The rapid growth in immuno-oncology therapeutics is causing talent headaches for the pharma industry

Patients are already benefitting from pharma’s success in developing new immunotherapy-based cancer treatments. As a result, the surge of companies wanting to develop new drugs in this area, further driven by the benefits of new diagnostic technologies, is well recognised. While this should be wonderful news for even more cancer patients in the future, the rush to exploit this opportunity is causing an industry-wide talent shortage that will need new thinking to resolve.

The market is changing faster than people think

Nobody wants to miss out on finding the best candidate. So, when we’re briefed on filling new commercial immuno-oncology positions, the search criteria are usually very tight and, almost always uppermost in the minds of our clients, is that candidates must have experience in oncology marketing. It’s the key to the crown jewels as far as pharma and biotech companies are concerned. What do they really mean by this? Quite simply, they want access to KOLs plus experience of the many nuanced complexities of the oncology market for optimal positioning of new drugs and market access success. If you have these two things on your CV, you’re going to be receiving a lot of calls.

The result is that the number of positions to be filled is fast out-stripping supply. By stipulating such narrow criteria, we’re creating an ever-tightening market in which almost everyone working in immuno-oncology is being contacted every week about new employment opportunities. The problem is that there just aren’t enough people to go around and this is driving up costs and pushing down the number of genuine candidates (as well as just leaving people feeling as if they want to be left alone by recruiters).

Getting off the merry-go-round

There is often a solution to all of this and it involves some lateral thinking. First-of-all, slow down and be prepared to train people. There are a lot of highly talented people available with transferrable skills. We just need to open our minds and be prepared to take a little more time. We should also think about team diversity – not everyone needs to be a specialist and diverse teams are stronger teams. People who have worked in similar indications such as orphan drugs and rare diseases have the necessary skills for oncology. Be open to people who may not live in exactly the right location or who don’t meet some of the other criteria for the role. They have the talent, they just need to work alongside others to develop the expertise you’re looking for. This will help to keep down spiralling costs and bring people with new ways of doing things – new thinking, innovations and new experience. It could be just what you need.

Through our evidence-based method involving thorough due diligence and comparative profiling of candidates, The RSA Group is a valuable partner in your search for oncology and immuno-oncology talent.

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