FDA and Social Media: Much Ado About Nothing

Posted in Social Media, Uncategorized

Since the inception of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms, many life sciences companies, mainly big pharma, have been anxiously awaiting regulatory guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration on how to use them. Interestingly, FDA did issue some guidance in 2012 on it use last year but many drugmakers felt that it was insufficient and not detailed enough.  Despite the lack of clearly defined regulatory guidance, many companies took the social media plunge anyway. And according to a recent survey of regulatory actions and letters conducted by Mark Senak author of the fabulous EyeonFDA Blog the agency has done very little to thwart the social media strategies implemented by drug companies. In fact, there has been no obvious increase in the number of warning letters or violation letters regarding the use of digital or social media as compared with traditional media violations.

Senak drew this conclusion after analyzing 173 warning and notice of violation letters (advertising and media related) that were issued by the agency from 2008 to 2012.  Of the 173 regulatory letters that were issued, 675 violations were cited and only 43% involved digital media.  And, for the most part, most of the cited violation had little to do with the digital or social media vehicle used but more to do with the message being delivered. For the full report click here.

What does this all mean? While it is difficult to draw any firm conclusion, I believe that the bottom line is that the importance and significant of the long awaited FDA guidance on the use of social media has been overstated. Put simply, if you follow the existing rules guiding advertising and print media, companies ought to be able to craft a regulatory-compliant social media communication strategy without the fear of running afoul of the agency.  Those who violate the existing rules will likely be caught and have to clean up their acts.

The bottom line. Many drug companies have been able to mount very effective social media campaigns without getting into trouble with FDA.  The key to success is following the rules and implementing a digital/social media campaign that has passed internal regulatory muster to insure that everything is in order and regulatory compliant. Companies that have made the investment into digital/social media will be successful whereas others that jump into the game without taking the time to understand the rules of engagement will fail.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!



The “Thing” About Graduate Students and Postdocs

Posted in BioEducation, Uncategorized

During my daily perusal of stuff on LinkedIn, I came upon a promo link to a video report by Dan Rather entitled “PhDon’t!” that was shown on March 5, 2013on Axs.tv.  Not surprisingly, the video promo talks about the surplus of PhD-trained scientists and how fiercely competitive the current life sciences job market is for these talented and well trained individuals. Further, a female scientist in the promo declares that “the life sciences graduate training system is broken and in the long run it will do a great deal of harm to biomedical research in the US.

While you can see a promo of the show on YouTube, you cannot see the entire video unless you fork over $3 to download it from iTunes!  This begs the question: Is it worth spending $3 to hear Dan Rather tell most graduate students and postdocs what they already know?  Nevertheless, I bet that a large number of graduate students and postdocs will pay the download fee anyway. This is because the old adage “misery loves company” is true!  Nobody wants to suffer alone and there is comfort in knowing that many others are suffering just like you!  Although this may make you feel better emotionally, it does little to help to correct or solve the problem.

I agree with the scientist in the promo who said that the “system is broken.”  Everyone already knows that it is broken but nobody seems to want to do anything about it. And, the only folks who are going to be able to change the system are graduate students and postdocs. If you think that university administrators or tenured faculty members are going to fix the system, then you are either delusional or visiting medical marijuana clinics too frequently.

The point I am trying to make is that graduate students and postdocs love to complain about the system but do very little to try and change it.  Sure, every major university now has a graduate student or postdoctoral association and many schools have even formally created Offices of Graduate and Postdoctoral Training. And, there is even a National Postdoctoral Association.  But, what have these organizations done over the past five years to improve the likelihood of finding a job upon completion of your training?  To that point, how many more seminars, conferences, meetings etc are you going to attend to hear about alternate careers, resume writing and job interviewing techniques before you realize that it is not you but the system that must change?

There is no doubt that change can be difficult and extremely risky. But, at this point, what do most life sciences graduate students and postdocs really have to lose?  The choice is simple: continue to complain, feel helpless and accept your plight or come together and fiercely work to change the system (one institution at a time if necessary) to improve the likelihood of employment and a successful scientific career.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting


Its Official: The US Doesn’t Need Any More PhD Life Scientists

Posted in BioJobBuzz, Uncategorized

I have been blogging about the glut of life sciences PhDs in the US for the past five years. Sadly, not many people paid much attention to my claims despite repeated discussions with graduate students, postdocs and even tenured faculty members.  Recently, however, there has been a spate of lay media articles shedding light on this very recent phenomenon (yeah right).

One that caught my attention was written by Jordan Weissmann an associate editor at The Atlantic who also writes for the Washington Post and the National Law Journal.  Although the title “The Ph.D Bust:America’s Awful Market for Young Scientists—in 7 Charts” was not particularly inspiring, it does contain some very interesting data (provided by the National Science Foundation); and as we scientists know the data are incontrovertible (unless fudged or applied to certain esoteric statistical analyses).

Here are the highlights (unfortunately, lowlights for many of you).

First, the big picture view: employment opportunities for all American PhDs including those graduating from humanities, science, education, and other programs.

The pattern reaching back to 2001 is clear — fewer jobs, more unemployment, and more persons doing post-doc work — especially in the sciences.

Second, let’s take a look at employment rates for life scientists (including biologists, chemists, biomedical engineers etc) upon completion of their graduate training.

Since 1991 the number of PhD scientists who choose to engage in postdoctoral training has hovered around 45% (it just seems like the number should be higher).  Interestingly, the number of PhD scientists who were able to secure jobs at the completion of their training (without doing a postdoc) has dropped from a high of almost 30% in 2006 to roughly 19% in 2011. However, the most telling statistic is that the number of PhD scientists who are unable to find employment after receiving their degrees has skyrocketed from 27% in 2006 to almost 40% in 2011.  These data clearly indicate that there were many fewer job opportunities for PhD life scientists over the past five years.  Yep, I started talking about the life sciences PhD glut five years ago.

Finally, Georgia State University Professor Paula Stephan has broken down NSF data on biology Ph.D.’s five or six years after receiving their degrees.

As many of you may have heard, less than 1 in 6 are in tenure track academic positions. What is must troubling, however, is how low the overall employment rates were for most PhD trained scientists as far back as 2006 (before the recession began and US pharmaceutical companies began laying off hundreds of thousands of employees!)

The Bottom Line: There is a glut of PhD-trained life scientists (duh) and we do not need to mint anymore PhDs: there simply aren’t enough jobs. And supply side economics suggests that the only way to make PhD life scientists more valuable to prospective employers is to reduce their overall number.  Sorry guys, the data do not lie!

Until next time…

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

Fixing the Disconnect Between Academia and Industrial Life Science Jobs

Posted in BioJobBuzz, Uncategorized

Dave Jensen’s article in a recent edition of Science Careers entitled “Tooling Up: The Big Disconnect” aptly and cogently pointed out why it has become increasingly difficult for academically-trained PhD life scientists to find jobs in the life sciences industry.

Dave is spot on in his assertion that most life science hiring managers engage in what he terms “pinpoint hiring”— a practice in which employees are hired based on their extant skill sets rather than long term scientific potential and possible contribution to the success of a company.  In the good old days before globalization, companies would frequently hire the “best and the brightest”, train them and take the long view that well trained employees will ultimately benefit and add value to their organization.  Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Today’s mantra is “what can you do for me today because there may not be a tomorrow.”

As Dave rightly points out, graduate students and postdocs are simply not being trained to meet the needs and demands of most life science companies.  An essential ingredient that is missing from current training paradigms is a fundamental understanding of the life sciences industry and how it works. Put simply, students who lack a basic understanding of the pharmaceutical/biotechnology drug development processes will find it increasingly difficult to land an industrial job; regardless of the number of Cell, Science and Nature papers or where you may have received your graduate or postdoctoral training.

In his article, Dave asserts that determining (as early a possible) that an industrial career is right for you may be your ticket to success. Unfortunately, while conducting informational interviews and landing a competitive unpaid company internship may be helpful, only small numbers of graduate students and postdocs have the flexibility or access to these activities.  More importantly, most academic researchers engage in basic rather than applied research (which is what life sciences companies are looking for). Consequently, while many students view industry jobs as possible employment opportunities, there simply may not be enough PI or mentors who can help to acquire the applied skill sets demanded by most life sciences hiring managers.

By now, many of you may be thinking: okay we know about the problems how about some practical solutions. So, here goes:

First, there are many online biotechnology courses and certificate-earning biotechnology/pharmaceutical/regulatory affairs course at local community colleges that graduate students and postdocs can take. Yes, I know that you are extremely busy and working 80 hours plus in the lab, but it is your career and nobody else can do if for you. These courses will provide graduate students and postdoc interested in industrial careers with a basic understanding of how the life sciences industry functions. Also, these courses can provide a rich lexicon of industrial jargon—when correctly used in a face-to-face job interview — can make a difference between a job offer or not.

Second, graduate students and postdocs can work together to organize career development symposium, seminars and workshops to obtain a better understanding of the requisite skill sets and training required to improve their competitiveness for industrial jobs.

Third, there are a number of PhD programs that now offer joint degrees in science, business and other disciplines. Choosing to enroll in these programs rather than traditional graduate life sciences programs may be an option for students who already know that an industrial rather than an academic career path is right for them.

Finally, organize and then talk college administration to demand that changes be made to existing graduate training paradigms to improve job preparedness. To that end, it would not be unreasonable to request that alternate career training courses (regulatory affairs, medical writing, project management etc be) be offered to all graduate students and postdocs who may be interested. Also, it may be appropriate (depending upon geographical location of an institution) to request that formal industry-focused company internships are established to allow interested and qualified graduate students and postdocs to participate. And, last, request that all faculty members be required to engage in career development counseling to help them to better understand the job market realities that their graduate students and post docs are currently facing.  While this may sound like an odd request, it is important to remember that tenured professors are guaranteed a “job for life.” Consequently, most of them are not particularly concerned about whether or not their PhD students or postdocs find gainful employment after they leave their laboratories. Sadly, many of them (and perhaps rightly so) believe that finding a job is not their problem but yours!

Until next time…

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



ChinaInsider: American and Chinese Views on China’s Emerging Life Sciences Industry

Posted in Uncategorized

This is an inaugural post of the ChinaInsider, an independent news service that provides commentary from an American (me) and Chinese (a scientist living in China) on life sciences issues, trends and happenings in China. Ultimately, ChinaInsider will be housed at BioCrowd, an online networking site for bioprofessionals.

In the News: Tainted Chinese Capsules

Despite big pharma’s continuing expansion intoChina, serious questions still exist about Chinese drug quality and supply chain integrity. Late last week, Xinhuanet.com reported that 12.7 percent of Chinese capsule makers (ca. 254) were producing unsafe gelatin capsules that were contaminated with excessive levels of chromium (6+) a known carcinogen that is toxic if ingested in large amounts.

The State Food and Drug Administration (Chinese FDA equivalent) identified manufacturers of the tainted capsules, issued recalls and ordered that products made with the contaminated capsules destroyed. To that end, local authorities ordered 42 capsule makers to cease operations, revoked seven manufacturing licenses and reported 13 companies to the police for prosecution.

The source of the chromium contamination was traced to the use of industrial gelatin (derived leather scraps) rather than edible gelatin which is made from bovine and porcine skin, connective tissue and bones. In 2005, the Chinese Ministry of Health banned the use of leather scraps to produce gelatin used in pharmaceutical and food products because of high chromium content.

It is unclear whether the tainted capsules were used for local consumption or whether the capsules were exported fromChinafor use in foreign markets.

China View

Fact Check:

1. Reports about tainted capsules first surfaced in China almost two months ago

2. First reports about tainted capsules were issued by academic research institute testing results; SFDA later intervened

3. There are only 117 registered medical grade capsule manufacturers in China

4. Annual output of the 117 registered manufacturers is 200 billion per year; the internal Chinese medical capsule demand is 100 billion per year

5. Substituting industrial gelatin (extracted from leather scraps) for edible gelatin can save capsule manufacturers 0.1 RMB per 10 capsules which can save capsule manufacturers millions and allow them to be very cost competitive

6. Chromium (6+)-contaminated medical capsules were also reported in China in 2004. After three months of investigation, it was determined that high levels of chromium (6+) found in medical grade capsule could only result when industrial gelatin is substituted for edible gelatin

American View

This incident, coupled with the heparin scandal of several years ago, suggests thatChinahas a long way to go before it can guarantee drug quality that meets Western standards. Until this is accomplished, the Chinese pharmaceutical and biomanufacturing industries will contain to struggle to gain global recognition.

While SFDA claims to have tightened regulations to better insure drug quality and improve supply chain integrity, it is apparent that regulatory oversight of local manufacturing plants has been lacking.

Finally, it may be prudent for pharmaceutical companies that import medical grade capsules fromChinato consider implementing chromium batch testing (for chromium 6+) even though this testing is not mandated in US or Japanese compendial methods.

The Bottom Line

It is likely that Chinese chromium-contaminated capsules were exported out ofChinaand where they wound up is anyone’s guess.

iCredibility Scoreboard

We will be happy to supply you with a list of Chinese pharmaceutical companies implicated in the capsule incident. Please provide us with your e-mail in the comments section of the blog.



How Not To Use LinkedIn to Find a Job

Posted in Uncategorized

There is no question that LinkedIn has revolutionized the way in which professional can interact with and network with one another online. In the beginning, LinkedIn was new, fresh and exciting! Sadly, LinkedIn’s usefulness as a networking and job seeking tool is waning as much of the material posted in LinkedIn Groups (the best vehicle to look for jobs) is spam and ads by recruiting searching for qualified job applicants.

Despite its shortcomings, most employers allow their employees to post profiles on LinkedIn and permit them to visit the site during working hours. And, because of this, LinkedIn still has value as a job hunting platform. However, over the past several months I have noticed several troubling trends among jobseekers who are using LinkedIn to search for new career opportunities. To that point, I compiled a short list of things NOT TO DO when using LinkedIn to search for jobs.

Incomplete Personal Profiles
Like it or not, LinkedIn profiles are essentially electronic resumes. Not fully completing your LinkedIn profile is tantamount to providing a hiring manager with an incomplete and poorly prepared resume of CV. And, as most experienced jobseekers will tell you; this is the kiss of death. Also, many LinkedIn profiles do not contain personal photos. This is also a mistake. Prospective employers want to see whether or not potential candidates are professional-looking and are attentive to personal grooming. While posting an icon rather than a personal photo is OK, I highly recommend that serious jobseekers post a professional photo (not one that contains your pet or children).

Responding to Job Listings
There are many job listings and messages from recruiters on LinkedIn looking for qualified job applicants. I frequently see persons publicly responding to these ads and queries with “I am very interested; please check out my LinkedIn profile.” I am not sure what these people are thinking but do they really think that they are special enough for a hiring managers or recruiters (who screen thousands of applicants daily) to take time out from their busy schedules to look at their LinkedIn profiles? Also, publicly responding to a job ad is inappropriate. These responses should be private and not for everyone to see.

Publicly Listing Availability on LinkedIn
If you are unemployed or a recent graduate looking for a job, it is perfectly acceptable to post to LinkedIn that you are looking for a job. However, I seriously question the wisdom of persons who are currently employed and post that they are looking for new opportunities or publicly respond to posted job ads. Allowing your current employer to learn that you are not happy at your current job and actively looking for a new one is a good way to get yourself fired! If you are seriously considering moving on, I suggest that you privately respond to potential new job opportunities. The best way to do this is to send the person who advertised the job a LinkedIn note and ask that more information about the opportunity be sent to a personal e-mail address. It is important to remember that LinkedIn, like Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are searchable and anything posted to the networks can be found by performing a simple Google Search

Spamming and Inappropriate Remarks
Constantly posting the same messages, queries or “I am looking for a job” to LinkedIn groups is annoying, unprofessional and simply too spammy! This shows others that you are 1) inconsiderate, 2) self-focused and 3) desperate. And to be blunt, none of these characteristics will help you land a job! Further, you lose credibility and people tend to ignore your posts!

Also, do not post inappropriate remarks, express your true feelings or get into arguments with person on LinkedIn. Again, comments on LinkedIn are permanent and can and will be found by prospective employers and hiring managers if they look hard enough. To that point, while you may think that this is not going on in today’s extremely tough and competitive job market, then you are ill-informed and out-of-touch with today’s hiring practices.

I am sure that I have not identified all of the inappropriate behaviors that can be found on LinkedIn. Those of you, who want to add to my list, please do!

Until next time….

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

I’m Back

Posted in Uncategorized

As some of you may know, some domain squatters snatched the www.biojobblog.com domain via a series of mistakes made by GoDaddy.com and me. Because of this BioJobBlog can now be viewed @ www.biojobblog.net (please redirect your browsers to the new URL and tell all your friends too).

Also, you may have noticed that BioJobBlog has been slightly redesigned and is now running on Word Press software. Please bear with me as I learn how to use the new platform. Further, there is a new commenting platform (Disqus). Please use the platform to post your comments and let me know if you like it!

Finally, on a personal note, things have gotten hectic and I do not have as much time to blog as much as I have in the past. That said, a lot has gone on in the three months that BioJobBlog has been offline. I will do my best to bring BioJobBlog readers up to date with career opportunities and goings-on in the life sciences industry!

Until next time…

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

Podcast Alert: BioCrowd Founder Talks about Using Recruiters to Find Jobs in the Life Sciences Industry

Posted in Uncategorized

Have you ever received a call from a “head hunter” who suggests that they might be able to assist you in your job search? Can professional recruiters actually help you find a job? Finally, have you ever wondered what’s in it for the recruiter if they don’t charge jobseekers a fee to help them with their job searches?

If you are curious about these and other questions, please listen to a podcast  of BioCrowd founder Cliff Mintz’s interview with Romi Kher, the host of Cornell University’s 10GoodMinutes ,a talk show that provides career advice for young professionals.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!

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BioCrowd Podcast: Web 2.0 and the Future of Medicine

Posted in Uncategorized

We were able to entice Berci Mesko —a Hungarian medical student who writes at ScienceRoll and is founder of Webicina —to chat with us about the transection of Web 2.0, science and medicine.

Berci, who only sleeps four hours each night, is a medical section editor at Wikipedia, runs courses in Second Life (and real life at his medical school) and can frequently be found on Twitter enlightening his followers on topics ranging from personalized RSS feeds for physicians to the latest breakthroughs in medical genetics. While this ought to be enough for most people, Berci told us that he always wanted to be a scientist and— to realize this dream— will be entering a PhD program next fall. He is a very bright, energetic and engaging fellow whose understanding of the relationships between physicians and patients are insightful and instructive.

Have a listen and also check out BioCrowd!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Listening!!!


BioCrowd Founders Talk About Why They Created a Network for Bioprofessionals

Posted in Uncategorized

For those of you who want to learn about  why Vincent and I created BioCrowd, listen to our very first podcast!   Anybody who is interested in doing a podcast for BioCrowd, please send us a note along with your ideas and when you might be available for recording the session.

Hope to see you at the Bcrowd!


Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Listening