Science and technology are increasingly linked and there are many areas of research where they work hand in hand, such as genomics, pharmacogenomics and bioinformatics. For biologists with an aptitude for computer science, or indeed computer scientists, programmers or mathematicians with an interest in science, there is a wealth of opportunities available and the chance to work on the cutting edge of modern medicine development.
The rapidly expanding Genomics industry has an insatiable appetite for people with computer-based skills because of the amount of data its research generates. In the early days of DNA sequencing using the methods pioneered by Frederick Sanger, the process was very slow and laborious, taking months if not years to map one genome. But more recent advances in technology have delivered faster, next generation sequencing (NGS) procedures – such as Illumina and Oxford Nanopore – which generate more data in a shorter space of time.
To help analyse all the biological data generated, the Genomics sector needs people who are skilled in both science and computers. Typical roles requiring this skillset include bioinformaticians, who structure the sequence information ready for analysis, computational biologists who create the pipelines and tools needed to analyse the data, and bioinformatic analysts, who look at the data prepared and analyse it to identify biological or genetic markers that affect disease.
Bioinformatic analysis can be completed in a variety of different ways, so candidates taking up bioinformatic analyst jobs come from a range of backgrounds, depending on the particular demands of the role – for example, one job might require a knowledge of statistical analysis, another may focus on the use of machine learning or artificial intelligence.
The genomics sector also has a big demand for candidates to fill data scientist roles, which also utilises the science and computer skillset. Every human genome creates 700MB of data, and to draw any meaningful conclusions from it, this data needs to be compared to other sources of information. Data scientists have the necessary tools and expertise to work with large volumes of genomics data to help make sense of it all.
And it’s not just research institutions where bioinformatic and data scientist roles are in demand, we are also seeing a sharp incline in computational science jobs in the pharma industry. Pharma companies are increasingly investing in genomics-based R&D, as the industry takes steps towards creating drugs which will be tailored to an individual’s genetic responses.
The ‘pharmacogenomics’ global industry is expected to be worth in the region of $11.94bn by 2024 and will have a large demand for data scientists to make the concept of personalised medicine a reality.
So for candidates looking for genomics and bioinformatic roles in the UK, USA and Europe, the opportunities are many and varied and can be based in research and academic institutions as well as commercial organisations. Most people working in the field will have degree-level education and experience in both computers and science. Some candidates will come into the sector as computer scientists and transfer their skills to biology; others will be biologists who have learned computer programming.
To get a better understanding of the salaries these kinds of jobs attract, it’s worth looking at the results of our latest salary survey, undertaken in conjunction with Front Line Genomics in the last quarter of 2018. The survey was created as both a useful tool to benchmark salaries and to identify key trends within the worldwide Genomics labour market. Nearly 1,300 Genomics professionals completed the survey and the results were published in January 2019. Read the full report by clicking on the image to the right or click here.
Paramount Recruitment searches internationally to find the best talent for the genomics, pharmacogenomics and bioinformatics sectors. We work with clients to fill ad hoc vacancies, but can also work strategically to build whole teams and manage recruitment campaigns or projects. We understand the needs of the industry, from talent spotting recruits for entry level positions, to securing the right people to drive an organisation at senior and executive level.
If you have a mind for computers and science, check out some of the roles that this growing sector offers below or see our current job vacancies here.