Bridging the Supply and Demand Gap in Biotech AI
The demand for Bioinformaticians with AI experience has seen a huge increase over recent years. In a market where traditionally, the combination of computational and biological knowledge is required (most likely accompanied with a PhD in a related field), how are we able to bridge the gap between supply and demand at the speed required? With an increasing number of TechBio starts ups appearing all across the UK and computational methods being more heavily adopted by Biotech
s and Big Pharma alike, demand for advanced data analytics in genomics research and personalized medicine continues to grow, which leads to the question - Are we heading toward to real talent shortage?
If this on the horizon, what solutions are out there?
Over the last 12 months there has been a mass exodus from Big Tech. Tens of thousands of people have sadly been let go after many tech companies recentred business plans, cut costs and slimed down teams after the post covid tech boom. Within those teams there were lots of talented, skilled and technically sound Data Scientists and Data Engineers. While they perhaps wouldn’t fit the criteria listed on a typical Biotech Data Scientist job spec, would they have the fundamental capabilities to join the sector? I suspect they would. If you take the example of @Isomorphic Laboratories borrowing talent from their sister company @DeepMind, it seems that this could be possible. While both companies come from the Alphabet family who were AI first, before branching into Biotech, this tells us that they are approaching building teams with a skills first attitude and opening the doors to new talent.
Individuals from Tech firms can bring a wealth of knowledge within Machine Learning, NPL, Deep Learning, data analysis, data visualisation and general algorithmic development. These are some of the key skills that are being requested by the Biotech sector.
Having worked across my career with candidates in both the Tech and Biotech sectors, I believe the unique perspective and experience of Data Scientists from the Tech sector can inspire novel approaches to solve complex challenges within Biotech research. The application of their knowledge could then lead to new breakthroughs in data interpretation, diagnostics, drug discovery and personalised medicine.
While there may be a hesitance to bring talent from outside the Life Science industry, given their lack of sector specific knowledge, what additional skills might they bring to the table?
A challenge that faces a lot of my AI powered Biotech clients is data engineering. Getting data pipelines in order, data governance sorted and building strong foundations for AI is an essential part of the AI journey. Many Data Scientists I speak to start exciting new positions but are laboured with a lot of data engineering before they can get to what they were hired to do. Yes, of course it comes with the territory but to save new team members making a rather underwhelming start to their exciting new role, could we look at those from the Tech industry who may be more inclined to do this element of the job without a strict requirement for any background in Biotechnology?
This additional talent pool is not only very talented but also available. Of course, there may be challenges around financial expectations, they may be used to swanky offices with ping pong tables and bean bags, but there will be those out there who will be attracted to the purpose and patient centricity of the Life Science industry over the money and Tech perks.
This seems to be a topic that others are keen to get behind. The BIA who are a collaborator with RBW Consulting and innovator in the sector are launching their Big Impact campaign to encourage talent with digital skills to start a career in biotech. Follow the link below and #BIGIMPACT across social media to find out more about their work.
If you’d like to share your thoughts or have any input into this perspective I’m open to a chat. As someone who was a victim of the Big Tech cull who’s moved into the Biotech industry recently, I’m always open to learning more.
Please get in touch on +44(0)191 6257 816 or drop me an email to Andrew.Poxton@RBWConsulting.com