Drug Discovery Careers--Heavy Demands, Expanding Opportunities

The pharmaceutical industry has offered solid career opportunities for scientists for years. Recently, though, the drug discovery components of the business have begun to provide some of the industry's more intellectually challenging and financially rewarding jobs. This portion of the pharmaceutical process, in which drug candidates are identified and tested, now employs many of the latest findings in genomics and proteomics. It also brings to bear new ways of using information technology, combined with mathematical models based on biological rather than physical processes.

Although the pharmaceutical industry, like the rest of the business world, has suffered a slowdown, the market research company Frost and Sullivan still expects spending on drug discovery to expand from US$19.6 billion in 2002 to US$25.6 billion by 2006, an annual growth rate of about 6%. Frost and Sullivan's survey showed that in 2002, the top 20 pharmaceutical companies spent about a third of their R&D budgets on preclinical development.

As one might expect, a career in the drug discovery arena, with its high corporate financial stakes and life-and-death implications for patients, typically requires its practitioners to make extra investments in their own preparation and training. Sure, an advanced degree can get you started in the field, but unlike most science career paths, you will need a wider knowledge base than the usual specialized research focus of a Ph.D. Like those scientists we featured in Next Wave's February 2004 feature on careers at the interface of mathematics and biology, drug discoverers must cross the traditional scientific boundaries.

Science's Next Wave joins with the Science Online family of Web sites for a special issue of Science Magazine devoted to drug discovery. In addition to authoritative insights and collections of reviews, features, and News Focus articles in Science , Science's Signal Transduction Knowledge Environment and the Science of Aging Knowledge Environment will offer special content on drug discovery. Science Online's special drug discovery index tells the whole story.

Please note that you will need to be a member of AAAS or subscribe to Science or the specific online supplements to gain access to the full complement of articles.

Many of our essayists and profilees in this feature have made successful transitions from academia to industry, and their stories are intended to provide you with guidance and perspective if you are considering similar transitions.

In the first week of the feature and continuing throughout the month, Next Wave will explore drug discovery opportunities in industry by highlighting the experiences of researchers working for larger and more established companies, as well as the motivations of an individual who chose a drug discovery start-up. We also describe how pharmaceutical companies practice genomics and outline the experiences of two professionals in the pharmacogenomics field.

Later in the month, we will take a look at the academic preparation drug discoverers need, whether they're seeking research leadership opportunities that require a Ph.D. or other professional positions for which a master's program will suffice. Current students will describe their experiences, and faculty will offer their insights on what it takes to succeed in this demanding field. And in one of the feature's more exotic essays, we'll profile a Brazilian program that derives its lead compounds from tropical snake venom.

The feature does more than focus on the individuals who are, one way or another, engaged in drug discovery. To give you a sense of where the arena is headed, we'll also describe over the course of the month new industry initiatives that are intended to improve the drug discovery process. These initiatives involve more effective use of technology, tighter management processes, and finding a common language for the exchange of data among the different segments of companies. While helping make the entire industry more productive, these new programs add yet another element to the continuing education of drug discovery researchers.

Sure, the drug discovery field is demanding, but there are also plenty of rewards for those willing to meet those demands. Sound interesting? Then read on.

Dipping a Toe in Commercial Waters
Frustrated by the feeling that her research was too esoteric, Sandra Aresta wanted to see if working in drug discovery would give her the opportunity to connect it to human health. And a Marie Curie fellowship at a biotech company is a low risk way of testing the water.

Giving up a Lectureship for Drug Discovery
Just after becoming a lecturer, Sarah Loddick decided that academia was not right for her after all. Since she has found what she was looking for, working in Drug Discovery for AstraZeneca.

Discovering Careers in a Young Biotech Company
Want to relate basic science to commercial reality, and get engaged in the development of products with real possibilities to benefit human health? Anne Forde tells what Jerini AG, a new, smaller drug discovery company has to offer, and what as a scientist do you need to offer them.

Improving Data Collection for Patient Care and Clinical Trials
The pharmaceutical industry faces a compelling need to improve to improve its research processes. For this purpose, a project to create data-exchange standards across health care research communities is under way.

The Sweet Side of Venom
Antonio Carlos Martins de Camargo describes how opportunities for new pharmaceuticals and careers can be found in the venom of deadly snakes, as Brazil's Center for Applied Toxinology has discovered.

From Academia to Industry - Selling My Soul: or Expanding Scientific Frontiers?
Is going to work for big pharma selling out? Or does it simply offer different research opportunities? Rachel Grimley explains why a move to drug discovery worked for her.

Making the Leap: When, How, and Why a Career in Drug Discovery May Be Right for You
Matthew Bell who heads of discovery research for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals tells when, how, and why a career in drug discovery may be right for you.

Evolution of the Pharmaceutical-Biotech Ecosystem
The pharmaceutical industry is adopting principles of supply chain integration, and, according to Robert McCarthy, thus changing the processes for discovery of new drugs, along with career choices for scientists.

Student Research Helps Discover Cancer Drugs
Cancer drug design provided a challenging PhD dissertation topic for Almut Mecke, a physics student at University of Michigan.

Raising the Startup: Growing Drug Discovery Careers on the Fast Track
Dave Jensen describes how the entrepreneurial drive of one scientist can lead to not one, but many satisfying careers in drug discovery.

Computers Aid Drug Design and Discovery
The Carolina Center for Genome Sciences, as Vidha Iyer explains, illustrates how the synergy between experimental and computational approaches to drug design can significantly advance the discovery process.

Academic Preparation for Modern Drug Discovery
No one area of study can prepare an individual for all phases of the drug discovery process, according to Norman Uretsky and Larry Robertson of Ohio State University, thus students will need to become familiar with various academic disciplines.

New Master of Science Program Addresses Multidisciplinary Process of Drug Discovery
The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy offers a new Master of Science in Drug Discovery and Development degree program headed by Rebecca Rone, whose mission is to educate professionals in developing the tools for a proper comprehension of the complete drug discovery and development process.

A Foot in the Door
Next Wave's Canada editor Lesley McKarney describes how training opportunities in drug discovery in Canada do exist -- you just have to know where to look.

A Career in Drug Discovery and Development
Wolfgang Sadée, professor of pharmacology at Ohio State University, offers an overview of drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry and outlines the range of opportunities available to students who are interested in moving into this dynamic field.

Pharmacogenomics--Personalized Drugs, Personalized Careers
Even in one of the worst years ever for employment in the biotech industry, according to Jim Kling, pharmacogenomics trainees find themselves with abundant opportunities. Kling describes the emerging pharmacogenomics field and the promise it holds for scientists.

Pharmacogenomics Industry Profiles
Pharmacogenomics may be a young field, but already some scientists are making their mark. Jim Kling profiles two of these pioneers.

Drug Discovery--Create Your Own Company
Laura Fletcher is a British biochemist who wanted to see her research make a real difference to patients, so she decided to start her own company.

Escape to Industry, Part 2
The CareerDoctor advises a molecular neurobiologist who has been selected for 'The Roche Symposium for Leading Bioscientists of the Next Decade' and is asking how to make the best of this opportunity.

Drug Discovery Career Resources
Next Wave offers a sampling of sources for more information about careers in drug discovery.

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