Career Supplement | But do you need an MBA?

Roberto Rosenkranz decided to get an MBA after his PhD in pharmacology and toxicology out of pure interest in the field, not to advance his career.

Alison McCook
Jun 19, 2005
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Roberto Rosenkranz decided to get an MBA after his PhD in pharmacology and toxicology out of pure interest in the field, not to advance his career. But while working at Syntex (later purchased by Roche) his extra degree caught the attention of the CEO, who asked Rosenkrank to head up new product development. Since then, Rosenkranz has held just about every position in the business side of pharmaceuticals, and started his own pharmaceuticals company, Roxro Pharma, LLC, in Menlo Park, Ca.

The pharmaceutical industry is a natural home for someone with a head for both business and science, he says. Rosenkranz believes his MBA helps him "build a bridge" between the people in marketing and those working in research – who are "very, very different." For instance, scientists worry about which products work, while sales people spend sleepless nights thinking about what sells. "By having both degrees, you can be...

SEEING BOTH SIDES

In pharmaceuticals, science rarely happens in a vacuum. Scientists with no head for business can lose sight of the fact that they're trying to develop a product, and the importance of cost, time to market, and other essential elements of their work, says Gilles Tapolsky, VP of product development at Tapestry Pharmaceuticals in Boulder, Co. An "MBA enabled me to be a better scientist and a better employee," he says.

Prashant Srivastava says he never thought he'd want more than his PhD in chemical engineering, but he now uses the skills he learned from his business training to help Pfizer decide about investments in technology. For instance, Srivastava identifies when it's better to invest in a more expensive tool that has multiple applications, and when to purchase cheaper, single purpose technologies. And it helps Pfizer to have one person analyze both the scientific and economic merits of these decisions, notes Srivastava, who is based in Kalamazoo, Mi. "It's actually been much smoother, since I see both sides of this issue," he says.

STRATEGIZING SKILLS

Other positions that benefit from people with the skills gained through both degrees include those within R&D strategy groups, where people decide which compounds are worth including in the company's pipeline, Srivastava notes. For this, scientists need to understand both what works technically and whether it can sell, he says.

Some other places where a PhD/MBA can fit within pharmaceuticals are brand team marketing and business development, says Jeanine Boyle, manager of university relations at Wyeth in Collegeville, Pa.

Mark Lee uses his PhD (chemistry) and MBA at Wyeth to oversee all of the company's licensing activity. Jennifer Doyle, Wyeth's manager of research recruiting, says joint degree-holders who want to stay on the research side can also flourish as project managers, where they oversee drug development and ensure everything is getting done. Boyle says that the company is looking for more candidates with both degrees, now that the company has "realized the economies" of people who can unite skills in both science and business. Indeed, Lee says he'd "like to think" that both degrees have helped him find jobs and advance faster than having just a PhD.

However, being familiar with business and science can mean you lose your expertise in both, Roxro's Rosenkranz warns. For instance, scientists now think of him as a businessman, while to the business people, he will always be a scientist. But it's worth it to be able to move in both worlds, he says. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

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