Biotech Consulting: Everything You Need to Know

Biotech Consulting

Biotech consulting is a fast-growing segment of healthcare consulting and this is an exciting time to join the field. 

Are you interested in learning more about a career in biotech consulting? Find out what it’s like to work in biotech consulting, the top firms, and the skills you need to land a job.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What biotech consulting is all about
  • Typical biotech consulting cases
  • Top biotech consulting firms
  • How to position yourself to land a job in biotech consulting
  • 5 tips for recruiting with biotech consulting firms
  • Exit opportunities after working in biotech consulting

Let’s get started!

Biotech consulting focuses on helping clients bring to market new products developed through biological research. These products improve the health of humans, animals, and the planet. 

Let’s break that down in a bit more detail: 

Biotechnology is the study of biology to develop new products. Scientists research the processes and evolution of cells and organisms to identify new solutions to problems. The types of problems they are looking to solve include illness, aging, food availability and efficacy, and climate change.

Biotechnology firms leverage that research to create new products. Here are some examples of what biotechnology firms can do: 

  • Manufacture new fuel sources
  • Develop vaccines and antibiotics and distribute them to people or animals
  • Create and manufacture products that Improve the health of crops in areas challenged by significant amounts of pests

For the most part, scientists stay focused on developing the products and increasing their effectiveness. Management at biotech firms focuses on manufacturing and marketing the products.

An Overview of Biotech Consulting

Biotech consultants work with management and scientists at biotech firms to commercialize the scientists’ efforts. This includes assessing how big the demand for a drug or product might be, developing business plans and forecasts, planning product testing, developing processes to manufacture and distribute the products, and much more. 

For example, a scientist may develop a medicine that could greatly reduce our likelihood of developing skin cancer. Some of the things that biotech consultants may help with include: 

  • Product format: Should the medicine come as a pill, a shot, or a topical cream? This impacts the cost of making the product. 
  • Product dosage: Is it better to take one big dose or smaller amounts of the medicine over time? This greatly impacts the price of the product. 
  • Manufacturing: Where should we make this medicine, and what kind of storage do we need? This also impacts the cost of making the product and getting it to customers. 
  • Distribution: Do you need to see a doctor to get this medicine? What is the process doctors follow when they prescribe it? This impacts the cost of distributing the product. 

Perhaps someday, a scientist will also develop a vaccine that could save us all from watching too much reality T.V. (in my case, home renovation shows). They may need a biotech consulting firm’s help to decide if the vaccine should come as a pill, a shot, or a dusting on Doritos chips.

Visual Examples of Biotech Consulting 1

All of these questions require knowledge of the medical marketplace and biotech operations, as well as tight collaboration with the scientific teams developing the products. Biotech consultants can help with both.

Understanding how to bring to market new medical or other biotech products can be very difficult. The regulations are complex, and so are the distribution channels. If a product requires a doctor’s visit or prescription, firms must learn to navigate the hospital and insurance systems. If a product requires safety testing, the firm needs to know that its safety testing process is in line with industry standards in any country where it wants to operate. 

Biotech consulting firms have very distinct capabilities to understand all the relevant science related to new products and have deep expertise in bringing these new products to market. 

Biotech consulting firms serve major pharmaceutical firms like Pfizer, Moderna, and Merck. They also serve less well-known biotech firms that are smaller and early in their growth. Here are some examples of smaller biotech firms, but there are many more.  

  • Medical products: Biomarin Pharmaceuticals, Denali Therapeutics, Allogene Therapeutics
  • Agriculture: Pivot Bio, Indigo Ag, Bioconsortia, AgBiome
  • Energy firms: Poet, Green Plains Inc., Rentech
Typical Biotech Consulting Cases

Biotech firms are not large conglomerates that sell many different kinds of products. They often focus on early-stage product development and research & development, and run pretty lean on the business side. That means they may need a lot of outside help to support commercial activities that get their innovative products into customers’ hands (or bodies!) 

Here are a few examples of some of the kinds of cases you might work on in your biotech consulting career:

Go To Market Strategy

Your client developed a life-saving antibacterial soap that can prevent transmission of the flu. Their goal is to get the soap into as many bathrooms and kitchens worldwide as possible. Biotech consulting firms can help identify strategies to enter all 195 countries. Their services include establishing relationships with regulators and gaining approvals, determining each country’s distribution model and pricing, identifying where to manufacture the soap for each market, and designing marketing plans.

New Category Launch

Your client developed a new type of plastic that’s composed of corn. This plastic has many potential uses, but the client needs help determining the best use case for the new plastic. Consultants will evaluate a range of potential markets, such as disposable serving ware (e.g., plates, cups, silverware) or disposable glasses (e.g., 3D movie glasses). 

Consultants will help biotech firms evaluate the various markets and answer key questions: 

  • Who are the customers? 
  • Who are the existing suppliers? 
  • What price will be competitive with alternative products currently on the market?
  • How much should they produce?  

Then, consultants can develop plans and expected outcomes so their clients can pursue the best path for their first new plastic product.

Failed Launch

Your client launched a new product, but revenue has not met expectations. A biotech consulting firm may be brought in to perform “root cause” analysis. Consultants would meet with customers, distributors (doctors, pharmacists, etc.), and scientists to understand what’s not working and develop concrete solutions. 

Once the biotech consultants identify all the possible barriers to success, they can prioritize them based on how critical they are and outline mitigation strategies. The firm may also identify potential marketplaces that may have been previously deemed not worthy of investment. Then they will need to present options to the client and the client can decide where to invest to improve their return.

Consultant Working On Biotech Consulting Case

Therapeutic Area Business Case

Your client wants to enter the crowded oncology space, and they would like advice on whether to grow organically or acquire some existing players. A biotech consulting firm can map out the steps to build an oncology platform from the ground up and evaluate the ROI. The firm can also analyze the existing oncology space and identify potential acquisition candidates. 

Once the client has a comprehensive view of the value of organic and acquisition options, they can decide if an investment in the oncology space aligns with their risk profile and which path is the best option.

Portfolio Management and ROI Optimization

While biotech firms are very focused, they often invest in several commercial applications of their research simultaneously. Each opportunity area requires different levels of investment and will yield different returns over different time horizons. The R&D process takes years, and the clinical trials do as well. Biotech consulting firms often help clients look across all the products they are developing or selling to create forecasts so executives can understand the financial performance over the coming years. 

Imagine a client with 2 products in the market, 2 products in clinical trials, and 2 products in R&D. Sales of one of the client’s products in the market starts to slow down, and some of those profits are needed to fund R&D. If the firm isn’t able to stabilize revenue, it may have to cut R&D, which would likely result in declining revenues over the long term. 

Biotech consultants help firms build forecasts and plan to optimize their ROI across the product portfolio so they can manage through any downturns or delays.

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Many consulting firms are active in the biotech space, including generalist firms with biotech practices and healthcare firms that focus on multiple elements of health and life sciences, including biotech consulting. In this section, we’ll highlight a few of the firms that prioritize biotech consulting.

IQVIA (formerly IMS Consulting Group)

IQVIA is one of the top pharmaceutical and biotech management consulting firms. One of their core offerings for biotech consulting is the IQVIA Asset Maximizer. Asset Maximizer is a rigorous approach that IQVIA consultants use to sheperd new products through clinical trials, a successful launch, and beyond. 

The company is based in New York, but has over 87K employees in over 100 countries.The firm also offers Technology and Analytics Solutions, Research and Development Solutions, as well as Contract Sales & Medical Solutions. The consulting group has nearly 500 consultants. IQVIA offers global careers and has strong local experts in Singapore, Brazil, and Shanghai.

Check out this article for more details on IQVIA Consulting Interview process.

Syneos Health

Syneos Health Consulting works with clients to accelerate the process from clinical work to patient care. The consulting firm offers 4 primary services: R&D Advisory, Commercial Advisory, Product & Franchise Strategy, as well as Strategy, Scientific, and Medical Affairs Advisory. 

Syneos is part of Syneos Health, based in North Carolina, with over 24K employees. It provides a wide variety of consulting services to help clients move faster from “lab to life.”

Top Biotech Consulting Firms

ClearView Healthcare Partners

ClearView supports large clients and start-ups across all product lifecycle stages including commercialization. In biotech, the firm highlights 3 major types of projects: Therapeutic Area & Corporate Strategy, Brand Launch & Lifecycle Strategy, and Pipeline Discover & Development. 

ClearView Healthcare Partners is a boutique consulting firm founded in 2007. Based in Newton, Massachusetts, it has offices in New York, San Francisco, Zurich, and London. ClearView also services clients to develop strategies for medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostics. The firm delivers over 650 projects each year for clients.

Putnam

Putnam is a boutique biotech consulting firm that supports large and small clients as they develop innovative therapies. Putnam’s 3 service areas include Integrated Insights (e.g., primary and secondary research), Advanced Clinical Technologies (e.g., technical guidance for commercial launch of new therapies), and Forecasting & Financial Modeling (e.g., full-scale models to support investment decisions). 

Putnam is the consulting arm of the healthcare commercialization platform, Inizio. The firm is based in London and Boston with over 400 employees in 10 locations.    

You can read more about Putnam Careers and what it’s like to work there.

L.E.K.

L.E.K. may not be quite as well known as MBB, but it is a very well-regarded generalist consulting firm. L.E.K. has a strong Biotech and Pharmaceuticals practice that supports clients as they adapt to the rapid evolution in the industry. The firm helps clients with early-stage products and companies, late-stage development (e.g., launch), global operations development, as well as developing exit strategies and strategic partnerships. 

L.E.K. is based in Boston with locations around the globe. The firm has about 2K employees. Read more about the LEK Case Interview.

How to Position Yourself to Land a Job in Biotech Consulting

Biotech consulting is very technical and complex work. You have to account for multiple stakeholders, minimize risk to patients, and maximize the consumer and commercial benefits. Biotech consulting firms look for consultants with these qualities:

Experience or Strong Interest in Sciences

If you’re enrolled in some kind of science-related academic program, that’s a great start. You should also familiarize yourself with the landscape of biotech players and what they do. The players include biotech firms, regulators, healthcare organizations, and more. 

If you’re interested in biotech medical products, you’ll want to learn about insurers, hospitals, and emerging retail locations that provide medical services like IVs on demand. 

If you’re interested in biotech in the agriculture industry, you’ll want to learn about agricultural businesses, food supply chains, grocery chains, and consumer trends. 

If you’re interested in environmental uses for biotech products, you’ll want to learn more about the energy industry and the emerging types of energy products in development. 

There is a lot to choose from, and you will benefit from focusing on a subsector.

Analytical Capabilities

Biotech consulting requires a great deal of math and attention to detail. Miscalculations that inform the manufacturing, distribution, or consumption of these products can have significant consequences for health, food quality, energy efficiency, etc.

While the scientists are primarily responsible for ensuring that the biotech products work as intended, biotech consultants need to ensure that they understand the products’ dynamics and do not design strategies or operations that would yield suboptimal results.

Problem-Solving Skills

Biotech consulting is not easy. There are many barriers to bringing biotech products to market. Biotech consultants need an expansive problem-solving toolkit and the fortitude to make things happen despite any setbacks. 

If you are interviewing with biotech consulting firms, you will need to ace a biotech consulting case. To prepare, you should learn about the kinds of problems biotech firms face in the product lifecycle and how they address them. This is another area where research will truly set apart the best biotech consultant applicants!

5 Tips for Recruiting with Biotech Consulting Firms

1. Do Your Homework on the Biotech Industry

The biotech industry is exciting. It may seem small because it feels niche compared to retail or technology, but there are a ton of small players, and the field is very complex. Before applying for any roles, you will want to understand the full landscape–the large healthcare firms with small investments in biotech, the start-ups, the regulators, the distributors (hospitals and other commercial distributors), etc.

2. Get Scientific

If you have a science background, you’ve got a head start. If not, consider taking some science courses to get more exposure to the field. Biotech consulting is highly specialized, and most people who work in the space have some science background, even if they did not continue to a postgraduate program. This will help you “talk the talk” in your applications and interviews.

3. Choose a Focus: Health, Food, or Environment

As mentioned above – this biotech field is diverse. Biotech firms typically focus on one of those areas because the science and challenges are very different and specific to that field. Expertise matters a lot in a biotech consulting career, so you will benefit greatly by choosing a focus early in your search.

4. Build Your Network Now

If you’re in school, you may be be able to attend events that allow you to network with professionals in either biotech or biotech consulting. If you’re not in school, look for events that you can attend including industry conferences at nearly colleges or webinars.

5. Prepare For Your Biotech Case Interview

Biotech case interviews require candidates to demonstrate solid analytical and problem-solving skills. You’ll want to study the different types of case interview questions you will face so you won’t be surprised, and then you will want to practice cases. Check out Our Ultimate Guide to Case Interview Prep for more information.

Exit Opportunities After Working in Biotech Consulting

The biotech industry is already substantial, but it is really just getting started, so if you spend some time as a biotech consultant, you will build valuable skills and have a lot of opportunities to continue working in the field. Some of the top options include: 

  • Join a biotech firm in sales, analytics, or management
  • Become an independent biotech consultant
  • Join a larger consulting firm in the biotech or healthcare practice
  • Pursue an advanced degree like an MBA or PhD

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In this article, we’ve covered:

  • An overview of biotech consulting
  • Examples of biotech consulting cases
  • The top firms in biotech consulting
  • How to launch a biotech consulting career
  • 5 things to do to land a job with a biotech consulting firm
  • Career opportunities after biotech consulting

Still have questions?

If you have more questions about biotech consulting, leave them in the comments below. One of My Consulting Offer’s recruiters will answer them.

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