November 01, 2015

Industry Highlight: Biotech Index

This month, we are continuing our analysis of employment trends in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. While last month delved deep into the workforce trends of big pharma, this month’s focus is on the biotech industry.

What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology is the applied knowledge of biology with the goal to duplicate or change the function of a living cell so that it will work in a more predictable and controllable way. The biotechnology industry uses advances in genetics research to develop products for human diseases and health conditions.

Typical jobs in the industry are largely similar to those in the pharmaceutical industry. The key difference is that biotech firms focus more heavily on research since they are still developing their initial products. Biotech firms tend to expand their marketing and sales forces if and when a viable product nears FDA approval.

While pharmaceutical companies tend to be much larger, the majority of biotech organizations are small. There are approximately 2,500 biotech firms in the United States, making the biotech industry significantly smaller than the pharma industry.

Growth of Biotechnology Companies in the U.S.

Growth of Biotechnology Companies in the U.S.

Source: Statista

Biotech companies tend to be located in geographic clusters, often near prominent research universities. The largest concentration of biotech companies is in California, followed closely by Massachusetts.

Partnerships and Alliances

A growing number of Big Pharma companies have partnered in drug development with innovative biotech companies over the past few years. In 2006, pharmaceutical companies spend roughly $17 billion for more than 250 biotech deals, according to venture capital firm Burrill & Company. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies are increasingly looking to biotechs to help them find potential therapies for failed clinical compounds.

Biotech companies are also partnering with universities to maximize their research capabilities. For example, the University of Rochester in New York is developing centers and incubators that give biotech companies the resources they need to grow.

Biotech Talent

Biotech companies are constantly looking for workers with scientific backgrounds, particularly those with the combination of science and computer skills required for bioinformatics, along with those who combine scientific training with managerial ability. Workers with bachelors or masters degrees in chemistry, molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, computer science, and physics are high in demand. However, a PhD is required to advance to higher career levels. Salaries range based on job function, education, and skills.

Typical Salaries in Biotech Positions

Typical Salaries in Biotech Positions

Source: Wetfeet

Employment in Biotech

Employment in biotech occupations has been increasing, after tens of thousands of jobs were cut across research and administrative operations during the 2007-2009 recession. Biopharmas and other “life sciences” companies posted a combined total of more than 20,000 positions in the first quarter of 2015, according to ZRG Partners. Nationwide, biotech employment grew to 142,475 in 2013 from 135,424 in 2007. According to EvaluatePharma, larger biotech companies have been doubling the size of their workforces from 2003 to 2013, and even smaller companies have been adding staff.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for biotech research positions such as biochemists and biophysicists is expected to grow by about 19 percent through 2022. Since these job titles are highly specialized, this will result in the creation of about 5,400 new jobs from 2012 to 2022.

Top 8 Fastest Growing Biotech Jobs, 2012 to 2014

Top 8 Fastest Growing Biotech Jobs, 2012 to 2014

Source: BLS

Competition for Talent

The industry is highly competitive with the NASDAQ’s Biotechnology Index outperforming the general market by 60 percent in 2014, and rising 227 percent in the past four years. This environment makes recruiting challenging. Biotech companies are growing rapidly as they test new drugs and form partnership with outside sectors, including technology companies, and they are increasing their workforces to meet growth demands.

Meanwhile, these companies are facing competition from companies in the overall healthcare sector, and related industries are poaching talent form one another. According to a recent survey by Real Staffing Group, 20.9 percent of pharmaceutical and biotech companies are beginning to recruit from outside their industries, and 17.9 percent are recruiting internationally.

To stay ahead of the competition, biotech companies are aggressively hiring and increasing their budget for salaries at a higher rate than other life sciences companies.

Key Workforce Metrics: Biotech vs. All Life Sciences Companies

Key Workforce Metrics: Biotech vs. All Life Sciences Companies

Source: Radford