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Thursday, May 05, 2011

Biotech is Back Revisisted

Last year I posted a few times about the 'Biotech is Back' forum here in Seattle.

Seattle’s life sciences industry has been on life support for a few years, but now, for the first time in a long time, biotech has started to show some legit signs of rebirth.

The organizer of this event, Luke Timmerman, posted a very interesting article this week. The title:

Considering a Career in Biotech? How About Trying Computer Science Instead

The comments were also interesting. In them, we get to hear from some of the employees in the field.

As someone who is currently in the biotech industry and have been doing lab work for 10 years, I would not recommend anyone going into biology or life science period. The risk and reward is not worth it and yes, the ladder of success is extremely tough. I agree with this article, change major if you are still in school.

Given the training required and average payout for skills achieved, life sciences / bioengineering is a long, long row to hoe. It is slow, it is expensive, it is glass ceilinged to anyone without a PhD (this includes nearest neighbor industries where PhD’s have fled their serfdom), and it is dominated by a relatively older generation of scientists who do not provide a healthy work structure for young employees. Life Science is an extremely dangerous career path for bright young people, and I encourage them to avoid the field and it’s ever-thirsty vampires. mindful of tailoring your experience to be too protocol specific, in this field having immunohistochemistry experience will only help you get a job doing more immunohistochemistry.

Ironically, on the same webpage, there is a piece by Ken Stuart entitled, "An Investment Opportunity: Training in Biosciences". One reader commented:

I thought it should be noted that the people in positions of leadership in biotech, ala Ken Stuart, can seem detached from the economic reality of what’s happening on the ground. I have to question the sanity of a pushing an training continuum that currently lasts over 12 years, fails to achieve an average pay above 50k at any point, and whose target field is experiencing large funding cuts. That isn’t even taking into account the trainwreck/vacuum of PhD management. In light of the problems already facing life science, Mr. Stuart’s suggestion of starting even earlier seems ludicrous.

We focus on the cargo cult science of biotechnology and hold it accountable for the woes of the field. The leadership can have meetings all day long on how to make more money so they can provide a life long career for young aspiring scientists. Until they understand the concepts explored in CCS and start to weed it out, they will not be successful.

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