Life sciences are vital for understanding human health, environmental issues, and broader matters that increase our understanding about life on earth.
The life science industry includes:
• Pharmaceuticals -
The pharmaceutical sector is the leading sector for investment in research and development (R&D) in the UK
• Medical biotechnology -
The UK medical biotechnology sector leads Europe in the number of drugs in all stages of clinical development
• Medical technology -
The medical technology sector is growing rapidly with the largest share in Europe at just over 2,000 companies, the majority of which are small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
• Industrial biotechnology –
The industrial biotechnology sector contains 112 companies that derive the majority of their turnover from technology (e.g. industrial enzymes used across the sector, end products such as biofuels, or services based on biotechnology
The UK is a world leader in life sciences. Life sciences is one of the high-tech strategic industries that will play a vital role in building a stronger Britain of the future. It has a vital role in improving healthcare especially with future challenges such as an ageing population and obesity.
The UK healthcare industry (pharmaceuticals, medical biotechnology, medical technology and industrial biotechnology sectors) employs over 183,000 people, largely in highly skilled jobs, in companies ranging from large multi-nationals to SMEs
Currently there are around 183,000 people across the whole of the UK working in the Life Sciences industry, this generates a combined estimated turnover of £56bn, comprising of an estimated 4,398 companies developing, manufacturing and marketing products and services to the UK and Global Markets
The pharmaceutical sector generates the largest turnover at just over £32.bn from 545 companies, compared with the medical technology sector that has a turnover of £18.1bn from over 3,000 companies. Medical biotechnology and industrial biotechnology are significant sectors each generating a turnover of £4.8bn and £0.9bn respectively.
Overall, a strong background in chemistry, physics and mathematics is important to explore a career in life sciences. For jobs in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries prior work experience is also very useful. Not only will it help in skills development, but also in heightening commercial and industrial awareness. Commercial employers are keen to employ people who understand the business and have a commercial awareness.
These are some of the jobs you will find in the life science sector:
The UK is a global leader on the world stage in life sciences. Companies and world leading Universities within the UK are driving research to create new technologies.
Whilst there are many opportunities to work in the industry across the UK, 48% of all the life sciences employment is located in the South East region.
Here is a snapshot of some leading players in life sciences:
GlaxoSmithKline plc is a British multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Brentford, London. It was the world's sixth-largest pharmaceutical
Johnson & Johnson is an American multinational medical devices, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturer
AstraZeneca, a global, innovation-driven biopharmaceutical company
LGC provides a full range of flexible, accurate, and cost-effective genomic solutions for Genotyping, DNA sequencing, DNA extraction kits & services.
Illumina is dedicated to advancing human health by unlocking the power of the genome.
Abcam, the leading supplier of protein research tools to life scientists
Boehringer Ingelheim ranks among the world's leading pharmaceutical companies
GE Healthcare Lifesciences offer solutions to support your work from biological research to clinical therapy, including tools for research, drug discovery, diagnostics, and bioprocessing.
Situated on the Wellcome Trust Genome Campus in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is one of the world's leading centres of genome sequencing and analysis.
The MRC works to improve the health of people in the UK - and around the world - by supporting excellent science, and training the very best scientists.
The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) is a research institute focused on the application of state of the art genomics and bioinformatics to advance plant, animal and microbial research to promote a sustainable bioeconomy
The Institute of Cancer Research, London, is one of the world's most influential cancer research organisations
The European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) is Europe's flagship laboratory for basic research in molecular biology
International research centre working to improve the health of farm animals worldwide. Located in the United Kingdom
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
UK research center working in food safety, diet and health, and food materials and ingredients.
The Science and Technology Facilities Council is a UK government body that carries out civil research in science and engineering, and funds UK research in areas including particle physics, nuclear physics, space science and astronomy.
The Francis Crick Institute is a biomedical discovery institute dedicated to understanding the scientific mechanisms of living things. It’s a consortium of six of the UK's most successful scientific and academic organisations - the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK (CRUK), the Wellcome Trust, UCL (University College London), Imperial College London and King's College London.
The skills involved are mostly higher level skills. For example, in the pharmaceuticals Industry, 61% are employed as senior managers, scientists and chemical engineers.
Commercial companies also like jobseekers to have practical skills, so you will also need some or all of the following skills:
Good written English
Attention to detail
Good reasoning skills
Work to deadline
Methodical & precise
Good team player
Problem solving skills
Project management skills
Skills in demand
With the industry in a state of transition, medics retiring, legislative change in pharmacovigilance (PV) coming into effect and changes to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) code of practice, certain highly specialised skills are now highly in demand. The Lack of junior level recruitment during the recession years has also led to a shortage of skilled candidates at the Manager, Senior Manager and Senior Associate levels in some areas. These represent excellent opportunities for appropriate candidates, including those bringing non-UK experience.
A growing area of recruitment is biometrics, where demand for statisticians, SAS programmers and data managers has risen in recent months due to increasing in outsourcing of clinical trials to clinical research organisations. In response to growing skill shortages in this area companies are increasingly recruiting from other EU countries.
Contract Research organisations are heavily recruiting to manage the demand in workload of trials outsourced from pharmaceutical companies, and candidates with project management, biometric and programming skills are in high demand. In the commercial sector, those with experience in negotiation, bids and proposals are being hotly pursued and, in drug safety, the new legislation is bringing specialists in-house, increasingly as permanent hires.
There is also a shift to achieving a greater gender balance within the profession, such as supporting women to reach leadership positions through mentoring schemes and implementing flexible recruitment and working options to help retain women in the workforce.