The constant stream of job cuts at large drugmakers is making Signum Biosciences’ search for new employees easier.
"It gives us leverage in terms of negotiating salary,” Maxwell Stock, the biopharma's president and chief operating officer, tells NJBiz. “If there’s a perception from a potential employee that things are tough (in the job market), the person will tend not to want to negotiate as hard as if the opposite was true. There’s also a wider range of talent out there.”
Indeed, as big drugmakers continue to trim jobs, smaller biopharmaceutical makers and specialty pharma are benefiting from the downsizing, according to David Poling, director of state business operations at Aerotek, a staffing firm.
"It’s a great time for smaller drug companies to strike, in terms of the improving talent pool. It’s usually harder for them to pick up the clinical trial associates, the regulatory affairs managers and the drug safety people they need when the job market is hot," he tells the mag.
Signum Biosciences plans to hire "four senior-level researchers over the next three or four months,” according to Stock. The company has 28 employees and developing meds and consumer products for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, asthma and skin conditions.
“If I’m a biopharma or specialty pharma company right now, I’m excited because I’ve got more employee prospects, and the ability to find (licensing or development) partners with deeper pockets,” Michael Steiner, head of the pharma group at RegentAtlantic Capital, a wealth management firm, tells NJBiz.
But Steiner, whose clients include executives from Merck, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson, says employees at the bigger drugmakers are “definitely nervous. They’re looking for reassurance of their financial security. They’re taking stock of their entire financial foundation.”
At the same time, there are "tons of opportunities as contractors with companies that provide support services to drugmakers,” he says. "They’re looking to outsource manufacturing, research and development. There’s been a proliferation of CROs,” or contract research organizations, picking up business.
In general, drugmakers like outsourcing because there could be “a lot of down time between projects,” Steiner says. “You might pay more in the short term (for temporary workers), but you don’t have the overhead costs of permanent workers.”
Stock says competition remains keen for highly specialized people. But smaller firms have an ace up their sleeve. "If you get 10,000 stock options at a strike price of $1, and the (privately held) company goes public at $10, your stock is now worth $100,000. That’s not likely to happen at a big pharma company.”