had to use the companies legal resources to take Action against them (i.e. contract Violation or a communication that has put the Company at risk by them). So its rare but somethign that can happen. So that's 2 examples there, I didn't expect the internal politics and I didn't expect some of the behaviors of some the academic MD KOLs I worked with.

4. In Terms of fullfillment, its getting to be part of a bigger Picture and leveraging at first the science and then the various resources I have to make a difference in peoples lives at Population level. And that's true - where as you as a physcian can do that directly on an individual - you probably understand getting a drug to market and ensureing its appropriate use for ensruing opitmial Patient benefit, safely is a collaborative endeavor - to include multiple Teams within the ocmpany and externally accross health-authorities, medicla societies, private and public payors, patients and HCPs. Can't be done alone and getting to see all the processes involved and how the come together is very rewarding - having a Hand int all that gives sense of uflfillment. Its being part of a Team where your individual contribution is of value and recognized.

Happy to address any more questions - use Linked in and look for People with Clinical Pharmacologists in companies as a title or look for Global Program Medical Director or Medical Director etc. and reach out to them. If you do get intersted more, take a diploma course in Pharmaceutical Medicine - its an new and now established dicipline open to both MD and qualified PhD Folks in Europe and i hear in the US it's emerging.

As noted many of these Options are open to PhD folk as well.


EDIT: you may also want to look up "pharmaceutical physcian" that can give you some links. Also one aspect I did leave out was Drug Safety Sciences - here you can be a Drug Safety Physican.
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Re: Questions for physician-scientists in biotech, from an incoming medicine resident

Postby Nate W. » Mon Apr 24, 2017 11:23 am

DX gave you some excellent advice. Most MD/PhD I know stay in academia. You should check out options in medical affairs. Also, look at the forum known as the drop out club: ... cians.html

This forum has a listing of available job options for MD and scientists involved in biomedical research that are considering alternative options. Sign-up and they will send you job descriptions periodically.
Nate W.
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