There is no denying that small, new pharma, biotech and medical-device companies and niche CROs are creating and developing some exceptionally cool pharmaceutical products and medical devices.
If we look at Aerie Pharmaceuticals and their new products Rhopressa and Roclatan, these are designed to reduce elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), the cause of vision loss in open-angle glaucoma. This is the largest prescription market in ophthalmology and it’s amazing to see such a breakthrough developing in Ireland.
Yet, despite the promising outlook, not to mention the appeal of cutting-edge scientific ideas and modern clinical research methods, many life-sciences candidates are afraid to join a pharma start-up.
Why are people afraid of pharmaceutical start up jobs?
Stability: New pharma and biotech start-ups are especially at risk as they are heavily dependent on outside funding. It’s a bit scary to leave that cushy role in a larger multinational and dive into a smaller pond where you can be a bigger fish…as long as that pond doesn’t dry up, aye?
Financial Risk: It’s difficult to walk away from a juicy salary, end of year bonuses or shift premiums. Start-up companies often don’t have the same deep pockets the traditional, longstanding firms do, but if you take the risk it can often be well worth it.
Industry Risk: It can all come to a grinding halt based on the results of a clinical trial or a single regulatory decision. This is true for all companies, but can be even more devastating in a small company with only a few products in the pipeline. That being said, in the modern era there’s no such thing as a “job for life,” no matter how established the company. Again, this is especially true in the life-sciences industry
So, we get that start-ups come with inherent risks. That being said, it’s natural and okay to hesitate to make the leap. Indeed, start-ups aren’t for everyone as not all pharma professionals will feel comfortable in the different culture. However, the rewards are greater and it can be the best decision you will ever make.
The rewards of working for a pharmaceutical start up
More growth potential
With a smaller team, you can take on more responsibility, trying your hand at opportunities you’d never get in a more established company, learning new things and bulking up your CV. Not to mention the new insight that working at such a company provides.
If we look at Aerie’s QC Specialist position, exposure to different Analytical Techniques (Method Development & Validation) would be a differentiator as oppose to routine testing including dissolution or assay. Or take the QA Specialist, the opportunity to study the QP course and be put on the licence. For the Process Engineer, to be part of the team establishing the manufacturing processes for two products that have a revenue potential in a $4.7 billion market in the US, Europe and Japan, which is expected to grow to more than $8 billion by 2023.
It’s satisfying to build something from the ground up
To have your voice heard and make a noticeable impact on the company while building new innovations and working with the creative personalities. Start-ups offer an exciting, fast-paced working environment where the team is fuelled by real passion and a usually inspiring company purpose.
Joining a start-up can jump-start your career
This is especially true, where companies need the agility to respond to quickly changing technology, and their employees need to keep themselves educated about all the industry’s constant developments.
Potential to earn more
Start up’s like Aerie Pharma at the initial stages won’t have a shift premium for example on Manufacturing roles which might be a constraint. On the other hand, as you’re certain to take a more leading role at a smaller company, with real decision-making power, as that company and its revenues grow, so will your compensation.
If all goes well, you’ll be richly rewarded for taking the risk of joining in the beginning. Stock options are another benefit that start-up companies, like Aerie, provide that a larger firm wouldn’t.
When you’re making the decision to move to a start-up, do it for yourself and make sure you’re not influenced by family or friends who think ‘job security is the number one thing’ or ‘the longer you stay in a company the better’. The science industry is changing, whether you decide to be one of the leaders of these changes yourself or not.