BDO: Biotech R&D spending, hiring rebounds as revenue climbs at big companies

A prominent accounting firm has concluded that the numbers are looking better in biotech, and that's been good news for anyone looking for a new job in drug development. 

BDO's analysis of public biotech company numbers highlighted a rebound in R&D spending, with a majority of the big companies leading the way. Revenues are also up--again primarily at the large companies, which are also hiring once again even as smaller companies continue to take a lean-and-mean approach to staffing while the virtual trend gains traction in the startup community.

The average public biotech company spent $50 million on R&D last year, up from $47 million, reports BDO, a big turnaround after the accounting firm tracked a painful contraction in research spending in 2010. Among the big companies (with more than $50 million in revenue), two out of three bumped R&D budgets last year, compared with 55% of the smaller development outfits.

The bigger research budgets are following swelling revenues at big organizations. BDO says that larger employers boosted the rank and file by 16%, while small companies trimmed their staffs by three percent.

"Younger companies are relying more on specialized contractors and consultants and outsourcing partners to address specific needs rather than hiring them on a full-time basis," said Aftab Jamil, partner and national director of the Technology and Life Sciences Practice at BDO. "The concept of virtual biotech companies is gaining momentum as well, particularly with start-ups in certain biotech clusters like Silicon Valley, so it is not entirely surprising to see declining figures at smaller firms. Many smaller companies are taking advantage of the availability of specialists to handle specific projects on a short-term basis."

With bigger staffs, the average R&D spend per employee slid 5% last year. Among big companies the drop was 8%, while the small companies with lean staffs say a 4.5% increase in R&D spending per staffer.

- here's the press release

Special Report: The Biggest R&D Spenders in Biotech