Written by: Soumyadipa Das
If you have a background in science and currently looking to work for big pharmaceuticals, then you have opened the perfect article.
On Tuesday, May 4th Rutgers iJOBS arranged a virtual site visit to the pharmaceutical company Merck. One of the world’s major players in the pharmaceutical industry, Merck is a 130-year-old global healthcare company with the mission, “Translate breakthrough biomedical research into meaningful new therapies and vaccines that improve and extend the lives of people worldwide.” Merck operates with 74k employees in 140+ countries worldwide with a heavy focus in biomedical research and development (R&D). In 2020 Merck allocated $13.6 billion in its research and development sector with one-fifth of the total company employees working in the R&D department. Merck has a total of four research sites in US: Kenilworth and Rahway, NJ, West Point, PA, Boston & Cambridge, MA, and South San Francisco, CA. In this virtual event, the attendees were able to interact with the nine current employees of Merck and gain a deeper insight about the company, especially regarding hiring.
Nine Merck employees on the virtual site visit zoom panel represented a diverse cross-section of the company. Seven Panelists were from three distinct sections of the Merck Department of Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics & Drug Metabolism (PPDM). Drs. Jingjing Guo and Bingming Chen from the Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, and Elimination (PPDM-ADME) sector, Mr. KJ Lee and Dr. Bernard Choi from Bio analytics (PPDM-BA), and Dr. Xiaowei Zang from Quantitative Pharmacology and Pharmacometrics (PPDM-QP2). Hiring managers Mr. Tom Bateman and Dr. Xiang Yu for PPDM were present as well. Panelists from other Merck departments included Dr. Colena Johnson from Safety Assessment & Laboratory Animal Resources (SALAR) and Dr. Joseph Fantuzzo from Analytical Research and Development (AR&D).
Merck has invested in working together with different departments to ultimately improve life of patients while not restricting themselves to a particular area of biomedical science. Hiring manager Mr. Tom Bateman explained how Merck initially used to work on small molecule-based drugs and has now adapted itself to work with high molecular weight samples ranging from peptides to virus-like particles. Discovery programs in Merck are diverse, 30% of the discovery programs are dedicated to infectious diseases and vaccines, which resulted in the development of V920, a 97% effective vaccine for the Zaire Ebola virus, and granted approval by the FDA in 2019. They also have dedicated 35% of the discovery programs to Immuno-Oncology, resulting the development of popular treatments and drugs like Keytruda, Lynparza, and Lenvima used for treating different kinds of cancer. A chart from Dr. Bateman’s presentation showed that drugs developed by Merck so far took on average 15 years from the early development stage to product approval. With these vast expansions, Merck has a variety of positions to offer people from all fields of STEM ranging from disciplines like mathematics and chemistry to pathology and toxicology.
Panelist Dr. Bingming Chen encouraged potential future applicants to apply for the Merck post-doctoral program as an excellent way to gain some industry experience while maintaining the good record of publication and presentation. As an international employee herself, Dr. Chen also explained how Merck provides a welcoming ambiance regarding work visa sponsorship as well. Additionally, most of the Post-doctoral fellows are often offered permanent employment at the company upon post-doc completion. When asked about work-life balance, panelist Dr. Chen replied that she tries to maintain a 9 to 5 schedule but in general work hours are flexible and allows for a well-balanced life for the employee.
As some Merck departments are hiring, panelists described aspects of their Merck departments as they are unique and focus on different biomedical research topics. Dr. Bingming Chen from the PPDM-ADME sector explained how their department deals with investigating exposure of drugs at target site and its engagement. Specifically, ADME specializes in drug optimization and bioanalysis. ADME also utilizes smart trial running to predict dosage use, experimental imaging techniques, and mathematical modelling. Dr. Bernard Choi from PPDM puts an emphasis on analyzing a huge number of samples at low cost and high quality each day through automation which generates a huge volume of data. As a result, Merck is interested in hiring people who will facilitate handling huge amounts of data, a.k.a. people who perform data modelling or machine/deep learning. Representing the SALAR section, Dr. Colena Johnson explained that her department works closely with the regulatory committee for the safety assessment of drug candidates selected in the PPDM-ADME department. In a drug development, SALAR works from the target selection stage, all the way to the post-marketing. Panelist Dr. Joseph Fantuzzo said the AR&D section focuses on small molecules, vaccines, and molecular and material characterization. AR&D characterizes these pharmaceutical developments using analytical techniques including NMR spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, X-ray crystallography, chromatography, imaging, particle analysis, and various immunoassays. When asked about experience requirement for different positions, Mr. Bateman encouraged the fresh PhDs to apply for senior scientist position, while associate principal scientist would need at least five years of experience post PhD in the relevant field.
No matter which STEM background you are from, Merck has something for you. I hope this article gave you some insight about what it is like to be a part of Merck and how their different departments work. I hope you enjoyed reading the article!
This article was edited by Junior Editor, Natalie Losada and Senior Editor, Samantha Avina.