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  • Date posted:17/10/2022
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With Richard Dane

There’s a tug-of-war for talent between smaller Biotech and larger BioPharma organisations. In the past couple of years, Biotech has been collecting the top tier of people jumping over from large BioPharma. But over the last 12 months things are changing…

“It’s a combination of the smaller companies hiring less, and bigger companies snapping up those people because they’ve been in a more stable position.”

We’re looking at what factors affect who’s getting talent, why, and what you can focus on for improved hiring power.

  • Stability & Funding
  • Compensation
  • Role Scope & Responsibility
  • Flexibility & Work-Life Balance
  • Tips for Hiring

Stability & Funding

When the economy is stable and growing, people are happy to take risks. If a job doesn’t work out, there’s another opportunity they can rely on. But in uncertain times? People want stability.

“There’s a bit of a battle, excitement vs stability.”

Job security is one of the largest differences between Biotech and BioPharma, and exactly why more people are now flocking to larger businesses with more secure jobs.

So why is this happening?

On one hand, small Biotech’s are more reliant on outside funding. This reliance means they’ve got less financial power to start with, and shorter runways. Ultimately, if their projects are unsuccessful, they might have to close their doors within a few years. In that case, employees would have to re-enter the job market — a particularly risky situation with the current state of world affairs.

On the other, the big BioPharma corporations have already got products on the market. These products are constantly generating revenue, and there are more in the pipeline. Essentially, the cost of failure is a lot lower, and these businesses are likely to stick around for a long time.


Job security isn’t the only reason that new talent is flocking to larger BioPharma companies. In fact, since these companies have a larger revenue, they’re able to pay their employees more and offer better benefits.

“What would you prefer? A solid paycheck & benefits from a company that’s not going anywhere, or a smaller base salary with potentially huge equity upside.”

For example, if a BioPharma business has multiple offices spread globally, this may provide workers with the opportunity to travel and work abroad. Some may consider this an invaluable experience, so if it’s possible to offer relocation, you may wish to give it some serious thought.

In the short-term, working for a smaller Biotech can be less financially viable, since base salaries are typically smaller (although not always!). Despite this, it’s worth remembering that you may be eligible for significant equity awards — if the business is successful, this can result in a much larger pay-out.

Role Scope & Responsibility

Choosing a workplace isn’t just about time and money; the workload and responsibilities also need to be considered. For example, where bigger companies offer more focused job roles, smaller businesses allow more variety in your day-to-day.

“In a smaller company, you have more exposure to other areas of the business. You’ll see more and be more involved in strategic decisions.”

From a career progression standpoint, BioPharma can be very enticing. They have more potential for growth, and a larger pool of people to learn from. This opportunity for skill development and networking is invaluable to people new to the Life Sciences.

As careers develop, however, priorities change. An individual may want greater variety in their role, or a broader range of responsibilities. These goals are much easier to achieve in Biotech firms, since the number of employees is generally a lot smaller, and departments less siloed.

Due to this, what you tend to see is new graduates and fresh talent building their careers in BioPharma, and then switching over to Biotech once they’re more established.

Flexibility & Work-Life Balance

While big BioPharma is pulling ahead in terms of financial compensation, they’re falling behind regarding flexibility.

“I speak to a lot of people who say, ‘I really like my job. I’m happy. But they’re making me come to the office four times a week now, and I don’t need to.’”

The pandemic forced people to work remotely wherever possible, now that things are returning to normal, larger BioPharma organisations want their people back in the office. This ‘traditional’ line of thinking is alienating some of the best talent businesses have access to.

Many people have realised they don’t need to constantly be in the office to get the job done, so returning to it can feel archaic and old-fashioned.

Biotech’s, however, are racing ahead. Perhaps due to their smaller size, they’re offering more flexibility, allowing people to find their individual work-life balance. This is more attractive, especially to those who’ve established their careers and want to spend time with family.

Of course, Pharma jobs do tend to be more regular. The shorter runway for Biotech companies means that projects are almost always rushed, leading to longer working hours and less personal time.

Tips for Hiring

In order to improve the chances of hiring the best talent possible, businesses must play to their strengths. That means being vocal about what they can offer and minimising any potential barriers. Consider what’s important to your business, and why a prospective employee should care.

Here are a few ideas on what Biotech and BioPharma businesses can do to maximise their options.


As a Biotech, you don’t have the same fiscal power as a BioPharma business. Instead, your strengths lie in your work flexibility and role scope.

By making the actual workday as enticing as possible, you’re more likely to attract higher calibre applicants. These applicants will be more passionate about the work and should produce better results.


BioPharma companies can offer a whole host of benefits to attract a range of talent, from new to experienced. To stand out from other BioPharma corporations, you want to make your benefits packages as unique as possible.

Integrating flexible working can also help you attract some top talent, since this can make working for your company much more desirable.

Connect with Richard

Richard Dane, FDI’s Biotech Practice Leader, has some great insights into the Biologics industry. Whether you’re in search of the next step for your career, or his thoughts on the latest Biotech topics, go check out his LinkedIn.

While you’re there, why not give him a follow too?

Don’t forget to check out Lift Up: Women in Life Sciences!