liaison positions = Ph.D. entry into pharma

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liaison positions = Ph.D. entry into pharma

Postby Chris M. » Sun May 07, 2006 11:19 pm

My impression is that you can transition into a number of roles from the MSL which is usually in the medical affairs department. Sometimes the position is affiliated with sales or marketing but I've heard that in such cases, the scientific impartiality of the msl is somewhat compromised. Having not been in such a situation, I can't comment definitively. I have heard of people going into marketing, business development or more managerial positions withing clinical or medical affairs. This position does not have a defined career ladder which some consider a negative and I've heard people say that this job is a 'dead end'. I'm not sure if I believe that b/c #1. you can always move to another company after a few years and manage a team of MSL's and learn a new drug/disease state and #2. you can move into different departments once you have some experience- that path is just not well defined and depends on the interests and motivation you have. I think if you are located near a major airport or large city, you will probably be able to move from company to company without having to pack up and move although the job search may be harder (as it is with any job that is geographically limited).
I'm not sure why you are so negative about this job and company. Yes, it requires communication skills so an 'introverted nerd' would not be comfortable doing it. And yes, I suppose that I came off as 'contributing to the common fun' of the team and department during my interviews but you don't need to be a socialite to do that. You need to be enthusiastic about the company's goals and bottom line and you have to smile and show that you are willing to work hard in order to further the goals of the deparment within your specified job duties. This is true for whether you are interviewing for bench scientist positions (which I have done) or a position like the msl which requires alot more face time. It's very important project a positive attitude.

Chris M.
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liaison positions = Ph.D. entry into pharma

Postby A. W. James » Tue May 09, 2006 10:52 am

Congratulations on the position! I too have been trying to make the transition from Post-doc to MSL and have been at it for 4 months - unsuccessfully so far. Prior "clinical" experience seems to be a much sought after background. Did you have this type of experience for your Post-doc?
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liaison positions = Ph.D. entry into pharma

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue May 09, 2006 11:03 am

I have been trying to get an MSL to be a Guest Host here for some time. Just as a point of interest to readers of the forum, here are some backgrounds of these people I've been approaching. I will remove their names, but you can see by their credentials what their background and career track has been. Several of these people who have done very well as MSL's do not have a graduate science degree, and have been primarily businesspeople.

Regards, Dave Jensen


Mike is currently a Regional Director, Scientific Affairs in Neuroscience. Prior experience in the pharmaceutical industry includes Clinical Research Trial Monitoring at Besselaar, and two years in the field as a Medical Science Liaison, with AstraZeneca. Academically, Mike did his undergraduate work in pharmacy at Duquesne University, and his Ph.D. in Pharmacology with a focus on neuroscience at the Louisiana State University.

Fred did his undergraduate training at Pasadena City College. He earned his Pharm.D. from the University of Southern California and did his post-graduate clinical training at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center. Dr. Meister then held a full-time clinical position at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach, CA, where he practiced for over 20 years. He has also participated as an expert in a variety of legal proceedings for the Medical Board of California, State Attorney General’s Office and Federal Court. Fred is currently a senior medical science liaison at a global pharmaceutical company.

Brian serves as Senior Director of Clinical Affairs, where he oversees a national Clinical Liaison team focused on market development, thought leader education, and the successful enrollment of their pivotal Phase III study. He also serves as a consultant and advisor to the American College of Cardiology, helping to spearhead the growth and value of their quality-based registries. Brian has fourteen years of proven leadership and demonstrated success in marketing, sales, and medical affairs functions. His experience includes brand management and development, strategic marketing, medical education, clinical studies and publication planning, and corporate partnerships.

Paul joined industry in 1988 and has held a variety of positions for SmithKline Beecham (Sales), Lilly Oncology (Regional Research Manager, Oncology), Cell Pathways (Medical Science Liaison, Oncology) and AstraZeneca (Product Development Scientist). Paul is currently Regional Director of Scientific Affairs in Oncology.

Susan is currently Senior Director of Field Based Liaisons. Susan has over fourteen years pharmaceutical industry experience in new product development, managed markets, strategic branding message creation, medical education, medical affairs, medical science liaison and management experience. She has published papers in Pharmacotherapy, Drug Information Journal, and American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. She serves on the Butler University College of Pharmacy Board of Visitors and has also been chosen for the top “50 Under 50” national award for Butler University in 2004. Besides her PHARM.D. she also has an MBA.

Michael has been in the industry since 1985 in a variety of positions including sales / specialty care representative (Roche, Roche Bioscience, Pharmacia Oncology), division sales manager (Roche), medical science liaison (Ilex Oncology, Praecis), manager of medical science liaisons (Praecis), and he is currently working as a regional account manager.

Dave joined in 2001 as the Sr Manager for the Western US Hematology/Oncology MSL’s. As this group grew, he took over the responsibility for the US Hematology MSL Group and was later promoted to Associate Director in 2003. Most recently, he moved to the Immunology, Tissue, Growth and Repair division as the Team Lead for the Specialty Group MSL’s. His areas of responsibility under this new division are leading the MSL’s responsible for four major biotech products. Dave graduated with a Pharm.D. from and completed a general clinical residency at the University of California, San Francisco. He also holds a BS in Chemistry from the University of California, Davis. A former Adjunct Professor at the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in Stockton, CA, David still retains his passion for teaching.
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MSL positions - networking sources

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue May 09, 2006 11:26 am

Here's a link to a PDF file, very useful information for anyone considering this career niche. It describes a meeting which took place in December, and it offers a number of contacts who are actually in the field, as successful MSL's. Very worthwhile names and companies for networking purposes,

Dave Jensen

MSL Meeting in San Diego
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liaison positions = Ph.D. entry into pharma

Postby V. Dapic » Thu May 11, 2006 9:35 am

I just came across this posting and there is actually a meeting on June 26th in New Jersey given by the Scientific Advantage, a company that works with industry to train MSLs. Their web site is Their VP, Dr. Kathy Gann, co-authored an article in Genetic Engineering News (I believe early April issue) on MSLs and what they do. I have been thinking about leaving bench for some time now, and after reading the article I called her up to talk about MSL. She was great! We spent an hour on the phone, and I learned a lot about the career, what it takes, what are the benefits, downsides, and advancement opportunities. It is great to see that someone else likes it just as much and it is definitely a viable option for many scientists looking to leave the bench.
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liaison positions = Ph.D. entry into pharma

Postby A.K.S. » Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:14 pm

to Chris M:
is an MSL a dead end position??? I wonder what you see as an end in the job an MSL is doing, the most important part is to bring the clinical trials and the drug to success, being ether between the radio and the receiver is huge task, if the MSL is not competent in the field, it makes the ether sticky and the success is doubted, I think, I wish I would be in such a dead end position, I feel that it is a great job with decent level of responsibility for a scientist who wants to get on in the clinical arena, please, tell me if somebody is bored at one of those dead end positions. thank you
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liaison positions: NOT A DEAD END POSITION!!

Postby D.X. » Sat Jan 15, 2011 1:40 pm


First to note that this tread was from 2006, so its a bit old but ok to ressurect in light of your questions. The MSL role has changed ALOT since then, what was in 2006 is very much changed.

Second, I don't know why and where you have the thought that a MSL position is a dead end position, it is the FURTHEST thing from that.

In my view, it is an absolutely an AMAZING position that can take a person ALOT of places.

Up until a year ago I was a MSL, I had 3.5 years MSL experience. I moved directly from a U.S. MSL position to an International Medical Affairs role in a global HQ in Europe, and now I am currently the sole Medical Affairs reponsible (medical lead) for 3 Brands at an International HQ! (not dead end)

I also know of many MSLs who moved directly to a Associate Medical Director, role in Medical Affairs as well, whereas others have gone into in-house Medical Communications roles.

Others have moved into Regulatory Affairs, Clinical Development, as well as Marketing roles, there is also one out there who is now a VP of Medical Affairs in a very very large and well known pharma/biotechnology company. Some have go into KOL Management and customer relations positions, and others are pursuing Health-economics endeavors.

So, it is not a dead end role at all. Some stay in the position due to it being just an awesome job, with great salary and perks, with excellent quality of life (work from home, set your own schedule).

I have personally grown and I owe my professional development to the MSL positions I've had.

Not only that, the MSL role itself has grown in SUPER importance and continues to be one of the areas the the industry is looking to put alot of resources into! Consider 60% of a Medical Affairs budget goes to support MSL activities!! Perhaps more than ever, in the pharmaceutical industry today, in part due to the tight regulatory environment relating to interactions with health-care practioners, codes of conduct, and tight laws restricting access of sales reps to key customers. These roles continue to expand, and the training and experience can be taken anywhere as seen above.

Hope I've been able to modify your thoughts a bit on your view, it is one reason why the MSL role is among the most desired job in industry and highly competitive jobs to get. At least today, I don't think it is to be viewed as a "entry level" position, certainly my former company held that view. Most companies (at least the known ones) are demanding previous MSL experience or related experience in Medical Affairs, Clinical Development, Medical Communications, or from clinical practice.

One final EDIT: The other day I got a direct call on my cell phone from a VP, Global Medical Affairs (a guy who I met at my last job, who went to another company) asking my interest in a KOL Relationships role on his team which I am exploring...he called me because he wanted to tap into my former US MSL experience, he specifically called that out. Second, I got a call from a Pharma Exec Education agency asking me to be a lecturer in European course on KOL Management and the MSL where I will focus on Risk-Management Communications, so .....HARDLY a dead end!

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liaison positions: NOT A DEAD END POSITION!!

Postby Ale » Sun Jan 16, 2011 5:04 am

Thanks DX. Fantastic review of what the role is about and where it can take you.

It is indeed a very flexible role for what I've seen with former and current colleagues so I agree it is not only not a dead end, but it is actually a key position in opening numerous doors (unlike many others that send you down a path of back to square one if you switch jobs - such as bech research).
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liaison positions: NOT A DEAD END POSITION!!

Postby Priya.S » Mon Jan 17, 2011 5:16 pm


Congratulations!!! Great thread.

My friend too recently joined a smaller biotech as a MSL and she loves it. The compensation is awesome like you mentione. She was a postdoc for only 2 years or so and didn'nt enjoy it very much and she made the switch rather effortlessly.

Good luck.
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Shocked for now

Postby RGM » Mon Jan 17, 2011 9:54 pm

Based on what the original poster described I'm shocked this person even obtained an MSL position, especially with what sounds like a startup/young company. I'm totally excited for this person however.

This person's story goes against EVERYTHING (except having the PhD) I have researched about both on line, in person, on the phone with multiple MSLs, managers and recruiters from all different backgrounds and regions of the country (USA), and different sized pharma companies.

Quite honestly this is shocking, and one in a million odd of getting this position based on what I read above from the original poster and the vast amount of diligent research I have done on this position.

I don't know if I should feel hopeful, or if I should feel even worse considering my own efforts to get this position. Jeez.
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