We all know the purpose of Management Consultants.

Consultants are objective driven. They strive to transform their client’s businesses, they may try to identify core challenges and opportunities, or recommend and implement a strategy for optimization.

However, consultants that deal with the life sciences sphere are usually driven by completely different motivations. Life sciences consultants advise on a range of issues that can directly or indirectly affect people’s lives.

Working in the Life Sciences Field

Remco op den Kelder, CEO of Putnam associates – a strategy consultancy that for over thirty years has served the healthcare industry is quoted as saying – ‘Life sciences consulting speaks to the essence of what we’re striving for. Which is to lead a healthy, impactful and long life.’

One of the fundamental underlying objectives of the life sciences industry is to – Improve duration and quality of life through the innovations being developed by the consultant’s clients.

Obviously then, a Life Science Consultant is likely to work in the pharmaceutical or related type of industry.

Typical Life Sciences Clients

A Life Science Consultant’s client list could consist of the following types of venture.

  • Small, venture backed pharmaceutical companies
  • Global Pharmaceutical firms
  • Companies producing medical diagnostic machinery

Within these firms the role of the consultant may be described as – To guide companies to define strategies aimed at bringing lifesaving and life-enhancing therapies to patients.

The Science of Saving Lives

Whereas a typical Management Consultants brief may directly or indirectly affect the lives of the people directly associated with the firms they are working with, it is rare for their brief to reach much further than this.

Consultants who work within the Life Sciences field have the benefit of knowing that the reach of their work goes far beyond their client’s bottom-line.

While all businesses, obviously need to look after their bottom-line, this is not what ultimately drives a Life Science consultant. Any consultant working in this field is ultimately driven by the belief that the products and companies they are working with are driven by a passion that the products they are developing will truly help improve and in many instances actually save people’s lives.

Typical Life Science Consultant Responsibilities

A consultant may be asked to help firms in some of the following ways.

  • They can help the client company by performing due diligence (investigation of a business before signing any contract with a certain standard of care attached, with a goal of making sure any decision making is well informed.)
  • Help decide what route a company should follow in terms of increasing growth
  • Perform market analysis to assist with the procurement process e.g. in the case of medical devices
  • Help decide what the client’s areas of key competencies are

The tasks of these consultants are therefore remarkably diverse, and the skills required usually mean that these people will have a background in a wide variety of fields. However, life science consultant companies will usually employ people with a skill base that includes fields such as

  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Nutrition
  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology

As you can see the list is very varied, but on top of this a consultant will also normally require having an understanding of business management and law.

It is therefore desirable for a Life Science Consultant to have a degree in a life science related field. It is easier to add the business knowledge required to have the skills for the job than to add the science aspect.

Let’s look at the skills required to become a Life Science Consultant in a little more detail.

Skill Base Required for a Career in Life Science Consultancy

First let’s consider this question from the perspective of a potential Life Science Consultant client.

What would a potential client look for in a Life Science Consultant?

There is an enormous amount of people ready to offer paid advice on any given subject, so what would make someone stand out from that crowd when being considered?

It is likely to be someone that has a grounding from within the relevant industry. Ideally a potential consultant will have ‘Got their hands dirty’ within the industry. Obviously, an understanding of the science involved would be preferable, but this should be combined with an understanding of the business and business models as a whole.

In a nutshell, if a Life Science Consultant is to have credibility to perform their tasks they would require to have a bottom-up understanding of the science, business and the industry’s specific dynamics.

Examples of Specific Challenges a Life Science Consultant may be asked to perform

A few types of challenge a consultant may be asked to perform includes: –

  • Research and Development Consultants are often asked to assist with companies to help make decisions regarding research and development.
  • Medical Affairs Consultants can help groups that are building awareness among doctors and scientists about ongoing clinical research, drug or diagnostic machinery development and clinical research. Specifically, they could develop communication strategies, to help companies understand how to communicate on the health and economic benefits of novel drugs or treatments.
  • Commercial Affairs Commercial teams within companies will often work with consultants on projects such as marketing drugs to doctors and patients, looking at the long-term profitability of a range of drugs or diagnostic machinery and developing and improving existing internal operational capabilities.

Of course, this is only scratching the surface of the potential fields of operation that Life Sciences Consultant may be asked to perform.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big is the life science industry?

Figures released in January 2019 show that corporate investors in the United States have invested around $320 billion into the Life Science industry. Accounting for 20% of the $1.6 trillion total of the industry as a whole.

Is Life Science Consultancy a good career?

Life Science Consultancy is regarded as an impactful, well regarded and lucrative career.

What is the best degree for Life Science consultants?

Whereas for most consultants a business or management degree is desirable, a Life Science Consultant may be better served with a degree from within the sciences, and an understanding of the workings of business and management and the industry either gained from experience or from further study.