Why is it so difficult to recruit into Cell and Gene Therapy?

Less than 50 years ago cell & gene therapy was the stuff of science fiction. 

All of that changed in 1990 when a 4-year-old girl suffering from an incurable gene-based immune deficiency was the first patient in the first human gene therapy trial.

The success of her treatment resulted in the birth of a vast new field in the pharmaceutical industry: Cell & Gene therapy. Today, 5 diseases are treated with cell, and gene therapy and nearly 300 other treatments are in development. 

So, the market has grown at a tremendous rate since that first clinical trial, in fact, it is expected to be worth $5.5 Billion by 2026. Given this huge growth, one would expect that there is an abundance of experienced candidates ready to carry out the essential clinical research needed to bring these treatments to market.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. 

I work closely with several companies looking for Gene Therapy experts in therapy areas such as Oncology, Rare Diseases, CNS and Cardiovascular and it’s clear to me these candidates are in high demand but very low supply… 

Why is that? I hear you ask. Here are the key reasons companies are struggling to source these candidates:

  1. Company Competition

Many of the businesses that work within Cell and Gene Therapy are Large Pharmaceutical companies who have a strong brand & reputation within the industry. Often this means that smaller companies miss out on the top talent because they’re competing with huge internal recruitment teams who have an ‘employer brand’ and a lot of money to advertise for these positions.  

This problem is exacerbated by the rate the market is growing, so there is an increasingly small pool of candidates with this expertise - which poses a very real threat to future hiring and the success of Cell & Gene therapy clinical trials. The FDA has recently voiced their concerns on this matter, stating that they “won't be able to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of experts in fields that have undergone rapid scientific advances, such as cell and gene therapy or oncology.”

  1. Academic or Industry Experts? 

From my experience recruiting in this area, I know that the vast majority of candidates who chose a career in Cell & Gene therapy are incredibly passionate about it. They’re engaged, have a strong interest in the field and are often educated to a higher level or have worked within academic research for much longer than many of their counterparts in the industry. 

Of course, this is just my observation. However, it explains why headhunting from similar Pharmaceutical companies or CRO’s often fails because the ideal candidate will have a very different background to what is considered ‘standard' in the Clinical Research sector.

  1. Niche Experience

Within the Clinical Research sector, Cell & Gene therapy is still a relatively new field. As the sector is still developing, there are a number of additional costs associated with both the research itself and the cost of hiring, particularly as the skillset is so niche. This means that until recently, only the most heavily financed companies were researching this area. However, as the popularity of Cell & Gene therapy gathers steam, the make-up of the market is continually changing. 

How can we support this? 

Over the last few years, Meet have worked with several Biotechnology companies and Small CRO’s recruiting for projects in Cell and Gene Therapy, through this work we have slowly built a great network of candidates who specialise in this field. These are candidates unavailable through your normal recruitment methods, but that’s our job - to find the business-critical hires that make Cell & Gene therapy clinical trials as successful as they can be. 

Get in touch with shiksha@peoplewithchemistry.com for more information. 

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