Jan 4, 2014
2
0
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Hello All,

Thank you for taking the time to view my post. I was hoping to get some serious advice or recommendations from those of you working within or towards a career in drug development and the biotech industry.

I am currently an undergraduate student majoring in Biology Pre-Health professions. My goal is to become a leading scientist on the forefront of drug development (i.e. actual synthesis of medication on the molecular level), or a leading scientist in the biotech industry (i.e. creating artificial organs, and things to that extent.) I do not want to be a pharmacist in the sense of deciding which medication patients should take, communicating with hospitals, or the people you would see working at CVS - not to be ignorant. I want to be doing raw ground breaking research and development. What career path/educational discipline is recommended for this type of work? Do I need to complete a PharmD or MD/PhD program? Is this the work of what we could consider normal scientists (biologists, biochemists, chemists) with a PhD? Should I transfer into a Biomedical Engineering major? Any advice from those of you who have had experience in this industry would be very helpful and appreciated.
 

chemguy79

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Mar 14, 2006
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It sounds to me that you are looking for a career in Biomedical Engineering/Biotechnology or Medicinal Chemistry (drug development). There are lots of ways to get there through academia, it really depends on the track (or tracks) that your school offers. I don't know if a PharmD or a MD/PhD would necessarily help you, but I think that another member can give you more information. At my company, a PhD in Chemical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Biochemistry, etc. would open those doors for you.
 

blueheron

Chemist
Sep 4, 2013
249
77
Knoxville
Status
Pharmacy Student
Adding on to above...

Actual drug synthesis would fall under PhD in organic chemistry probably. Specifically creating and developing effective stereo specific reactions. Since the isomer of most drugs is acutely toxic. Also along these lines are the PChem and analytical guys that QC and purify said drug.

Drug design could fall under PhD in pharm science, chem, biochem, med chem, or PharmD/PhD.

Then there is drug delivery using nanoparticles, fullerenes, nanotubes, etc. and the PChem and kinetics involved in that.
 
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Aug 21, 2013
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Pre-Pharmacy
From what I have been told very few people are smart enough to become drug synthesizers. I was told these guys have ABSOLUTE photographic memories, im talking they remember seeing slides from over 25-years ago and can still recall the information...
 

chemguy79

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Agreed, blueheron.

IMO, PhD in Chemistry is rather nebulous and that carries some pros and cons. A pro is that the degree program is very flexible, so you can make the degree what you want it to be as long as your advisor is amenable to that. (Finding an advisor which does the type of research that you want to do is paramount. Unfortunately, it can cause some major problems if your advisor is to leave the university or if there is funding issues.) A major con is that you run the risk of working on a project that doesn't really target what you want to do with your career. Personally, I wish that I had done a more specialized degree program such as a degree in Med Chem or Pharmacokinetics because I think that the coursework would have been more interesting.

Therefore, I believe that getting a PhD under the umbrella of a Pharmacy School sounds like a preferred option because their research is more pharmaceutical based. Since I'm in NC, I know that UNC's PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences is incredibly solid (they do some top notch research) and I think that Campbell offers a MS in Pharmaceutical Sciences which works on interesting work as well. I worked with a few people who finished that program and they worked with great instrumentation prior to starting their careers as research scientists.
 

blueheron

Chemist
Sep 4, 2013
249
77
Knoxville
Status
Pharmacy Student
Most of the people I know that are great at memorizing/photo memory are horrible at solving problems and critical thinking. The intelligence needed comes from creativity, not recall.
 
OP
T
Jan 4, 2014
2
0
Status
Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
Thanks for the responses guys. After a lot of research I suppose it is difficult to find a concrete major/grad. program for this specific work, and I could imagine most of these opportunities come from experience in the industry itself. Theoretically many pharm co's could hire BS or MS students to do this kind of work. It amazes me how heavily valued work experience is over higher education still. IMO someone who dedicated their life to gaining advanced knowledge of a subject (PhD) should come out making more money than an average Business student who has had a few extra years in the industry. Anyway, I think that as mentioned before a PhD in pharm science, biochemistry, physical chemistry will do the trick, and your specialization and grad. research will really determine which industry you will join. At the very least, a PhD in biochem/chem will give you something to fall back on.

I'm still pissed about the average salary of a PhD. I guess your passion will have to overcome your desire for wealth. Still a difficult sacrifice for me :/. Any thoughts on this?
 

blueheron

Chemist
Sep 4, 2013
249
77
Knoxville
Status
Pharmacy Student
2 years after getting a chem degree with undergrad research in physical chemistry, I decided to become a pharmacist after being hardcore against professional school for four years. I'm not willing to relocate though so that was a major influence. Do what you love if it's worth it, but I saw a bunch of people with degrees in PChem and organic that had to find a job teaching at HS or CC level. To me it wasn't worth the investment to come out at the same pay as a BS.
 

chemguy79

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It really depends on the company that you work for as to how people with graduate degrees are treated and frankly, a PhD in Chemistry does not necessarily a research scientist make.

At my current company, they fired 2 recent PhD graduates who worked there for 2 weeks because they were completely incapable of running routine stability projects smoothly. One graduate in particular was a complete mess and I was shocked that she managed to finish her PhD without causing great bodily harm to herself or her research lab. For better or worse, industry experience is paramount to running GMP projects and said experience is quite valuable.

At my current company, the average salary for PhDs is in the low 6 figures. However, at previous places of employment, a newly minted PhD was making mid to high 5 figures. You have to show your competency to make the big bucks because not all PhDs are created equal. Furthermore, I moved into Biopharmaceuticals since the work going on in that field of Chemistry is newer and they are more willing to pay you for your expertise in the field.