To find the experts biosciences require, Klein Hersh staff specializes

Klein Hersh managing partners Jason Hersh (left) and Josh Albert said there is a move to keep more of the region’s talent here.

Latest in an occasional series about recruiters

When the big gong sounds at Klein Hersh, it means an oncologist or tumor immunologist or gene-therapy researcher will soon have a new job.

And, likely as not, it will be a job in some other city.

"Talent is being incubated here, and then it's leaving," said Jason Hersh, a managing partner at the Horsham recruiting firm started by family friends.

They were the ones who instituted the morale-boosting sounding of a big Chinese gong when a recruiter found the right person to fill a company's hiring needs.

When it comes to employment trends, specialty recruiters such as Klein Hersh, which concentrates on biosciences, are on the front line of what is in demand in their sectors.

And what's in demand, at the moment, are experts in oncology.

"When there's a breakthrough," Hersh said, "all of a sudden the financing that is sitting on the sidelines gets interested. When that happens, they need to go find talent in whatever their niche is."

In this case, the breakthrough is a blossoming awareness that, by looking for problems at a genetic level, it may be possible to stop cancer before it starts.

"A big area is understanding genetics and genomics," Hersh said. "You are seeing a lot of personalized medicine."

His partner, Josh Albert, said there's a move among Philadelphians in the bioscience and pharmaceutical fields to figure out how to keep more of the region's talent here.

The answer boils down to making the city's venture capitalists more willing to bet on projects that will require the scientists and doctors that Albert and Hersh and their crew of recruiting specialists track down to hire.

Meanwhile, the entire field is exploding. From 1998 to 2001, Klein Hersh specialized in information technology. But in 2002 - after the dot-com bubble burst in the two previous years - Klein Hersh began a life-sciences division that once pulled in a mere $600,000 in revenue annually. That has increased to $30 million.

The company's strategy is to be highly specialized, with each recruiter responsible for thoroughly understanding a tiny segment of the labor market.

For example, Albert explained, worldwide there may be 7,000 medicinal chemists - the scientists who understand how molecules bond to make a medicine. One of Klein Hersh's recruiters aims to know every one of them, by name and background.

Allison Greenfield leads biology recruitment in the company's "discovery practice."

She's recruiting chief scientific officers, who can earn anywhere from $300,000 to $450,000; directors of immunology, who command $160,000 to $200,000; and vice presidents of biology, who bring in $225,000 to $275,000 per year.

"There's a shortage in this field, especially for people who have experience at the interface of immunology and oncology," Greenfield said. "There's a lot of promise in bringing these two areas together."

Todd Rosengarten handles manufacturing.

"There are not a ton of openings," he said, at the vice president-of-manufacturing level in Big Pharma, where executives in those jobs earn $230,000 to $330,000 per year.

Those jobs are moving to third-party contract manufacturers hired by Big Pharma to make specific products. "The pay scale is not as robust," Rosengarten said, with the same job paying $200,000 to $250,000.

Scientists with advanced degrees in bioprocess developments are "highly valued," he said. "They have the technical skills to really drive it."

"Chemical engineer is a good degree," he said, particularly for those specializing in biological processes and protein development.

What the biosciences have in common with many other fields is a need for people who understand data.

"There are a lot of universities just now building out graduate courses in analytics," said Matt Azarva, who directs Klein Hersh's health-care analytics recruiters. Among the best known are North Carolina State University's Institute for Advanced Analytics and Northwestern University's predictive-analytics program. Stanford and Carnegie Mellon also have programs.

Azarva said younger candidates will be graduates of those programs. More senior candidates, with degrees in statistics, will have accumulated the knowledge they need as they advanced in their careers.

A chief data officer or a chief analytics officer, often working for a large insurer, can count on $250,000 to $350,000 a year, while a data scientist, lower on the corporate chain, will pull in $115,000 to $140,000, plus generous bonuses, with three to five years of experience.


Getting and Staying Ahead

Education matters: Study biology, chemistry, immunology, biochemistry, chemical engineering, data analytics, public health as an undergrad.

Stay in school: Professionals in the top positions probably have doctorate and postdoc credentials.

Get experience: At an undergraduate or master's level, look for opportunities to work in labs, on research, and with data in health and science fields.

Publish: Get your work published while in school.

Don't get siloed: Keep in touch with several disciplines, so you can shift as trends shift.

Keep an active network: Make it a professional goal to meet one new person a month in your field.

Read: Stay on top of industry trends through publications and journals.

Update software skills: For those in analytics, stay on top of current software, including "R" and Python. Data boot camps can provide training.

SOURCE: Recruiters at Klein Hersh