Why join a small biotech startup?

There are 3,025 Biotechnology businesses in the US as of 2023, an increase of 7.2% from 2022. From 2019 to 2021, venture capitalists plowed $35 billion into biotech companies with advanced platform technologies that could transform the industry. Should you join a small biotech company?

Small biotech firms are growing and looking for people with industry experience to help them develop and launch new prescription drugs. Working at a small biotech company offers some advantages and risks, but in this writer’s opinion, the reward is worth the risks. Here are some reasons to join a small biotech firm:

1ne: You’re tired of a culture where even the most minor decisions take weeks or months to implement.

2wo: You want to be part of, potentially, something big. Biotech companies are developing new ways to treat patients; some are groundbreaking.

3hree: Streamlined management.

4our: They made you an offer you couldn’t refuse. Most biotech companies pay very well and offer chunks of company stock as part of your package.

The downside? You could be laid off if their drug fails in trials or has a setback. It’s important to do your homework on the company’s management and the sources of their funding. VCs don’t have patience for additional trials that cost money and time. They usually want results now.

The other risk is that small biotech companies import too many senior people from big pharma and try to transform the biotech into big pharma. This happened to a friend who took a position with a small biotech in Cambridge and, within a year, saw the culture change as people from big pharma joined the ranks.

Even if your small company gets excellent results on a potential new drug, it may have trouble finding a company to buy them and launch the drug, even if it has potential sales of over a billion dollars. This could be a severe issue as it costs anywhere from $300 to $500 million to launch a new drug.

The culture within big pharma can drain employees and their will to do great work. Biotechs offer a great opportunity but balance the risk with the rewards.