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Biotech Industry Leaders Share Why Companies Should Remain Focused on Talent

By Chris Frew
May 24, 2023

At last week’s BioBuzz annual Awards Celebration and Symposium, talent was a central theme.  From the lunch keynote to the “State of Human Capital” panel and the other discussions during the day’s event, questions and concerns about the workforce filled the air.

At the VIP lunch keynote address, Kymanox CEO Stephen Perry discussed the state of the market, and what’s really on the horizon. Perry delivered an insightful perspective on the industry that was gained from 20 years of experience leading Kymanox and insights acquired as a professional services consulting firm supporting eighteen of the top 20 biopharmaceutical companies. Among the several factors that are impacting the talent market is the fact that we are very much in a recessionary period, which Perry’s data showed most likely started with the FTX collapse.  

The result of the recessionary market is that many companies are refocusing heavily on their core businesses and their lead products, which is resulting in cost-cutting, layoffs and ultimately softer hiring trends. However, Perry emphasized that there are still several key emerging trends impacting our field, particularly with the onslaught of coming cell and gene therapy approvals, the boom in bioprocessing and the continued demand for CDMOs, all of which will continue to put pressure on the talent market.

Perry pointed out that many companies will be regretting their decisions to let go of their talent when things rebound in the next six to twelve months.

During the State of Human Capital panel moderated by Workforce Genetics CEO, Chris Frew the discussion focused on recent data from two leading organizations that shed light on the actual state of the talent market, and what trends employers should be most aware of.

Kevin Wells, Director at Aon shared their most recent Life Science compensation and workforce survey data that Aon just released the week prior.  Their data showed that while the percentage of companies maintaining their steady hiring has not changed, the percentage of companies in an aggressive hiring trend has dropped from 40% down to 12% in the past 24 months.

Wells pointed out that the data signals that companies are not aggressively competing for each hire and outbidding one another like they have been for the past few years, so the inflationary salary trend has flattened. Hopefully this will give the companies a reprieve from what many felt was getting out of control.

Rosie Walker, Director of Action for Equity at the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) also shared recent data collected on their Workforce Report: Gap Analysis for the Cell and Gene Therapy Sector. With 16 CGT expected to be approved by the end of 2023 and 30,000 new CGT jobs expected over the next ten years, the industry will experience a continued increase in the demand for talent, especially in the areas of biomanufacturing, analytical development and quality control. With the increased demand for the CGT sectors picking up, traditional biologics, medical device and diagnostics sectors will also feel the crunch as CGT companies will look to them to poach talent.

With such a large increase in demand expected, the industry is increasingly looking to diversify its hiring pipelines, shared Walker. Many companies are looking to non-traditional and nonscientific backgrounds for the answer. Under Walker, ARM has rolled out its GROW internship initiative and is coordinating with many of its member companies now to support internships of diverse candidates to help expand the pipeline.

Another example of a successful talent pipeline initiative is the Biomedical Technician Training Program (BTTP) program, which was the 2022 BioBuzz Workforce Champion Award winner. BTTP is an initiative between six organizations – The Wistar Institute, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, Iovance Biotherapeutics, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and Philadelphia Works. BTTP is a paid workforce development training program focused on Aseptic Manufacturing that helps participants get access to jobs that are traditionally only available to those with four year degrees. Iovance has already committed to hiring many of those trainees, while others will likely join various biotechs across Philadelphia.

The Center for Breakthrough Medicines (CBM), the 2022 BioBuzz Employer of the Year award recipient, also continues to put a key focus on recruiting efforts to lead with the top talent in the industry. For CBM, each appointment plays a critical role in delivering real solutions to advanced therapy developers. As an end-to-end cell and gene therapy (CGT) CDMO, with a goal to be one of the largest, they are on the front line of the 30,000 new CGT jobs and understand the importance of preparing for them.

While we may be feeling like the market is soft now, perhaps this is the time that we need to focus on job training, strengthening our employment culture and hiring strategy and preparing for the next big wave of growth which is just around the corner.

For even more information on today’s talent market, or on how your organization can attract, recruit and hire top talent contact Workforce Genetics – a trusted recruitment and talent solutions provider for the biotech and medtech industries in the mid-Atlantic market and a sponsor for this year’s BioBuzz Awards and Industry Symposium.