Career Capsule: Life Sciences Consulting
By Adam Siebert, Ph.D., Guest Contributor
In Career Capsules, we provide a brief overview of a specific career path in the biomedical sciences. The following article was contributed by Dr. Adam Siebert, who received his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and now has a position as a Senior Life Sciences Specialist at L.E.K. Consulting.
With funding opportunities increasingly reduced, many scientists are considering careers outside of academia. For those interested in transitioning to the business side of science, life sciences consulting may be a potential career path. Making the jump from academic research to management consulting is truly an intellectually exhilarating experience. By the time one has become a post-doc, he or she is likely in a field in which they are an expert and are comfortable with the daily requirements of the job. Post-doctoral fellows have demonstrated the ability to solve seemingly unsolvable questions by breaking complex questions into smaller, more manageable ones. By designing experiments to test hypotheses developed through reading literature and previous experiments, post-docs answer many smaller questions that get pieced together to solve a previously large and more complicated question. This is precisely the task of a management consultant, and more specifically, a Life Sciences Specialist at L.E.K. Consulting. A Life Sciences Specialist is part of a team that breaks down large, complicated business questions into smaller, more digestible problems. We conduct primary and secondary research to develop hypotheses that are pressure tested by experts in the field. Throughout this process, we synthesize our findings into strategic options that answer the large, complicated question that we’ve been tasked with answering for our clients.
On a day-to-day basis, the life of a Life Sciences Specialist is different from that of a post-doctoral fellow. Typically, when Life Sciences Specialists first begin at L.E.K., they are responsible for understanding the scientific aspects of the project. For example, they would need to understand the mechanism of action, the clinical trial design and data, how it fits into the treatment paradigm and the competitive landscape. From there he or she would lead the interview campaign with relevant key opinion leaders and practicing clinicians. In some ways, it is not very different from the work of post-doctoral fellows. Life Sciences Specialists become the content experts. The main difference is that consulting work needs to happen very quickly and not at quite the same depth as in laboratory research. As one becomes more senior at L.E.K., the Life Sciences Specialist’s footprint expands. He or she will learn the business concepts relevant to the case and begin building financial models that inform the strategic recommendations made to our clients. While this transition to business may seem daunting, L.E.K. has a tremendous ongoing training program that is tailored to the background of an M.D. or life sciences Ph.D. For example, we have a week-long modeling boot camp that teaches skills in how to build financial models. At first, the training is geared toward business analytics, however the training expands into softer skills as one progresses in his or her career.
One of the unique aspects of working at L.E.K. is the diversity of projects to which a Life Sciences Specialist is exposed. During my tenure at L.E.K., I have worked on more than 15 projects with start-ups, academic medical centers, private companies and small-, mid-, and large-cap companies that span the biopharma and med-tech industries. As part of these projects, I have learned about bioprocessing, vaccines, ultra-orphan diseases (e.g., mitochondrial disorders and urea cycle disorders), hypogonadism, oncology therapies, oncology supportive care, oncology molecular diagnostics, and specialty pharmacy. In addition to the various scientific areas, I have learned countless business concepts that inform strategic options, including market sizing, revenue forecasting, valuations, pipeline prioritization, reimbursement strategies, and clinical trial design. I have worked on projects that had an addressable market size as large as ~100M patients per year and as small as ~30 patients per year. On all of these projects, L.E.K. was able to make impactful recommendations to the client that will ultimately help get treatments to the market sooner, where they can benefit patients.
When I started my career at L.E.K. Consulting, I was excited to begin a new chapter in my professional life and anxious to leave the familiar confines of my lab and university. While my anxiety has faded away, my excitement about the work I do at L.E.K. remains. Strategy consulting is a tremendously rewarding career that satisfies my intellectual curiosity both within science and medicine as well as business strategy. L.E.K.’s Life Sciences Specialist role is unique in that it allows the perfect marriage of these two areas while helping you to grow your career in business with multiple formal and informal career development programs. If you are like-minded and looking for opportunities outside of academia that combine these two areas, I would recommend looking into management consulting, in particular L.E.K. Consulting. Follow the firm on social media, try to arrange some informational interviews and attend recruiting events that are held at Penn each summer and fall.