Cannabis Testing Services: A New Alternative Career Opportunity For Life Scientists

Posted in BioJobBuzz, Career Advice

Increased use of medical cannabis, coupled with a growing trend to legalize cannabis for recreational use, has created a niche for companies that offer analytical cannabis testing services.  Not surprisingly, the cannabis testing market is dominated by North American companies with an annual market size of roughly $822 million in 2016 (1).  The size of this market is expected to reach approximately $1.4 billion by 2021 (1).

Typical services offered by cannabis testing companies include:

  • Potency testing
  • Terpene profiling
  • Pesticide screening
  • Residual solvent screening
  • Heavy metal testing
  • Genetic testing
  • Microbial analysis

Most of these analyses involve the use of standard laboratory instruments (and related software packages including 1) liquid chromatography (LC), 2) gas chromatography (GC), 3) mass spectrometry, 4) atomic spectroscopy and 5) automated DNA sequencing/genomic analyses.

While the analytical services offered by these companies may sound esoteric to  lay cannabis audiences, they are very familiar to life scientists with backgrounds in biochemistry, organic chemistry, molecular biology, pharmacology, botany, plant pathology and a host of other life science disciplines.  That said, the rapid growth of the cannabis testing industry has created job opportunities  for life scientists who are trained and skilled in the above mentioned analytical methods.

Industry leaders in cannabis analytical services  who may be looking to hire new employees can be divided into two distinct categories; companies that develop hardware and software to conduct the analyses and companies that actually provide analytical services to clients.  Companies involved in hardware and software development  include:

  1. Agilent Technologies Inc (hardware/software)
  2. Shimadzu Corporation (hardware/software)
  3. PerkinElmer, Inc (hardware/software)
  4. Millipore Sigma (hardware/software)
  5. AB Sciex LLC (hardware/software),
  6. Waters Corporation (hardware/software)
  7. Restek Corporation (hardware/software)

Leading companies that offer analytical services to clients include:

  1. Accelerated Technologies Laboratories Inc (hardware/software)
  2. LabLynx Inc. (hardware/software)
  3. Steep Hill Labs, Inc (analysis)
  4. CannaSafe Analytics (analysis)
  5. Pharm Labs LLC (analysis)
  6. Digipath Labs, Inc (analysis)

Because  the number of traditional life sciences job continue to decline and remain highly competitive, now may be a good time for entry level life life scientists to consider a career shift to the cannabis testing services market. However, do not wait or linger.  This market, like the traditional life sciences job market may be quickly  over subscribed!

References

  1. Cannabis testing market expect to reach $1.4 billion by 2021. http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/cannabis-testing.asp Accessed August 7, 2017

Trump, Drug Prices and Deregulation

Posted in BioBusiness, BioEducation, BioJobBuzz

Donald Trump met with pharmaceutical leaders and their lobbyists yesterday. At the outset of the meeting he castigated executives for the high prices of prescriptions drugs in the US. Then, he mentioned that he thought that the regulations guiding new drug approvals by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are overly complex and are interfering with discovery and development of new life saving molecules for the American public.

While pharma execs may have cringed at the mention of high drug prices (Republicans never think that drug prices are too high), a majority were emboldened by the mention of loosening FDA regulations for new drug approvals. Drug makers have historically complained that overly aggressive FDA regulations drive up the costs associated with new drug development. What they fail to mention is that the regulations imposed by FDA on drug development are necessary to ensure drug efficacy and public safety.  And if you look at the overall track record of FDA for new drug approvals over the past 40 years the agency is clearly doing its jobs (less than 3% of approved drugs have been recalled from the market). Prior to implementation of modern FDA regulations and current good manufacturing practices (CGMP), the efficacy and safety of new drugs could not be accurately determined or guaranteed.

Now let’s talk about new drug discovery and development prices. Current estimates suggest that it takes  $1.0-2.0 billion to bring a new prescription drug to market. While the actual costs may vary, what the drug companies do not tell you is that included in those cost are the manufacturing, marketing and sales of the drug once it is approved. That said, the actual discovery and development of the drug is much less costly. Nevertheless, the high costs of discovery and development is the explanation that pharma executives give to justify high drug prices. Also, they frequently justify high prices because the high failure rate of new molecules i.e. we spend a lot of money on drugs that we want to advance but since so many of them fail we have to charge high prices for the ones that successfully garner regulatory approval.

While these arguments may be compelling let’s take the example of Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowing drug that has been on the market for about 20 years.  The graph below shows the sales history of Lipitor from 2003-2015.

As you can see the return on investment by Pfizer for Lipitor far exceeded the $1.0 billion development costs of the molecule. Also, the graph shows that Lipitor sales drastically fell off in 2012.  This is because Lipitor lost patent protection in 2011 and several generic competitors appeared on the market. Yet, despite the appearance of low cost generic alternatives, Lipitor sales were almost $2.0 billion in 2015.  Of course, you can argue that Lipitor is an extraordinary example and there are not that many $1.0 billion drugs out there. However, you would be wrong

Next, let’s consider how drug companies determine their retail price for the drugs that they sell. For those of you who may not know, the US government including its agencies, FDA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (the largest provider of prescription drugs in the US) are not legally allowed to negotiate drug prices with their manufacturers. That right….you heard right. Instead, drug companies are required to tell FDA how much they plan to charge and then it is up to insurance companies/third party payers to determine whether or not they will reimburse patients costs for those drugs.  Put simply, the drug companies and insurers set drug prices in the US. This is in marked contrast with the rest of the world (possibly excluding New Zealand) where governments negotiate with drug companies to set drug prices that are affordable and consistent with the economic realities of their countries.

You may be asking what does all of this have to do with Trump and his news conference yesterday?

First, Trump essentially put drug companies on notice that he thinks US prescription drug prices are too high. Second, Trump also acknowledged that overly aggressive FDA regulations are responsible for the rise costs of prescription drugs in this country. Therefore, according to Trump, the best way to lower drug prices in the US is  to lower the regulatory requirements for new prescription drug development and approval. Theoretically, lowering regulatory requirements ought to help reduce drug discovery and manufacturing costs which, in turn, should translates into lower prescription drug costs. However, as previously mentioned, the government has no leverage over drug companies when it comes to drug prices. That said, less than mandatory price controls would have no noticeable or little effect on containing rising prescription drug prices in the US.

Ironically, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is lowering drug prices by holding drug manufacturers more accountable for the drugs that they develop and try to bring to market. To wit, based on certain provisions of the ACA (which have nothing to do with the retail insurance part of the Act) drug manufacturers must meet certain clinical and safety benchmarks before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services will reimburse its patients for approved prescription drugs. To that point, the ACA stipulates that the government will not reimburse patients for new prescription drugs unless they demonstrate quantifiable improvements to clinical efficacy or safety!  In other words, the government will not pay a higher price for new prescription drugs if its efficacy or safety is not markedly better than existing cheaper alternatives.  Not surprisingly, these regulations have forced drug makers to think more strategically and to only advance drug candidates that are superior to already existing drugs. 

So, what does this all mean?  First, if the ACA is repealed or modified it will weaken the ability of the federal government to prevent drug prices from rising.  Second, if FDA regulations are relaxed or reduced, it may lower drugmaker’s overhead costs but it will not necessarily lower drug prices (remember drug companies set drug prices and government cannot approve or not approve drugs based solely on price).  Third, before FDA modernized itself in the late 1930s the US drug supply was not safe and there were many drugs on that market that offered no clinical benefits). Consequently, deregulation may be good for drug companies but not necessarily good for the American public.

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!! 

Resume Writing Made Simple?

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz, Career Advice

The first step in any job search is to ensure that your resume or curriculum vitae (CV) is ready for submission to prospective employers. For those of you who may still be struggling with the difference between a resume and a CV, a resume is usually a 1-2 page synopsis of who you are, where you have been and what you have done. In contrast, a CV is a much longer document that does the same thing as a resume but in much greater and granular detail. For most scientific positions a CV is the preferred document style. However, in some cases, employers may request a resume so pay attention before you submit your application.

While most people believe that a resume or CV is simply a list of your education, skillsets and experience, there is a preferred style, format and way to write a resume/CV that will enhance the possibility of securing a interview for the position. That said, it takes many years of resume/CV writing to perfect the process–something that many of you may not have time to do.  If you are unsure about how to write a resume/CV or have not updated your “paper” in many years, the quickest way to being applying for jobs is to hire a professional resume/CV writer to do it for you.  Generally speaking, this will cost anywhere from $200-$500.  Sadly, many graduate students and postdocs don’t have the money to invest in resume writing and in many cases are unable to craft a job winning resume/CV.

If you are unable to hire a resume writing professional, I came across a DIY solution called Scientific Resumes. Apparently this service company exclusively caters to graduate students and postdocs looking for resume/CV writing help.  In addition to their automated self-help products, they offer resume proofreading services and I suspect customized resume/CV writing too.  I have not used or carefully evaluated their products but it may be worth a visit to their website.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!

The Trump Effect? Macy’s to Shed 10,000 Jobs and Close Stores

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz

Over the past few weeks, President-elect Donald Trump has taken much credit for saving several hundred US manufacturing jobs in Indiana. Also, he has excoriated car marker executives ranging from General Motors to Ford to Toyota for planning to build manufacturing facilities in Mexico. While it is not clear how many jobs Trump actually saved or whether his twitter rants prevented car manufacturers from setting up production plants in Mexico, it is clear that he cannot or will not save large numbers of American jobs in the retail/service sectors. To that point, Macy’s, last week, announced that it was shedding 10,000 jobs and closing 100 stores to cut costs to improve its bottom line.

You may ask why saving a few hundred air conditioning jobs at taxpayer expense more important than saving 10,000 American retail jobs? As you may recall, in the summer of 2015 Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren  said that he would stop selling Donald Trump’s clothing line in all of its stores.  Lundgren decided to take this action because then candidate Trump said many Mexican immigrants were rapists or murderers. Shortly after Lundgren announced his decision, Trump called on his supporters to boycott Macy stores.

While it is unlikely that the Trump boycott was responsible for Macy’s decline (all department stores are are getting hammered by online retailers), I do not expect Trump to help Macy’s (like he helped Carrier) save any of the 10,000 jobs that will be lost.  This is because Trump is a vindictive and hateful man who will not help anyone unless they shower him with adulation or do as they are told. Further, he likely considers Terry Lundgren a “loser’ because his business is failing. And, if Donald was in charge,  Macy’s would be a HUGE and GREAT success. Put simply, Macy’s got what it deserves for dropping Trump’s clothing line and not reinstating it after Trump was elected President. And, as for Lundgren, he said

“We made our decision about a year and a half ago, and stand by our decision,”

It’s going to be a rocky ride for the next 4 years.  So buckle in and hold on for your life!

Until next time…..

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!

Researchers Beware of Fake Journal and Conference Companies

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz, Career Advice

Fake news seems to be de rigueur these days and apparently academia is not immune. In fact, increased competition for grants, publications and exposure may make academic researchers more susceptible to fake journals and dishonest conference organizers.  This is according to an article in today’s New York Times entitled ‘Fake Academe, Looking Much Like the Real Thing’

One of the leading fake purveyors of fake journals and bogus conferences is a Hyderabad, India -based company called OMICS International. I’m sure may BioJobBlog readers have been contacted or solicited by the company to attend a conference or submit a paper to one of its journals. This year, the Federal Trade Commission formally charged OMICs with “deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.”

According to the Times article, fake journals and bogus conference schemes;

…exploit a fundamental weakness of modern higher education: Academics need to publish in order to advance professionally, get better jobs or secure tenure. Even within the halls of respectable academia, the difference between legitimate and fake publications and conferences is far blurrier than scholars would like to admit

Another fake or close to fake organization is a British company called Infonomics Society which publishes 17 journals and organizes conferences. Interestingly, all 17 journals and conference organized by the company are run and managed by a single individual from a modest home in one of London’s outer suburbs. Other companies and several universities that have been scammed by these companies are also mentioned in the article.  

It is becoming increasingly important in the digital age to carefully vet websites and organization you do business with.  While the pressure for grant monies and publication in high impact journals continue to grow, it is important to remember that there are no shortcuts that can be taken to expedite a successful academic career.  The only things that will ensure success are commitment, hard work and some blood sweat and tears.

Until next time…..

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting

Trump’s Corporate Tax Holiday Proposal Will Hurt Job Creation

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz

The notion that corporate tax holidays– congressional orders that allow corporations like Apple, Microsoft, Pfizer and others to bring overseas profits back to the US without penalty–create jobs is misleading and, based on previous such tax holidays mostly untrue.

According to an article in today’s NY Times Business section (a reliable source of real news), corporate tax holidays typically result in mergers and acquisition that typically result in job cuts.

…the last time Congress initiated a tax holiday, in 2004. The top 15 repatriating companies brought home $150 billion but reduced their work force by 20,931 jobs, according to a 2011 study commissioned by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

In the coming months, Trump and his minions will be pushing for a new corporate tax holiday so that new jobs can be created. While this is certains to send shivers down the spines of most Trump supports, any jobs that will be created or not lost will not be the ones that midwestern small town employees or coal mines will benefit from. For example, the  corporations with the largest amounts of overseas monies are Apple and Microsoft, two technology companies that are unlikely to create new jobs for coal miners, service employees or blue collar workers.

While many Trump supporters believe that Barack Obama and the Democrats were responsible for manufacturing job loss in the US, the real reasons for their loss was mechanization/robotization and globalization. The lost manufacturing jobs are never coming back–despite Trump’s assertions that they are—and the only way unemployed factory workers will find new work is through retraining or moving to urban centers where jobs for unskilled workers appear to be on the rise.  Corporate tax holidays, income tax cuts and reduction in social programs will not lead to new job creation but to job loss.

Don’t let Trump destroy the economic recovery that President Obama brought to this nation.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting

Want to Keep Your Job and Get a PhD in the Trump Era? Unionize!!!!!!

Posted in BioBusiness, BioEducation, BioJobBuzz, Career Advice

It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump is anti-union and his recent cabinet pick for Secretary of Labor is clearly not a friend of working people.  Put simply, Trump is on the side of big business and employers. And if he and his billionaire friends can squeeze more work out of employees for lesser pay, then he and his administration gladly propose legislation to accomplish those goals. Also, don’t be shocked when Trump cuts the budgets of federal agencies that offer research grants, fellowships and teaching assistantships to American colleges and Universities.

It’s no secret that graduate students and postdocs are overworked and underpaid and long term career prospects continue to dwindle.  Further, during the course of my career advising graduate students and postdocs about job opportunities, I have heard too many horror stories about PIs who refuse to let their students or postdoc do anything outside of their laboratories to enhance careers or job opportunities.

While the public and private union movement is dying in the US, unions still offer exploited workers to negotiate their fates, working conditions, pay and benefits with employers.  Sadly, we in the academic community have been taught to be anti-union because of the high costs associated with union labor. Ironically, that is the point….why  should graduate students and postdocs not be fairly compensated for the long hours that they work?  Sure, you can say that graduate students will get a degree and postdocs need the experience to get a job but, while a degree and a postdoc in the past meant a good paying job in the end, no such guarantees exist today.  Basically, you are on your own!

Last week, graduate students at Columbia University overwhelmingly voted to unionize. According to a newspaper article in the NY Times:

The union will be the first to represent graduate students since the National Labor Relations Board ruled in August that students who work as teaching and research assistants have a federal right to unionize.

 

The vote to unionize was 1,602 to 623, according to the United Automobile Workers, which will now represent some 3,500 Columbia graduate students.

While the vote to unionize will undoubtedly upsets PIs, Deans and University Presidents, it is in the best career interests and lifestyles of graduate students and research assistants. For example, unions typically negotiate the salaries for 40 hour work weeks. We all know that postdocs and graduate students work more than 40 hours weekly. Therefore, any time over 40 hours ought to be overtime pay, or to avoid overtime hourly pay, base salaries have to be set a certain levels (according to Federal salary guidelines ) which are substantially more than what graduate students and postdocs are currently paid. Also, unions negotiate with employers about vacation times, benefits (health and life insurance,401K plans etc) and establish guidelines that protect employees from being abused by employers and create rules that guide whether or not an employee can be fired “for cause” (not simply because your employer does not like you).

As I previously mentioned, research budgets and public unions will likely be under constant attack during the Trump regime.  Because of this, it is time that everyone begins to think about ways in which they can protect their jobs and keep their career aspirations alive. I know it won’t be easy but as someone once said “desperate times require desperate measures” (or something like that).

Until next time….

Good Luck and Good Unionizing!!!!!!

Tis the Season: Astra Zeneca is the Latest Pharmaceutical Company to Announce Job Cuts

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz

AstraZeneca announced today that it would be eliminate another 700 US job as part of its $1.1 billion cost saving plan that was implemented earlier this year. According to a Fierce Pharma report, the company will eliminate jobs throughout its US commercial operations and at its US headquarters in Wilmington, DE.

The latest job cuts come just days after London-based AstraZeneca mentioned that it would move some UK finance jobs to Malaysia, Costa Rica, Poland and other lower cost markets to consolidate back office work. Generic versions of the company’s top selling cholesterol lowering drug Crestor is what is driving financial concerns at the company. While there are other promising drugs in AZ”s pipeline and slated to appear on the market, their combined revenue will not be enough to fill the gap lost by Crestor and Nexium (which went generic last year).

Earlier this week Mylan, Endo and Perrigo announced job cuts. Isn’t it great to work in pharma around the holidays?

Until next time,

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

Another Day: More Pharmaceutical Layoffs

Posted in BioJobBuzz, Uncategorized

Endo International PLC, a Dublin, Ireland-based global speciality pharmaceutical company that sells generic and branded prescription drugs, today announced that it plans to layoff 375 US sales employees most of whom work in its branded pain sales force. The company manufactures several branded opioid pain medicines including OPANA ER® and Percocet® Ostensibly, the job cuts will yield  will free up $90 to $100 million that the company will used to restructure and refocus its business units.

The ongoing very public national discussion about opioid abuse has caused Endo to re-evaluate its new product development strategy ( the company stock has been hemorrhaging over the past year or so). To that end, the company announced a new focus on the drug Xiaflex, a penis curvature drug that the company acquired in its $2.6 billion buyout of Auxilium.  By focusing on new markets, the company hopes to reduce its financial dependency on its legacy opioid business that has been waning as new legislation restricting patient access to opioids continues to be passed in States that have been devastating by the growing opioid epidemic sweeping the US.

Until next time…

Good luck and Good Job Hunting

 

It’s the Holiday Season: Time for More Job Cuts in Pharma

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz

While the holiday season (beginning on Thanksgiving) is supposed to be joyous, it is usually the time of year that many life sciences and other large corporations announce job cuts. As expected, two companies, Mylan and Lilly announced today that they will be cutting the size of their work forces and laying off employee.

Mylan, whose CEO was forced to appear before Congressional committees because of the company’s egregiously high price it was charging for EpiPens, announced that it may lay off of as many as 3,500 workers. The reason for the layoffs was to “reduce redundancy” that resulted from Mylan’s $5.3 billion acquisition of Abbott Laboratories generic drug business, the $7 billion it paid to purchase the Swedish drugmaker Meda and the $1.0 billion for several topical skin medications from Renaissance Holdings. The layoffs will purportedly impact less than 10% of Mylan’s global workforce and help to cut costs and refocus operations at the generic drug manufacturer.

Likewise, troubled pharmaceutical manufacturer Lilly, whose CEO abruptly retired earlier this year announced that it was trimming its US pharmaceutical sales force. The announced cuts were related to the recent Phase 3 failure of the company’s Alzheimer’s project solanezumab. A company spokesperson did not disclose the number of sales representative who would lose their jobs.

Finally, this past September, the Danish company  Novo Nordisk, a world leader in the diabetes market, announced it would layoff 1,000 employees worldwide to cut costs and focus it efforts on developing “truly innovative” diabetes products.  Meanwhile, behind the scenes, speculation suggests that the layoffs are in response to payer pressures that are being brought to bear in the US, the company’s largest market.  Many of the cuts are expected in R&D where innovation has been lacking according to company executives.

Although these jobs cuts are taking place, the good news is that these workforce reductions are smaller than those announced in holiday seasons past!

Until next time

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting