Kewen Jin, general manager of Charles River Laboratories China, a contract research organization for preclinical services, discusses the opportunities and challenges for Shanghai.
What trends are emerging in Shanghai's life-science community?
We see people moving between academia, large companies and start-ups. Many do research during the day, and write business plans and talk to venture capitalists at night. Leading academics might join pharmaceutical centres, or leaders of pharmaceutical research companies might head a start-up.
What personnel does Shanghai's life-sciences industry most need?
Pathologists, toxicologists, medicinal chemists and clinicians with experience in global trials. They are difficult to get because, whether foreigners or expatriate Chinese, most are overseas; those with enough experience are in short supply. They get compensation packages: housing allowances, coverage for their children's schools, or other benefits.
Are there jobs in junior positions?
Discovery operations are expanding, so there is a need for senior and junior researchers. But most of the junior positions are filled with local candidates. It is an availability and cost issue.
How do tightening business conditions for drug makers in the West affect China?
There is a push and pull. The pull is Chinese opportunities. The push is downsizing in the West. Lots of Chinese researchers still go to the West for their postdocs, but they are less likely to stay. I see many résumés that are extremely qualified and not Chinese. Some applicants are mid-career and have been laid off. But there are some at the start of their careers who came to see what it's like here and decided to stay.
Why are Charles River's expansion plans in China on hold?
There has been little demand for preclinical services, because many companies are just setting up. It takes a few years to get to preclinical development. It will be some time before the industries feel comfortable using Chinese data for global regulatory filings, but we are getting there, with research that is comparable in quality to Western studies.
Do you have advice for anyone seeking a research post in Shanghai?
You may not get an ideal offer at first. Don't be picky. Once you're here, you can network.
Interview and statistics by David Cyranoski.