Cell and gene therapy: why it's a growing industry and its in-demand jobs
In life’s genetic lottery, some people win the jackpot while others inherit genomes that predispose them to lifelong health complications. These genetic diseases were once thought of as incurable. That was before cell and gene therapies entered the scene.
In the latest UK cell and gene therapy skills demand report, Catapult revealed from a survey that 98% of cell and gene therapy companies were looking to expand their workforce in the next few years. What does this mean for the industry? According to Catapult, employment in the UK will double, potentially outstripping the supply of professionals.
So why is cell and gene therapy a growing demand, and what jobs are on the rise?
Research and development
In an unlikely turn of events, the development of an mRNA Covid-19 vaccination boosted the profile of cell and gene therapies. But pre-Covid, this area of life sciences was making already waves, hitting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.5% since 2015.
As more products push for commercialisation, demand for specialised professionals is ramping up. The flourishing Advanced Therapy Medicinal Product (ATMP) landscape is carving out more roles for professionals in the research and development field. Take a C&Q manager working within commissioning, qualification and validation, for example, who oversees the installation, operation and performance of equipment within a pharma facility. Working alongside a team of commissioning engineers, CSA engineers, electrical engineers and compliance specialists, they deliver work that is integral to the research and development phase and the ongoing success of getting a product to market.
According to McKinsey, in June 2020, there were 750 cell and gene therapies (GCTs) at the trial stage. While Covid-19 caused major disruptions, including the pausing of site activation, patient recruitment and missed follow-ups of patients, it has pushed companies to seek innovative ways to make the manufacturing and delivery model more resilient.
This is where bioprocess engineering comes into play. Put simply, ‘ a bioprocess is any process that uses living cells to create a product’. There are a number of personnel that might be involved at this stage of product development - project managers, project engineers and senior cell process scientists – who work together to increase the output of a manufacturing facility by scaling up processes.
With more advanced therapies now trickling through the pipeline, from the research stage to launch, the next challenge the industry is up against is a shortage of skilled professionals. Reaching a bottleneck will not only incur massive costs for CGT companies, but it also delays when patients gain access to the products that could improve their quality of life, or in fact, save their life. Professionals working within bioprocessing open themselves up to attractive career prospects where they have the chance to improve lives.
Quality assurance and quality control
Considering that the first gene therapy clinical trial started only in 1990, it’s clear that this field of life sciences has come a long way in a relatively short time. Now regarded as one of the most in-demand biopharma skills, cell and gene therapy expertise will take you far in the biopharmaceutical industry. The even better news is that as some manufacturing sectors experience declining demand, CGT companies are opening their doors and providing cross-sectoral training to professionals with relevant skills.
So what types of roles are available? With more products reaching the clinical trial stage, this has bumped up the demand for quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) teams. To tick the good manufacturing practices (GMP) box, companies need to comply with quality control standards.
As CGT is an advanced therapy, patient safety is paramount. However, because living cells are used in the process, with limited supply, testing to meet QC standards presents some challenges. A roster of professionals - including QA specialists, QA managers and QAV consultants – are needed to ensure the safety and quality of the products delivered to patients.
Take control of your life sciences career
Where can a life sciences career take you? Well at Quanta, we put candidate care first, meaning that we take the time to find out what you’re looking for in your next role.
Whether you’ve got experience in commissioning, qualification and validation, quality assurance, pharmacovigilance, or start up projects, our specialist consultants want to help. Browse our latest life science vacancies, and we’ll be in touch.