Subscribe to Newsletter
Business & Regulation Business Practice, Trends & Forecasts

Sustaining the Biopharma Boom

Train and Retain

Talk to any manager in biopharmaceutical manufacturing and close to the top of their list of priorities is the ability to attract, develop and retain talent. The focus on talent is reflected in recent international industry surveys, which highlight a growing concern in finding the right engineers, scientists, operators, technicians and management to maintain the industry’s strong growth (1, 2). So how can we help address this?

Internationally, more students than ever before are attending third-level education – and life science degree programs continue to be popular options. And yet many students leave university with little knowledge about the biopharma industry, and the excellent careers within biopharma manufacturing.

On the other hand, biopharma hiring managers tend to have a strong preference for candidates with degree relevant qualifications, as well as several years of biopharma experience, which is always going to be a finite resource. To help foster more talent, there is a need to promote better awareness of the career opportunities within biopharma to the public at large. Ask people to name just two biopharma companies and many struggle to do so – many pupils and parents are simply unaware of the rewarding career opportunities within biopharma. And yet we have a great story to tell; just think of the life-changing medicines that have been developed and how rewarding this type of career is.

The industry also needs to develop and grow its existing staff. Internationally recognized continuous professional development (CPD) and qualifications are a feature of other professions. And though global CPD programs have been tried sporadically in the past within biopharma, now that the industry’s potential is fully established, perhaps it’s time to re-visit such programs.

When looking for talent, we also need to look outside of traditional sources of supply. Schools of chemical and biopharma engineering can only produce so many graduates a year – many of whom will be targeted for recruitment well before graduation by large companies with the resources to offer and promote graduate programs. But we don’t need to rely solely on degree students; there are rich veins of talent in other areas – those individuals with a vocational education background or from other industrial sectors may have many of the competencies required in biopharma manufacturing. For example, we’ve seen examples of tradesmen and workers from other sectors who, with appropriate cross training, go on to thrive in the biopharma manufacturing industry. Industry placements, internships and apprenticeships have a key role to play here (notwithstanding the logistical challenges of providing such placements).

A daring plan

In Ireland, the government decided that it was important to invest in biopharma after hearing about the growing importance of the industry at the start of the millennium. A tender process resulted in the decision to set up a national institute for bioprocessing research and training: NIBRT. Given the maturity of the sector at the time, this was a bold and brave decision – particularly as it involved an investment of 60 million euros – but the reasons were clear: the potential of biotech was recognized, as well as the need to establish a strong pipeline of talent.

NIBRT is a fully functional pilot manufacturing facility dedicated to training and research. Everything is done to GMP standard, but it gives people the opportunity to learn and to make mistakes. Industry send their staff to NIBRT for customized training programs and students from higher education institutes come here to get hands-on manufacturing experience. But NIBRT isn’t just an institute to benefit Ireland – we also have a strong focus on international training and more than thirty percent of our trainees come from overseas.

NIBRT opened its doors exactly five years ago – in June 2011 – and  we’ve been delighted with the success since then (training approximately 4,000 people each year). The industry continues to grow rapidly and it is very rewarding to be involved in developing the talent that will help the industry thrive.

Finger on the Biopharma Pulse
With John Milne, Bioprocessing Training Director at NIBRT

Believe in Bioinformatics
With Colin Clarke, Principal Investigator at NIBRT

Know Your Process, Know Your Product
With Jonathan Bones, Principal Investigator at NIBRT

Receive content, products, events as well as relevant industry updates from The Medicine Maker and its sponsors.
Stay up to date with our other newsletters and sponsors information, tailored specifically to the fields you are interested in

When you click “Subscribe” we will email you a link, which you must click to verify the email address above and activate your subscription. If you do not receive this email, please contact us at [email protected].
If you wish to unsubscribe, you can update your preferences at any point.

  1. BioPlan Associates, “Report and Survey of Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Capacity and Production,” (2015). Available at: Accessed June 20, 2016.
  2. Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, “Bridging the skills gap in the biopharmaceutical industry,” (2015). Available at Accessed June 20, 2016.
Register to The Medicine Maker

Register to access our FREE online portfolio, request the magazine in print and manage your preferences.

You will benefit from:
  • Unlimited access to ALL articles
  • News, interviews & opinions from leading industry experts
  • Receive print (and PDF) copies of The Medicine Maker magazine