Careers in cures: Amgen executive director and general manger Eric Ng says innovation is powering growth – and demand for talent – in the biotechnology sector
Increased cases of communicable diseases in the Asia-Pacific region are driving growth in the biotechnology sector. Eric Ng, executive director and general manager at Amgen, gives us an overview of the consequent hiring trends.
What are the main factors and innovations driving the biotech sector in Hong Kong?
Biotech has grown in recent years, along with the broader healthcare industry. This is being driven by a few key factors.
First and foremost, we have huge emerging markets like India, China, and Indonesia, which are large population countries. But also we see a shift in what you’d describe as more advanced healthcare markets, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, which continue to have more demand for healthcare.
The fundamental cause for change is the rising level of unmet medical needs. A lot of diseases and treatments still require newer therapies, including innovative therapies, or just access to healthcare.
On top of that, Asia is home to half of the world’s population and, unfortunately, the rise of non-communicable diseases is on the rise. Those would typically be cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and bone diseases.
How is this affecting biotech companies in Hong Kong?
Because of growth across the industry, there is increased competition for hiring and more training needs. We see a lot of opportunities for employment and for growth across the whole sector. Companies like us are definitely looking for good people, not just in Hong Kong, but across many markets in the region.
Which skills and roles are most in demand?
Within healthcare, a lot of the roles, needs and skill sets are driven by innovation and science. This fundamentally drives our thinking around roles, skills and people.
Broadly, we can split that into two big spaces: commercial roles, such as marketing and supply chain, and scientific or technical roles, starting with core research scientists.
In the technical space, the manufacturing of biologics is completely different from the manufacturing of traditional pharmaceutical products. Being a new and exciting landscape, biologics will drive growing demand across roles.
Is there sufficient talent in Hong Kong to meet the demand?
Broadly I would say yes. The people we have recruited are from all nationalities, but Hongkongers are the largest population of staff. Because our regional office needs to support multiple countries and languages, we need people with different experiences from different geographies.
Are there any particular characteristics or qualifications that you look for?
Hires have to fit into the technical side, as well as being a cultural fit. Technically, we can look across industries and, for finance and HR, we may look for talent in tech or other industries.
We look for people with an entrepreneurial interest. A year ago, we had ten people in the regional office and now we have more than 80 people. That requires people who are nimble, can set up from scratch, and put processes and the policies in place.
Ultimately, especially in biotech, we look for people that share a common passion for doing something every day that saves peoples’ lives. I think that is something that I see across all the people coming from different walks of life, sharing that very common passion.
How can professionals currently in non-medical sectors, but with transferable skills, make the move to biotech?
In general we don’t see critical barriers. For example, in some of our business functions people have come to us from different sectors with transferable skills. Perhaps in the area of medical, it may be a little bit less obvious for a person to move – typically they will move within the industry.
Practising doctors usually join the industry to fulfil their passion for research, or to do something different for patients, rather than sitting in the office and seeing patients every day. Generally, it falls onto the person’s aspirations.
What kind of career development paths are available in the biotech industry?
I don’t think there is just one typical path. If a person joins a healthcare or pharmaceutical company with some pharma experience as a product manager, for example, the typical career path can be broadened in many different ways – such as to a country marketing role, to a regional or global role. The person could move across to a different segment within sales or marketing, or within the commercial type of roles.
On the technical side, there are various branches of research, such as those involving scientists in laboratories and those that run clinical trials and engage with stakeholders and doctors to run trials to benefit local patients.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Careers in cures.