Biotech industry struggles to recruit talent

According to a recent National Science Foundation report, the demand for biotech workers is outpacing the rate at which U.S. universities are churning out graduates. And because academic institutions aren’t able to satisfy the industry’s demand for new Ph.D graduates, attracting and keeping workers is becoming an increasingly serious problem in the drug development process. Three categories of employees are in the shortest supply: biologists to make discoveries, researchers to take those discoveries through the proof-of-concept stage, and people to plan and execute clinical trials.

The biotech industry is a victim of its own success. Success means growth, which can only be fueled by hiring more researchers. But as CNNMoney notes, “in 2005…U.S. institutions turned out 6,368 Ph.D.s in biological sciences. That was only 1,000 more than a decade earlier.” One-third of those graduates are from abroad and may return home after completing their education.

"There is a war for talent, and that war will get more intense over the years," notes Roger Marchetti, Amylin Pharmaceuticals' senior vice president of human resources. In 2005 Amylin won FDA approval for its diabetes drug Byetta and has since been recruiting employees from other companies to sustain growth. Marchetti notes that very few new employees at Amylin are new grads. Amgen has taken another approach to solving its staffing issues. Last month it purchased Alantos Pharmaceuticals and gained diabetes drug ALS 2-0426--along with 45 Alantos scientists.

These solutions are, at best, temporary. Shuffling too few workers around for too many jobs can’t last forever, so many companies are looking overseas to fill the gap. But though there is a rich supply of talent abroad, the U.S. limits the number of visas it grants to foreign employees. By April 2007 the federal government had received almost three times as many visa applications as it will approve and biotechs anticipate filing even more applications in coming years.

- read the CNNMoney article for more

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