Career Opportunities at Large Life Science Organizations Before, During, and After COVID-19
The D.C. metro area is home to numerous large life-science organizations and universities, including the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research. There is certainly no shortage of biohealth career opportunities in the D.C. area, where Montgomery County hosts the life science hub known as the BioHealth Capital Region (BHCR). Even better, the pay is top tier for life science specialists working in the community.
With all of these plusses in place, it is hard to imagine anything could stand in the way of the BHCR advancing from the number four biopharma cluster in the country to number three, or two, or one. But just how much damage has the pandemic done to D.C.’s life science profession? Let’s look at large life science organizations in the D.C. region before, during and after COVID-19.
Before the pandemic
Prior to the pandemic, the life sciences sector was growing at a rapid rate. Billions of dollars of government funding were already being invested in public and private organizations in the fields of epidemiology, bioengineering, bioinformatics microbiology, biochemistry, and the like. The industry was gearing up for progressive expansion as new technologies continued to fuel the pursuit of creating healthier, safer communities. When the pandemic hit, almost every type of organization, no matter how large, was impacted. Major life science companies were shaken up as well. However, their personnel were more in-demand than ever. Accordingly, their experiences during the pandemic were drastically different than those of most professions.
During the pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic raised awareness of the importance of life scientists to conduct research, track strains, and create solutions on national and international levels. Organizations in this field had to readjust in many of the same ways everyone else did, such as a major reliance on telecommunications. Yet the bulk of their adaptations resulted in increased workloads rather than downsizing.
The fact that Washington, D.C., is home to the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) made it a major hotbed of activity throughout the pandemic. Also contributing to growth in the region was the substantial venture capital funding already invested in the area’s biotech endeavors. When the pandemic was in full force, this strong foundation helped keep the industry steady. Professionals in the life science fields experienced less job insecurity than others.
This is not to say that biotech companies were completely immune to the disorder caused by COVID-19. Overall, the impact on human resources, collaboration, and patterns of communication in large life science organization varied considerably. Genome Biology, for example, discovered notable differences between wet labs and dry labs during the pandemic. Their survey of life scientists revealed that during pandemic shutdowns, 72 percent of wet lab trainees were able to use their time productively in terms of e-learning and e-conferencing, compared to only 50 percent of dry lab trainees.
After the pandemic
Clearly, COVID-19 affected every industry, and every organization, differently. Now that the pandemic is approaching its farewell stage, the recovery process is also expected to have an impact. Fortunately, for the life science industry, outlooks seem overwhelmingly favorable. Although R&D will continue to comprise the bulk of the metro area’s careers in this field, pharmacology and vaccine manufacturing are also expanding rapidly. In addition, the government incentives given to biotech startups in D.C. are expected to continue growing.
Perhaps now more than ever, pursuing a career in the life sciences is highly advisable. And if you’re going to take that route, D.C. is a great place to do it. The sturdy foundation this industry is built on in the nation’s capital, and surrounding areas, is likely to hold strong well into the future.