Every good pharmaceutical company needs one guy who can create a brand new drug. This is not a skill that really can be developed. It is something that only the best chemists can come up with.
This is an area where every pharmaceutical company has a void. My colleagues in HR are feeling this pinch. We need people such as IITians to come in here. People with the best brains are needed to come up with visions — not just processes — that would enable us to break boundaries in drug discovery.
Other than this, there are essentially two areas in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Out of these, active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), or the basic chemical of medicines and dosage forms, or the forms that can help patients take medicines safely and easily, are closely allied.
Two types of research cover the field — process-oriented and analytical. Process research, the backbone of API, needs organic chemistry graduates. For analyticals, we need MPharms and analytical chemists.
There is a lot of scope to continue studies while working for pharmaceutical companies in India today. Pharmaceutical companies, as a policy, do take in youngsters and allow them to do PhDs. In Orchid, we have tie-ups with institutes such as Anna University in Chennai.
Regulatory affairs are also an interesting area. It includes quality assurance/ quality checking and intellectual property issues. Chemistry Masters and the occasional PhD are the requirement here, and we encourage the brightest people to take up intellectual property as an area of specialisation.
To go back to the area of fundamental research, here again we need PhDs in organic and analytical chemistry to continue path-breaking work in discovery. Biology, too, is an important part of discovery, and we prefer MPharm candidates for basic biology research. Medicinal chemistry requires organic chemists, and not so many analytical chemists. An MSc in organic chemistry is a good degree to complete if you are seeking a career in drug discovery.
A relatively new field is that of novel dug delivery systems. It is the study of ways to help patients take medicines more easily. These could be a spray version of a tablet, or a skin patch for something that might need to be injected. Here, graduates from the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research and allied institutes are in great demand.
Yet another crop of graduates that we are currently working on are those from the Indian Institutes of Management, who we are trying to place in finance, marketing or HR. We have recruited a few bright graduates last year, and other companies too are trying out this path.
As with any highly competitive industry, pharmaceutical companies have a high rate of attrition. However, most of this is in the bottom of the pyramid, and creates a lot of scope to move up the ladder.
(As told to Suprotip Ghosh)
Rangesh is director (HR), Orchid Pharma