Ride the healthcare wave
By Gauri Chhabra
Recently launched Ayushman Bharat scheme seems to be one of the most aspiring and pioneering steps in healthcare, not only in India but across the world. While commenting on the scheme Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers and Parliamentary Affairs, Ananth Kumar said that the scheme has the potential to “turn India into the largest pharma manufacturer of the world in about three years. There is no doubt that for successful implementation this scheme requires intervention in various spheres like management, delivery channels, healthcare investments etc. This step will undoubtedly, create a new spiral of jobs in pharmaceutical sciences that fringe on drug development, research, quality, clinical trials and management using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Emerging career options
Working for a pharmaceutical company is one of the more obvious options open to pharma graduates, but it also offers a huge variety of career paths. Particularly within global companies there are opportunities to explore new areas of expertise, develop strong business skills, and travel and work globally. You may be required to develop products as a Business Manager.
With Ayushman Bharat, the government needs to create a robust regulatory framework keeping in mind the interest of all stakeholders. This would increase scope of careers in Regulatory affairs. The work involves ensuring that a company and its products meet government regulations. A skilled Regulatory Affairs Officer can be the difference between an effective product reaching the market or not. Regulatory professionals are expected to know the ins and outs of the medical marketplace, and to understand how changing regulations will impact their industry. There is a growing need for qualified professionals who see regulatory oversight not as something that blocks progress but rather an opportunity to help bring more safe, affordable and efficient innovations to market.
Business development officer
With more and more pharma companies coming up with affordable drugs, the need for professionals to market these is going to peak. The best people for selling the benefits of a product are often those with the deepest understanding of how it works. For complex products developed and manufactured using pharmaceutical or chemical science, there is often a need for sales and marketing representatives able to talk with authority about the science behind the product.You can team up your degree in pharma sciences with an MBA to fit into this role.
Product development scientists work in a variety of industries, including food, biotechnology, pharmaceutical science, and medical device manufacturing. They are typically based in the lab, developing new foods, drugs, and medical technologies or researching and developing ways to enhance existing products. They typically possess a bachelor’s degree, but a PG degree may be required for advancement.
Medicinal chemistry is an inter-disciplinary science, drawing graduates from a range of different fields. A career in this area usually involves working on the development and testing of potentially therapeutic compounds. This might be within a company that is developing new products, for a research facility exploring new compounds, or at a regulatory agency testing pharmaceuticals for compliance. Medicinal Chemists can often find themselves working closely with Regulatory Affairs, both in the private and public sectors.
Pharmaceuticals are big business. It’s not all about research; to be successfully taken to market, new discoveries need to be commercialised and a company’s intellectual property has to be protected. That’s where a patent attorney comes in. In the pharmaceutical sector, they will often come from a pharmaceutical sciences background. A patent attorney will, typically, work for a specialist consultancy, advising a range of clients within their field of specialisation.
Medical science liaison
The Medical Science Liaison (MSL) is a specific role within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and other health-care industries. An MSL typically has advanced scientific and academic credentials, including a doctorate degree in life sciences. A medical science liaison usually concentrates on a specific therapeutic area, such as Oncology or Hematology, and works for a company developing pharmaceutical products for that therapeutic area.
Their primary purpose is to establish and maintain peer-to-peer relationships with leading physicians and opinion leaders at major academic institutions and clinics. They help ensure that products are utilised effectively and serve as resources for both the medical community and their internal colleagues.
For graduates with a desire to work in the the field of social advancement, one career path is to work with an International Non-Governmental Organisation (INGO), like the World Health Organisation (WHO). With a goal to build a better, healthier future for people all over the world, WHO staff work side by side with governments and other partners to ensure the highest attainable level of health for all people. As a Medicines Adviser, a pharmaceutical science graduate is able to be part of an important humanitarian mission and play a part in improving lives around the world.
Completing any science-based degree requires you to learn how to write well about different scientific concepts and communicate your ideas and observations clearly. For some graduates, these skills can be the foundation of a career as a science writer.
Science writers research, write and edit scientific news, articles and features. If they work in the media, they can write for business, trade and professional publications, specialist scientific and technical journals, and the general media. If they work for non-media organisations, it is usually in a communications or marketing role, explaining scientific research to a professional or lay audience through articles, press releases and other written content.
Biomedical researchers investigate how the human body works with the aim of finding new ways to improve health. Usually based in a laboratory, you will conduct experiments and clinical tests and record and report on the findings. In general, biomedical researchers within a university will tend to focus on improving tools and techniques, studying healthy biological processes and the causes and progress of diseases. It can be an extremely rewarding career path to follow, as the discoveries that you contribute can have a measurable and lasting impact on society.
In addition to research labs within universities, a pharmaceutical science qualification can also lead to a career in biochemical research within the private sector. This path would often take a graduate into the pharmaceutical industry, where their research focus would be on generating and evaluating possible treatments for diseases and medical conditions.One of the biggest advantages to a private sector research role is the resources available. Private sector labs are usually developing high value products that generate considerable income for the company. This means they can invest in state of the art facilities and equipment for their employees.
Due to the commercial nature of the job, private sector biomedical researchers don’t always enjoy the same autonomy as their academic counterparts.
The road ahead
With Ayushmaan Bharat, the future of pharmaceutical sciences is very positive. While the scheme would initially cover 10 crore poor families as per the socio-economic census of 2011, it will in the coming days also benefit the lower middle-class, middle-class and upper-middle class by way of jobs in the medical sector as new hospitals will open in Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. The number of beneficiaries of the scheme would be almost equal to the combined population of USA, Mexico and Canada or of the European Union.
Thus, if you wish to explore this once-in-a-lifetime tectonic shift, tune in to a career in pharmaceutical sciences.
The three As of Ayushman Bharat also hinge heavily on quality. The whole idea is to make healthcare affordable to the masses with no compromise on quality. This necessitates a systems-based career, often focused on designing, implementing and managing new systems for the manufacturing process. And it can be an extremely satisfying. By ensuring the quality of the products being produced, you are making an important contribution to your employer’s reputation and commercial success. With the continual development of superfoods, non-animal protein alternatives, dietary supplements and new therapeutic remedies, and the rise of new regulatory systems to cope.
Clinical research associates
Any new pharma product needs to go through clinical trials to ensure its safety and efficacy. As a Clinical Research Associate, you will use your experience in running experiments, gathering data and documenting the results during clinical trials. The typical employers for this role include Clinical Research Organisations (“CROs”), pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies or, less frequently, hospitals and universities. However there are many more responsibilities. For example, every trial is overseen by an ethics committee that ensures it is conducted in an ethical manner. A clinical research associate will need to liaise with this committee and keep them informed of how the trial is progressing. Depending on the trial, there can also be a high level of contact with trial participants, so good interpersonal communication skills can be valuable.
Scope for new skills
Careers in the pharmaceutical sciences till now required a strong interest in mathematics, biology, and the scientific process with a sharp focus on a specific phase of the drug-development cycle — research, testing, or manufacturing. With Ayushman Bharat, healthcare system will focus increasingly on the availability, authenticity and affordability of drugs without compromising on quality. Therefore, a candidate wishing to pursue pharma sciences would also need to develop a consumer focus with an error-free and efficient patient care using the latest technologies such as AI and ML to minimise TAT (TurnAround Time).
- University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chandigarh
- Manipal College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Manipal
- Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi
- Poona College of Pharmacy, Pune
- Institute of Pharmacy, Nirma University, Ahmedabad
- Bombay College of Pharmacy, Mumbai
- Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi
- Amrita School of Pharmacy, Kochi