Posted by: Audrey Erbes | March 22, 2015

Understanding the Assault on R&D Jobs Plus Event and Jobs

There appears to be a wholesale paradigm shift to run businesses with far fewer employees. A few entrepreneurs come up with new business concept, develop it and launch it. If it survives a buyout, it will be run with much smaller staff numbers than in the past. In industry we saw a reduction in overall employment, first, through technological improvements which allowed manufacturing to occur with fewer staff. We saw same trend in business jobs as modern technology replaced the need for several layers of typing and scheduling and administrative staff, for example. The administrator positon went out before that of secretary.

At Genentech, they turned over all computer research normally handled by company reference librarians to employees. The job scope of tasks increased as more “tools” became available. It isn’t clear whether or not that shift of responsibility was good or not. I suspect new positions were created in departments or the work was outsources to consultants to handle market research and analysis.

CROs replaced former large company clinical staffs which were subject to changes in need as products proceeded through development stages. CMS’s replaced need to fund and build manufacturing sites.

Then the offshoring in our industry followed that of high tech. Only those jobs which overseas staff couldn’t perform or were desirable to remain in U.S. to protect company IP had to remain in U.S. Some of the experiments to offshore life science haven’t proved to be successful as companies ran into repugnant overseas governmental actions, local country county preferences, tariffs, and local social unrest. The lack of rule of law in many of these offshore countries hadn’t been fully counted in the transactional costs.

A recent Robert Reich piece on March 16th suggests that there is a permanent trend to less available work for our citizens as result of technology innovations. “It’s now possible to sell a new product to hundreds of millions of people without needing many, if any, workers to produce or distribute it.” In his article entitled “The iEverything and Redistributional Imperative” on his website (, he notes that “The two sectors of the economy harboring the most professionals — health care and education – are under increasing pressure to cut costs. And expert machines are poised to take over.”

It’s been noted elsewhere that Obamacare has generated many new businesses and jobs in response to its presence. These new service companies provided jobs. If Reich is correct, all those primary care docs and PAs might not be needed. And here I was hoping that resulting growth in need for medical professionals would provide new positions for displaced life science Ph. D’s, hopefully, earlier in their education.

I believe that the life science industry is undergoing a major paradigm shift with one of the changes–a massive downsizing of R&D bench jobs in biopharma. This change will also impact on the Ph.D. programs which continue to turn out more post docs for which there are not enough academic or industry jobs. This massive shift will be very painful for the professionals who developed their credentials with great personal expense, effort and sacrifice over many years. Thousands will need to reinvent themselves and transition into other professions or sectors and more will turn away from bench jobs as a career choice.

I’ve been in the industry for over 40 years and agree there have to be changes. It’s tragic that we are destroying a whole segment of jobs without any replacement for the large numbers of professionals affected. Coal miners and steel workers faced the same dilemma.

Upon reading the latest House Republican budget, I see little hope for resources to expand jobs in research or medicine. The controlling party in the House still wants to shut down Obamacare and cut into Medicaid and Social Security funding. I continue to look for hope, but my usual optimism is being challenged by the rush to save/make more money and pass the benefits on to a few in the society.

Highlights of Upcoming Life Science Events

  • PBSS, Monday, March 23, 2015, Topic: “Antibody Drug Conjugate (ADC) Based Anticancer Therapeutics: Discovery, Development, Regulatory Issues;” Speakers: Tom Pillow, Bogdan Olenyuk, Kedan Lin (Genentech); Samadhi Vithanrana (Takeda);
  • BioDesign, Monday, March 23, 2015, Event: From the Innovator’s Workshop, Speaker: Eric Topol, Director, Scripps Translational Institute, Professor of Genomics, The Scripps Research Institute
  • Bio2Device Group—Serving Pharma, Biotech, Diagnostics and Devices, Tuesday Morning, March 24, 2015, Event: “Building a medical device management team for successful growth through acquisition,” Speaker: William L. Mince
  • East Bay AWIS, Wednesday Evening, March 25, 2015, Topic: “Axygen Union City Manufacturing Tour Plus – East Bay AWIS Networking Event”
  • ASQ NCDG, Wednesday Evening, March 25, 3015, Event: “Medical Process Control Risk Management: Today’s Processes, Tomorrow’s Products,” Moderator:   Gary Seeger, CQE, CRE, VP QA/RA, Stellartech Research Corporation, Milpitas, CA, Program Chair, NCDG, RAPS/NCDG Program Chair 2009-1014, ASQ CQE, CRE; Speaker:Barry Craner, former VP QA/RA, Stellartech
  • BioScience Forum, Wednesday Evening, March 25, 2015, Topic: “Precision Drugs for Bad Bugs (“PD4BB”),” Speaker: David Martin, M.D., CEO, AvidBiotics
  • Northern California BioPharmaceutical Project Management, Friday Morning, March 27, 2015, Topic: “Ways to Accelerate Drug Development: Fast-Track, Breakthrough Designation, Accelerated Approval, Priority Review,” Speaker: Michele Bronson, Ph.D. – Vice President, Program Management, Portola Pharmaceuticals
  • EPPICon 2015, Saturday, March 28, 2015, Topic: “Digital Disruption in Life Sciences”

You can download Audrey’s Picks with complete details on the above and other meetings and conferences through May 2015 by right clicking on the highlighted titles. Also see Jobs That Crossed My Desk Through March 22, 2015 for your information. I list mostly jobs in California posted in the last three weeks but you can also find national listings at the websites mentioned.




  1. The free market orthodoxy exploits markets it does not create / invent them. Why bother doing all the R&D when it is more cost effective to launch a me-too? Steve Jobs was famous for not paying dividends to shareholders – it was that money he invested and made into iPads etc

    • Big Pharma has turned into an acquirer of biotech creations and now doesn’t see point any longer in having R&D. Just as Californians don’t understand need to maintain infrastructure, large life science companies forget the need to maintain a vibrant workforce. In the short term this will work but if future scientists enter other fields due to lack of jobs now, Pharma and Medtech companies will find less qualified people to staff their companies. We will be buying products from China and Europe.

  2. Audrey,

    Thank you for your service!

    I thought you might like to know that this week’s post didn’t include the usual hyperlinks to “Audrey’s Picks” and “Jobs That Crossed My Desk”. I also don’t see a “category” for these documents to have an alternative way of finding these helpful documents on your WordPress site.

    Again, thank you for providing this information to your readers.



    • Oops! I will be sure to include this week. Thank you for your feedback.

  3. Thanks for this great list of events. I’m going to be in Northern California (Sunnyvale) from May 8-May 15. Do you know of any science conferences or events then?

    • Check out my downloadable list.

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