“The Biotech World is Very Well Connected, Don’t Mess Up”

This was some of the best advice I received at university from my masters director. A few years later I cannot agree more and I’m always surprised by how many people are not fully aware of it. Here is why!

1 million people work in the life science industry in Europe. That seems like a lot. But if you boil it down to a single country, it’s less than 100k for the big ones (UK, France, Germany), and if you take a stricter definition of biotech, it should be around 10k. That seems smaller already.

These thousands of people are very well connected, especially at a national level. Why?

  • The biotech industry needs a lot of collaboration. You cannot bring a drug to the market alone. This means you need to find a lot of partners and to connect with them.
  • In most cases, these collaborations are international, pushing people to develop their network abroad.
  • Biotech people stick to the biotech industry (almost) forever because it’s so exciting, full of opportunities, and it requires a very deep scientific knowledge.
  • Developments in biotech take a full career – at least 10 years to develop a drug if not more, 20+ years to develop a solid company (think Actelion, Morphosys, Cellectis etc.)
  • Labiotech (and the other media) connects more and more people across Europe, by informing who is doing what. We help build the European biotech ecosystem and foster more connections.

Even though it’s not a perfect data set, here is my Linkedin data to illustrate my point above. I’m connected to:

  • 4000 people worldwide who have “biotechnology” as their industry on their profile,
  • in 2nd relation with 86k, and
  • connected to 1.25M 3rd relation

This basically means that I’m two connections away from most of the biotech people in Europe/globally. And that’s true for a lot of connected people in the industry.

Such a connected ecosystem explains why the things you do and the way you behave matters. It will spread rapidly through the ecosystem and will strike back at you at some point. Here are a few examples that come to my mind based on my personal experiences:

  • Don’t leave your former employer on bad terms. It will harm you later when you least expect it.
  • Don’t get drunk at professional biotech events, even if it’s tempting.
  • Don’t treat your interns/junior employees with disrespect. They could be your clients or partners in a few years.
  • Respect conference organizers who invite you on stage. If your plan changes, excuse yourself long enough in advance so they can find another speaker.
  • Don’t gossip about other people in the ecosystem. They will find out about it sooner or later.
  • Don’t disclose confidential information you might have received. It’s illegal and you will breach the trust of the person who gave it to you.

I could continue the list for a while but you get my point. You should always keep that advice in mind when you interact with people in the biotech industry. You never know what will happen in the future. The only thing you can know is that the biotech world is very well connected and therefore, it will strike back at some point.

As Benjamin Franklin said: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.

On a positive note, you can also use the well-connected biotech ecosystems as a great advantage. Connection helps good news spread faster. If you’re being professional, nice and honest to someone, chances are you will profit from it rapidly. It’s one of the reasons why we were able to build such a large community in such a short period of time. We always try to leave a good impression, whether online or offline, and this helps us thrive.

I’m so glad that I received and understood this advice before starting my career and I hope this article will help you as well. I would love to hear what you think about it. Feel free me to ping me on social media or to message me below.

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