Downstream process development positions are becoming more difficult to fill, and are an especially problematic hiring area in the U.S. Hiring budgets are increasing, but the industry is also outsourcing more process development jobs to cut costs.

The consistent, rapid growth in the biopharma industry has its downsides that most other industries would envy: chronic inability to hire and retain the right staff.  According to BioPlan Associates’ latest industry study, the 12th Annual Report and Survey of Biopharmaceutical Manufacturing Capacity and Production [1] not nearly enough is being done to alleviate the trained staffing shortages that have plagued this segment for at least a decade. And as the report’s results show, even those hired will not be easy to retain.

Each year, we examine hiring and training trends as part of our study, as this industry – which is highly technical in nature –depends on the skills and expertise of the people within it. In recent years, we have observed important changes in the types of job functions the industry is having trouble filling, likely reflecting wider industry shifts.

The study asks respondents to indicate which job positions they are finding it difficult to fill at their facilities.  This year, we find that process development – upstream and downstream – staff are clearly the most challenging to hire for, cited by 38.5 percent and 37.2 percent of respondents, respectively. This likely reflects the industry’s greater focus on process efficiency.

But while challenges hiring upstream process development staff have stabilized in recent years, difficulties hiring downstream PD staff have continued. This may well be related to the increasing attention paid to downstream processing, which has failed to match recent upstream improvements. In fact, this appears to be a more acute problem in the U.S., where it is the position considered most difficult to fill overall, by 45.8 percent of respondents (compared to 33.3 percent in Western Europe).

Meanwhile, other positions the industry is having trouble filling include:

  • Quality assurance (24.4 percent)
  • Process engineers (23.1 percent)
  • Downstream operations staff (21.8 percent)
  • Validation (21.8 percent)

“Hiring in Biopharma: Rapid Industry Growth Is Creating Bottlenecks.”Pharmaceutical Processing. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2015.