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Finding your place in a biocluster

Bioclusters, formal and informal networks of entities with a common bioscience commercialization interest, usually in a defined geographic area, consist of four sectors: industries (mostly medical-device and biotech/pharmaceuticals); service providers; academic, private and government research and development labs; and public-sector regulatory and economic development agencies.

During the dog days of the COVID pandemic, however, clusters have gone virtual, and that creates some special challenges and opportunities.

Here are the top 10 bioclusters in the US.

Here, according to CB Insights’ new Global Healthcare Report, are the 10 states with the most digital health startups, and the number of companies in each that have actively raised funding since 2016.

1. California — 496

2. New York — 164

3. Massachusetts — 119

4. Texas — 73

5. Illinois — 59

6. Pennsylvania — 51

7. North Carolina — 50

8. Florida — 49

9. Washington — 45

10. Colorado — 42

Here are the top medtech clusters in the US

There are lots of opportunities to work in the biocluster if you have an advanced bioscience or medical degree. Such jobs include:

  • Publishing
  • Broadcast journalism
  • Venture capitalist
  • Investment analyst
  • Investment banker
  • Business development professional
  • Entrepreneur
  • Consultant
  • Regulatory affairs profession
  • Patent agent
  • Clinical research scientist
  • Technology transfer professional
  • Corporate communications
  • Biomedical sales and marketing
  • Executive search professional
  • Policy administrator
  • Research funding administration
  • Government agency administrator
  • Business information services

Even if you had a manufacturing job that went to China or Mexico, moving to city or town with a research university is a good idea. Here are some tips if you are a doctor looking for a digital health job.

If you are interested in healthcare administration and consulting, here are some potential employers or clients:

• Public health organizations

• Regional health authorities

• Hospitals and clinics

• Continuing care facilities

• Mental health facilities

• Rehabilitation centres and agencies

• Health planning agencies and government departments

• Health charities and foundations

• Private health care consulting companies

• Military hospitals and clinics

• Self-employment

Finding a job in your biocluster is a three-stage process. The first part is about doing research on the cluster and understanding the opportunities in companies that are trying to commercialize life-science ideas. The second part is about assessing your motivations, your knowledge, and your skills, attitudes and experience—and determining which might need improvement. Finally, the third part is about finding the fit between what you like to do and do best and the opportunity to do it. This final part requires networking, finding a mentor, filling in the gaps and finding the right job,even it means moving to a high cost of living city and sharing a coliving space with others.

Like most things in America, there are inequalities when it comes to where to find the jobs that require, mostly, a STEAM background, so you might need to relocate.

Part 1: Where do you want to go: Researching the cluster

Bioclusters are growing in almost every state and offer you several opportunities for a job. Bioclusters, like any business entity, have a life cycle that depends on regional and national macroeconmic factors that flucturate from year to year that can affect the demand for workers.  Here is a list of the US states with the best and worst economies. If possible, move to these cities that represent the top 10 bioclusters in the US based on

  • NIH funding—Taken from the publicly available NIH RePORT database, for the current federal fiscal year, from its start on October 1, 2016, through May 23, 2017.
  • Venture Capital (VC) funding—Taken from 2016 and Q1 2017 figures furnished by the publicly available MoneyTree Report.
  • Patents—Based on the number of patents containing the word “biotechnology” awarded since 1976 in namesake cities and suburbs where key companies are located.
  • Lab space—Based on total-size-of-market figures, in millions of square feet, furnished by the commercial real estate brokerage JLL in its U.S. Life Sciences Outlook report for 2016.
  • Jobs—Based on JLL’s report. While job numbers are ranked this year compared with last year’s Top 10 US Clusters list, less weight had to be given to job totals in regions where GEN has found widespread discrepancies in job figures. However, workforce size was factored in when deciding the ultimate position of a region.

There are several elements to the cluster. They include basic R&D, biotechnology/pharma, medical devices, agricultural biotechnology and service providers supporting those industries. In addition, there are other clusters that interface with biotech such as information technology, photonics, nanotechnology and telecommunications. Your first task is to pick your sweet spot and connect to the network and meet the people who can help you.

Most clusters consist of four basic ecosystems. Sometimes they are stand alone and some times they overlap, particularly given the emerging convergence to technologies. They represent 1)biopharma, diagnostics and biologics, 2) Medtech, 3) Digital health, and 4) clinical care delivery, platforms and business processes

Each of the four include different companies in different stages of development that might or might not be attractive to you.

Once you have picked your sweet spot, then here are some suggestions on how to proceed:

  • Study the websites of your local technology trade associations. They all sponsor educational and networking events for you to attend. These sites will also have membership directories that will list companies in the area with contact information.
  • Contact the Technology Transfer Offices at your local universities and see if you can volunteer to help them with projects.
  • Contact any consulates in your area and explore international collaborations.
  • Check the websites for local chapters of Regulatory Affairs Societies, the Product Development and Management Association, and angel and investor sites.
  • Refine your networking skills, update your resume and carry professionally printed business cards with updated contact information.
  • Meet with the knowledge brokers in the cluster and begin to form a network.
  • Attend the annual biotechnology cluster meetings within and outside of your area.
  • Continue to educate yourself on emerging technologies in the cluster and improving your people skills.
  • Get additional business or entrepreneurship education.
  • Consider consulting a professional career coach who specializes in nonclinical career counseling.

Part 2: Where are you now: doing a self assessment and filling in the gaps

Your ability to find a job in the biocluster will depend on your biomedical background, your business and legal knowledge and skills, your experience in working in a commercial life science enterprise, and your people and leadership skills. If you have limited experience in working with a company or you do not have the necessary business, legal or people skills, concentrate on developing them by practicing, getting coaching, attending seminars or courses and networking. a) Get more education There are three levels of bioentrepreneurship education:

  • Introductory: For those who don’t know what they don’t know, need some basic exposure to the cluster and are thinking about making a change.
  • Intermediate: For those who have an idea that is partly developed and needs further refinement in the form of a feasibility plan or business plan.
  • Advanced: You have funding and need to execute a plan.

There are several places to go for education offering programs to students at each level: business schools and entrepreneurship centers, trade associations, university technology transfer offices, law-firm educational events, and venture capital conferences and angel-network events. b) Get some experience Having a terminal science or business degree, however, is not enough. You’ll need some experience to differentiate yourself from the other candidates. But how do you get around the job-experience “catch 22”?

  • Agree to work even if it’s for free
  • Volunteer to do some part-time work in a university technology transfer office
  • Take advantage of the services offered by your university career services office.
  • Find a company that will offer you an internship. It will cost you in time and effort, but the experience should be worth the price.

c) Improve your people skills and emotional intelligence Life-science employers are looking for leaders and team players who have a demonstrated track record. While your educational background and experience might get you to the first rung of the ladder, your people skills will determine whether you can climb the rungs. Do a self-assessment of your emotional intelligence skills and then practice improving them or consider hiring a career coach to help you with the process.d) Network, Network, Network

Part 3: How do you want to get there: Implementing your plan

If you have done the first two parts, you have probably gone through several ideas of what you think would work best for you. When you have decided on a good fit, try to ease into it and experiment with different roles. Don’t give up your day job until you have a good comfort level with your choice and have developed a trusting relationship with those offering you an opportunity. Finding the right the job will depend mostly on relationships. In addition, if you are over 45 years old, you will face age bias and need some strategies to counteract it.

There are many mistakes people make when they are transitioning from one job or career to the next:

  1. They wait to network until they have to
  2. They don’t give themselves enough time to transition and experiment with different ecosystems
  3. They don’t create an individual career plan and monitor metrics until it is too late.
  4. They don’t build enough personal brand equity
  5. They don’t build robust internal and external robust networks
  6. They are too picky when it comes to getting experience
  7. They think that what made them successful in the past will make them successful in the future
  8. They are egotistical and greedy
  9. They don’t think long term
  10. They don’t know how to say no and allocate their time.

Career experts claim you will need to make 100 contacts to get 10 interviews to get one job. Finding a job is not about sending resumes, but rather connecting to the right connectors, mavens and salespeople in your area. Here are some other outdated job searching strategies.

Be prepared to learn from your mistakes and change course if need be. The process is straight forward: Where do you want to go? Where are you now? How will you get there? But, you will need to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince, so start small, have contingency plans in case things don’t work out; and be persistent. Clusters might be dying and and all those frogs don’t know they are in hot water.

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