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Science in a Corporate Environment

BY BRUCE ALTROCK
V.P. FOR BIOLOGY AND BIOCHEMISTRY, AMGEN UNITED STATES

2 OCTOBER 1995

Excellence in training and proficiency in a chosen field are essential elements for success. A successful career path in science may lead to many and varied opportunities in universities, national laboratories, or industry. My comments in this regard are directed primarily to industry, specifically the biotechnology industry.

The qualifications frequently used to evaluate candidates for career opportunities in biotechnology closely parallel those found in other sectors of the scientific community. Such common measures include quality of scientific training, demonstrated research creativity and focus, research accomplishments, and a sincere enthusiasm for science. Demonstration of the ability to develop critical, testable hypotheses and to design appropriate experiments in order to prove or disprove them is essential.

To elaborate further, the quality of an individual's scientific training is impacted by where and with whom a researcher receives training. Highly respected programs tend to produce more desired candidates. Creativity is evidenced by an ability to develop novel approaches to critical experimental questions and demonstration of the ability to draw unique and insightful conclusions. The focus of one's research should be aimed at resolving those critical questions or observations and should demonstrate one's ability to think through problems and find the most effective path to resolve the important issues. Scientific accomplishments and contributions may be measured by the quality and quantity of publications in appropriate peer-reviewed journals. Scientific credibility can be attested to by independent verification of the researcher's results. Enthusiasm in the research should be clearly evident. This is by no means an all-inclusive list of important factors; however, the development and demonstration of these strengths is important regardless of career setting in science.

Frequently, positive and productive synergy exists between industry and university or national laboratories. Industrial organizations bring a product focus to the industry-academic relationship that facilitates the discovery and commercialization of new therapeutics. This makes possible the practical utilization of novel research findings and provides a good basis for collaboration.

Regardless of career paths, scientists are constantly challenged with new developments and technologies whose full potential has yet to be realized. It is important in this field to maintain a sharp awareness of new events and scientific tools that could shape the future of research. Innovative and opportunistic approaches enable investigators to stay at the forefront of their field. Such developments often provide the investigator the ability to address previously unanswerable questions. Polymerase chain reaction technology, for example, has proven useful in a number of research settings and presently is key to accelerating the process of new gene identification in the Human Genome Project.

Individuals with good scientific training are in demand in a variety of industrial job settings. The discovery of novel product candidates relies on basic and applied research, while the subsequent development and commercialization of these compounds relies upon other parts of an organization including manufacturing, quality assurance, regulatory affairs, clinical development, and sales and marketing. Insight into the scientific basis of new therapeutic opportunities is important to all these activities, and all are critical to the process, particularly in the biotechnology industry.

In this respect, industrial science offers a wide range of career opportunities for individuals with good scientific training and an interest in different aspects of the discovery, development, and commercialization process. Such career opportunities entail personal commitment, good training, proper focus, and an interest in making a difference. As science and technology continue to accelerate rapidly, numerous opportunities are created, many of which did not exist a decade ago.

For more information on the biotechnology industry via the Internet, the Biotechnology Industry Organization is an excellent source of information available on-line. The URL is http://www.bio.com.