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Hiring Trends in Gene-Therapy and Gene-Editing Startups

Date: 10 September 2018

Gene therapy is hot right now.

The human genome was sequenced in 2003 for $2.7 billion USD.  In 2018, it costs less than $1,000 to sequence a human genome and this cost is expected to decrease to less than $100 in the near future.  

Welcome to the future of precision medicine.

According to the National Institutes of Health, precision medicine is treatment “that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person."  

In a few short years, we’ve progressed from measuring the genome to identifying single-gene disorders, to the precision treatment of those disorders.  

Gene-editing/Gene-therapy in precision medicine

Gene-therapy and gene-editing are experimental therapies being tested for diseases with genetic sources, and poor alternatives for treatment.

  • Gene therapy is when a genetic condition is treated by inserting a gene into a patient’s cells. This could inactivate a mutated gene, replace it with a healthy version, or introduce a new gene that helps fight disease.
  • Gene editing is when a gene therapy inserts, deletes, or replaces DNA/RNA at a specific site in the genome using engineered nucleases or “molecular scissors”.
  • CRISPR is a type of fast, accurate, molecular scissors using a bacterial defense system enzyme called “Cas9”.

Clinical trials have shown strong evidence of efficacy for gene therapies in some genetic disorders such as hemophilia and Parkinson’s disease.  

Companies like Beam Therapeutics, Editas Medicine, and Crispr Therapeutics are leading the charge to translate CRISPR therapies into commercial markets. They offer therapies as precise as “base editors” — excising single-letters in DNA and RNA base pairs.

So how does this exploding gene-therapy/gene-editing landscape affect Life Sciences recruiting?

The challenge for pharma & biotech

It’s one thing to be good at the science, it’s another to understand the market.

Jonathan Kimmelman is a biomedical ethicist from McGill University.  His book titled  Gene Transfer and the Ethics of First-in-Human Trials: Lost in Translation was published in 2010 and explored the ethical and policy issues presented by gene therapy.  

We asked him to address the issues faced by up-and-coming biotech startups seeking to commercialize their products in pharma. He addressed two key challenges the gene-therapy/gene-editing industry is facing: cost and sustainability.

“For a small set of disorders gene therapy may—over the next ten years— become part of the standard toolbox," explains Jonathan. “The big challenge for the industry from my standpoint as an ethicist is to find a way to make these breakthroughs accessible to people who need them.”

This means recruiting gene-therapy/gene-editing experts who have competencies at translating their therapies to a wider audience.  

So what does this look like? 

“People who are looking to score not short-term victories but long-term victories,” Jonathan states succinctly.  “Gene therapy experts with a certain amount of humility about what they're trying to do. They need to recognize how immense the challenges are. People who recognize that drugs are only useful if people who can access them and really understand the patient experience of the disease.”  

This is a difficult scientific topic. It’s a rarity to find a scientist with the niche competency to be conversant in gene-editing/gene-therapy and the ability to understand the societal and financial implications of their work.

Yet that is exactly the kind of person biotech companies need to be recruiting.

What does this mean for recruitment?

A good Life Sciences recruiter can take your team to the next level because they have the connections to chart up-and-coming, real-word analytical talent outside of formal markers of knowledge.

Operating as part of the Phaidon International group, EPM Scientific is a specialist staffing agency, wholly focused on permanent & freelance recruitment within the life sciences sector.

We are designed to enhance the connection between enterprise project management and recruitment services in complex drug & device development endeavors.

We place a heavy emphasis on quality. Our recruitment staff are specialists with an in-depth understanding of the market. We work with pharma, biotech, medical device, and CRO to provide candidates with unique competencies, including but not limited to:  

  • Regulatory Affairs
  • Research & Development
  • Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, Statistics, SAS programmers, Clinical Data Management
  • Clinical Operations
  • Clinical Development
  • Quality: Quality Assurance, Quality Control, Manufacturing, Process development

The right candidate for the right team takes skill and timing.  If you’re a hiring manager in pharma or biotech looking to extend your team with gene-therapy/gene-editing capacities, or you’re a consultant with this expertise wishing to move into industry, we are happy to help you find the right fit.  Please feel free to reach out directly at jae.yoo@epmscientific.com