Magazine Article | July 1, 2010

I Know The Problems. Give Me Solutions.

Source: Life Science Leader
Dan Schell author page headshot

By Dan Schell, Editorial Director, Life Science Leader

Have you ever read the results of a research study and thought, “Well, that seems obvious”? These days, I feel that way when I read that some firm has concluded that the blockbuster model is dead, or that emerging markets are the next growth opportunity for pharma companies, or that we need to improve and accelerate our pharma/bio R&D systems and processes. What you don’t hear a lot of is how companies are addressing many of these issues (unless, of course, you read our magazine). Which is why last month I became very interested in reading about how the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center was helping to enhance the talent pipeline for life sciences companies — another one of those commonly listed industry problems.

For the second year in a row, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center has run its Internship Challenge, and so far this year 164 interns have been matched with 93 life sciences companies. According to the center’s press release, “Objectives of the Life Sciences Internship Challenge include expanding the pool of prospective employees who have practical experience, enhancing opportunities for mentoring, enabling more students to explore career opportunities despite the challenging economic environment, and providing to students interested in working in the life sciences a peer network through educational and informational exchange events.”

One of the things I really like about this program is that it is helping smaller (i.e. fewer than 100 employees) life sciences companies get some much-needed assistance, and at no cost. That’s because the $15/hour stipend that each 12-week intern is provided is reimbursed to these smaller companies (larger companies don’t get the reimbursement but can recruit from the program’s student database). “We have listened closely to life sciences employers and academic leaders throughout the Commonwealth regarding the workforce needs of the life sciences community, and the importance of internship programs has been mentioned repeatedly,” says Dr. Susan Windham Bannister, president and CEO of the center.

Sixty more interns have been placed this year as compared with last year. I think that’s impressive. Imagine if every state had a program like this. More students would become aware of the life sciences, which would hopefully boost enrollment in academic institutions offering related degrees and ultimately boost the talent pool for pharma and biotech companies.

I’m not implying programs like this will be a cure-all for any of the industry’s current ailments — but they sure can’t hurt.