Posted by: Audrey Erbes | February 24, 2014

Gauging the Health of Life Science Industry Plus Events and Jobs

It’s difficult to make sense out of the data on the health and future trends impacting future health of the life science industry. Mergers and acquisitions are up as well as IPOs in biotech. But I worry about M&A outpacing the latter because as jobs disappear following the loss of one large business in each deal there’s need for job creation at startups. When large companies disappear, there needs to be many more startups which have typically less than 50 employees than when small companies are acquired. I suspect an imbalance in this loss of jobs vs. creation is the cause of the increase in job cuts reported last month. “JobWatch: Layoffs Show No Letup” reports January was worse than all of 2013 when there was a 57% jump in job cuts at 22,161 at biotech and biopharma companies versus 2012 with 14,150

The outplacement consultancy Challenger Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger told GEN “The slump reflects pharma’s continued retreat from vertical integration following patent-cliff losses, plus rising costs associated with healthcare reform, the still-sluggish U.S. economy, and continued pressure from overseas regulators to contain drug prices.” While displaced business and marketing personnel can move into other industries, research personnel remain in the field. This latter buildup of R&D professionals can mean longer term unemployment as the industry fails to clear the backlog of those displaced in the economic downturn starting in 2008. Individuals have to be more strategic in their preparation for finding their next position and, especially, careful about which company they join. One needs to upgrade one’s professional skills to compete with larger numbers of available personnel.

Researchers may not be comfortable with networking but it’s critical to have a network when looking for a new job. I recommend that professionals attend at least 2 professional events a month where they can keep pace with new developments in the industry but also make one-on-one contacts which will be important in enhancing meaningful relationships for the future. One has to make room in one’s life for continuing to learn or risk being left behind. Carefully selected courses in addition to programs so readily available in the Bay Area make it easy to “sharpen the saw” and be prepared to be a solution to an employer’s problems. Those problems are changing rapidly in today’s dynamic industry so one needs to stay fresh and flexible.

The IPO window has been open in the last year and apparently with more highly valued companies so that’s good in providing more stability for growing companies and potentially larger workforces. There were 52 health care companies that went IPO raising $7 billion in 2013 compared to only 16 companies raising $1.1 billion in 2012. This is great news. Whether or not these companies grow large enough to replace lost jobs from Big Pharma’s severe layoffs still remains to be seen.

I haven’t seen a tally of the impact of new companies remaining virtual and utilizing outsourced employees, often from outside the U.S. Large pharma companies are experimenting with major changes in staffing to help the bottom line and short term profits. I worry about their experiments leaving them with insufficient qualified experienced staff to develop drugs, an important attribute of successful pharma companies. The tendency for company “bean counters” to be short sighted in their solutions for short term stock valuation declines is still out there. What appears to be a simple solution on paper utilizing layoffs can lead to a death spiral with its negative impact on future development of innovative teams.

One has to be careful not to rely on one indicator to predict the future health of the industry. One has to look at all the factors in the environment that impact the industry. I recommend a look at “Life Science Trends in 2014” prepared by Carlyle Conlan which is a compendium of leading short excerpted articles on the industry’s health and welfare in 2013. See full downloadable piece at

This UpComing Week’s Bay Area Life Science Events

  • BioCentury This Week, See new program Webcast Starting Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014,, Available anytime starting at 9:00 a.m. EDT;Topic: “Profiles of Innovation: The Orphan Drug Act, also Living with Sickle Cell Anemia”
  • Bio2Device Group, Tuesday Morning, Feb. 25, 2014; Topic: “Myths and Challenges of Cloud-based eClinical Systems: The Story of Cloud Clinica;” Speaker: Ale Gicqueau, CEO & President, Clinovo
  • NCCACRP, Tuesday Evening, Feb. 25, 2014; Topic: “Re-thinking Protocol and Site Feasibility Processes:  How to Ensure Complex Protocols Can Be Executed Flawlessly;” Speaker: Beth D. Harper, BS, MBA, President, Clinical Performance Partners, Inc., Encore Speaker from 2013
  • BayBio Lunch and Learn, Wednesday Morning, Feb. 26, 2014; Topic: “Compensation for Private Companies: The Ins and Outs of Equity;” Speakers: Kelley Wall, Director RoseRyan, Kyle Holm, Associate Partner, Radford
  • ASQ Biomedical Division, Wednesday Evening, Feb. 26, 2014; Topic: “February Roundtable – Design and Development Planning (Design Control Series – Session #2)
  • Golden Gate Polymer Forum Dinner Lecture, Wednesday Evening, Feb. 26, 2014; Topic: “Draping Materials: Enabling Advanced Adhesives and Multifunctional Technologies;” Speaker: Prof. Alfred J. Crosby, Polymer Science & Engineering Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • CACO, Friday Mid Day, Feb. 28, 2014; Luncheon Topic: “PK/PD in forensic science: the science of anesthesiology in the court case of Michael Jackson’s propofol overdose;” Speaker: Professor Steven Shafer (Stanford University)

My Next UC Berkeley Life Science Marketing and Business Class

UC Berkeley Extension Course, Thursday and Friday, April 10-11, 2014

I created this course for professionals from all functions inside the industry so they can keep up with the changing business requirements and their interface with the business and marketing functions that make critical decisions affecting their work and their careers. As noted in the comments above, one has to look at the larger picture outside one’s immediate department or function. This course is great for giving professionals a broader perspective on their career and achieving success for their company.

Dates and Time: Thursday and Friday, April 10-11, 2014; 8:30 am – 5:00 pm for classroom intensive and balance of term for working on term project with gratis access to leading life science database for deals and industry articles

Location: Downtown University of California, Berkeley Extension, 425 Market St., 8th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105

Cost: $795, course ID is BUS ADM x442.4

See more details and register now. You can locate course online and register at

Event and Job Listings

Find all the details for this coming week’s upcoming events plus those through June 2014 in Audreys picks Feb. 23, 2014. by right clicking on the highlighted topics. You can also download the pdf of JobsThatCrossedMyDeskThroughFeb. 23, 2014 along with Audrey’s Picks. This latter list includes the latest three weeks of positions.

You can always find my weekly blog and listings on my website Select “blog” and then right click on blog title to link to the WordPress site.


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