Survey: Vertex, Regeneron top list of biopharma employers

Biotech workers want to hitch their careers to a winner. That's one of the key takeaways from Science's new list of top biotech employers in the U.S. and Europe. And it's no mistake the top three companies on the list--Vertex ($VRTX), Regeneron ($REGN) and Roche's Genentech--have been on rolls in their respective fields over the past year.

Vertex has been firing on all cylinders with the successful launch of its new hepatitis C drug Incivek, a series of wins in the clinic with its cystic fibrosis drug VX-770 and big plans to move its headquarters onto a gleaming new campus on the Boston waterfront. For its part, Regeneron is awaiting potential FDA approval of its drug Eylea for blindness and has been moving ahead with other programs, such as its RA therapy in collaboration with Sanofi ($SNY). Also, Genentech's R&D engine hasn't missed a beat since Roche completed a $46.8 billion buyout of the biotech in 2009. To be clear, this survey wrapped in April even before some of these companies' big achievements such as the May approval of Incivek.

While this is only one survey, biopharma employers take notice of such results. Scientists are the lifeblood of their teams and are needed to keep the chains moving toward the goal of new product approvals. Anyone who knows this industry understands that strong employee cultures are at the core of companies' successes, and firms that mistreat their R&D groups and others risk losing top talents. Size doesn't appear to matter so much. Some of the largest companies in the business--such as Pfizer ($PFE) and Merck ($MRK)--didn't even make the top 20.

"It's been an interesting time in the industry," Alan Smith, chief scientific advisor for Sanofi Global Research and Development, and the former chief scientist at Genzyme, told Science. Sanofi is in the process of integrating Genzyme after its $20 billion buyout of the firm this spring. Genzyme slipped from No. 8 in 2010 to No. 13 on the list this year. "For us, the past year has been a period of upheaval, but we've regularly scored well in this survey...As part of Sanofi, we'll take the approach we've used at Genzyme and apply it more generally."

According to Science, the top three considerations for the more than 3,700 biopharma workers surveyed were that their employers be a leader in their industry, treat workers with respect and be socially responsible.

- see Science's list and analysis