Drug Sponsor Hiring Entity non-FTE Expectations Gap: Mid Sized Pharma Program and Strategic Asset Management LifeSciHub Case Study

Drug Sponsor HR

April 2021:  US hub for a mid-sized ($1-10B US) Japanese pharmaceutical company had 3 open positions in Strategic Asset and Program Management (SAPM) in the midst of a hiring freeze, detailed description below.  “Bob”, Sr. Director of SAPM and “Chris” HR Director of Flexible Workforce, launched a search involving 7 suppliers.  There was an initial group supplier call, in which Chris’ HR team allowed the suppliers to anonymously ask questions directly to Bob about his requirements.  Bob emphasized his specific needs, calling out 3 absolute must-haves:  “strong drug development expertise (at least 5, preferably 10 years experience), program management within an asset management group, and on-site at one of two company offices in the Northeast US.”


Challenge 1:  Requiring on-site 

  • Q2 2021- insisting on on-site in mid pandemic was unrealistic, but Bob wouldn’t budge.
  • LifeSciHub provided an analysis proving that there was an extremely small pool of pharma program and asset management talent within physical proximity of the two sites.  There were only four peer-level pharma companies within driving distance radius.  “Peer” defined as having more than one asset (preferably 6-10, like Bob’s company) that had reached commercial maturity.  There were more small, virtual start ups, none of which had reached commercial maturity, which is a key component of fully experienced asset managers. 

Challenge 2:  Non-Competitive Compensation

Due to the hiring freeze Bob and Chris could only offer a “Contingent Labor” compensation package, which meant a third party would be the “employer of record” and provide for the candidate’s benefits and vacation time.  The hourly rate was capped at $140 per hour. 

  • After 50% removed for third party fees statutory costs (W2 taxes, etc.), the actual expert would receive $approximately $70/hr, a rate that was far lower than the 50th percentile for the experience required.
  • Given the paucity of talent within physical proximity to Bob’s two sites, the best option to find talent would be to recruit from the local pharmaceutical peer’s Asset Management groups.  The low hourly rate and, perhaps more importantly, the lack of stock options and other direct employment incentives greatly lowered probability of success. 

When concerns were raised about this approach Bob expressed high confidence that the compensation package was competitive: “we have a contractor that has been here for 9 years, just applied for employment and was accepted!  So yes, we feel this is a very competitive offer.”

Challenge 3:  Resource Gap Impact Not Known

Bob expressed wanting someone with experience, but “not an expert consultant who is going to come in here and start ordering everyone around.  I’m looking for someone experienced but also on the junior side.  Someone who will grow with us, that we can mold to our way of doing things.”  Bob added, “if it takes 12 months or more to find the right people I am OK waiting for that.” 

  • Experienced + “on the junior side”= millennials, who, data show, are highly likely to turnover after 3 years.  This should have factored into the decision to wait 12 months or more to find the perfect resource.
  • Considering the SAPM’s proximity to the company’s $8B US revenue stream it is possible to speculate on Asset Management’s human capital impact to the bottom line.  Had these three resources had even a .1% positive impact on asset progress through the development pipeline, that would amount to $8M annual revenue. 

·       Although it is hard to quantify intangibles such as impact on revenue stream, in this case there was no attempt, pressure, or accountability to do so.  

Challenge 4:  Surrounded by Staffing Experts, not Drug Development Experts

After 3 months of Bob rejecting all candidates put forward, Chris arranged another group call with the staffing providers:  “Bob, can you please clarify, will the candidates be managing clinical trials?”  No one seemed alarmed that after 3 months of already providing candidates, a staffing provider would clearly have so little understanding of drug development that they could confuse the role of a Strategic Program and Asset Manager with that of Clinical Trial Manager.

LifeSciHub’s Platform Innovation

Unlike a contingent labor (traditional staffing) approach, LifeSciHub provides compliant access to the independent workforce- industry R&D experts with at least 10+ years drug development that have left the full time employee workforce to become independently incorporated small businesses.  The LifeSciHub membership network presented Bob with a group of 3 excellent, independently incorporated program managers that not only met the required expertise criteria perfectly but were already deeply familiar with this particular pharmaceutical company:  one had worked on an extensive CMC tech transfer program for that pharma company a few years prior.  Another had worked for that pharmaceutical company’s former President of the US Business Unit, and had been to the Japanese headquarters several times over the course of a long term program project.  Unfortunately these independent experts were rejected because they were:

  •       Not on-site
  •      Too senior
  •        Being independently incorporated small businesses, they accepted only1099 as payment,

1,680 annual Billable hours calculation:  35 hour work week, 52 weeks, Minus 10 days vacation


There seemed to be several dynamics at play in this situation.  Bob seemed to have grossly unrealistic expectations of the availability of talent relative to his offices’ local proximity.  Chris/HR relied on Bob’s expertise and corporate stature for the assessment. When pressed with the data proving the dearth of local talent Chris said, “do you think you know better that an Senior Director of Strategic Asset and Program Management who has been with the company for 22 years?”  

Bob, in turn, seemed to rely on the traditional HR suppliers when they appeared willing and able to fulfill his requests.  He wanted to mold a resource that would grow over time, and yet the compensation package was not aligned with that goal.  Although data regarding millennial turnover rates, no one seemed willing to challenge the wisdom of waiting 12 months for a resource that would likely then leave in 3 years.    The contending staffing suppliers were also not aligned with Bob’s long term goal, as their business models were based on temporary staffing.  In other words, it would hurt Bob far worse for the to-be resource to leave in 3 years than the staffing suppliers, who would likely be contenders to fill the position- a relatively low risk position for the staffing suppliers. 

By confusing the Clinical Trial Manager role with a Strategic Asset and Program Manager role it was clear the staffing suppliers didn’t understand what Bob needed, however they were certainly willing to keep trying, especially after he said he was willing to wait 12 months or more.  Bob was the only one suffering, and it was only a matter of time until he became willing to start considering lower level contenders.

LifeSciHub Conclusion:   Although Bob clearly stated the resources “can’t just be good at Microsoft project, they have to know drug development too,”  it was clear that over time, Bob would end up with just that- a resource that was a junior-mid, generalized project management who had little or no drug development experience.  His compensation package and approach demanded it, and it would probably take 12 months or more to place.  


Original Role Description:

PSAM Program Manager

The Program Manager serves as a key driver on 2 or more development programs focused on strategic planning and oversight of operational execution. In this role, the Program Manager ensures team and Sr. Management alignment on program objectives, deliverables and timelines to support the organization’s overall goals; works with teams and management to create the development strategy, establish objectives, and monitor team progress; and makes recommendations regarding project priorities, resource requirements, and strategic considerations to established governance committees for endorsement.


  • Provides program management for complex development programs and special projects.
  • Manages established cross-functional teams and relevant functional areas to lead the development of quality Global Development & Commercialization Plans (GDCPs) which integrate the development strategy and project plan (inclusive of timelines, milestones, interdependencies, issues, risks and actions).
  • Responsible for ensuring smooth transitions between stage gates of drug development from initiating IND through product launch and full life cycle management.
  • Facilitates the review of development project proposals with Senior Management and ensures appropriate follow through to achieve approved program/project objectives.
  • Responsible for developing a working knowledge and understanding of the science, therapeutic area and commercial landscape of assigned programs.
  • Where applicable, functions as a development alliance liaison helping to support development alliance management activities based on program requirements.
  • Prepares and presents program level information to Program Manager Lead for alignment; communicates accurate program information to the wider global organization through routine reports to allow strategic decision-making.
  • Collaborates with data science and analytics team in delivery of projects.
  • Utilize advanced analytics and data visualization tools and confirm program-level information
  • Contribute to innovative/adaptive trial designs efforts and incorporate into program development planning as appropriate.



  • Supports the project teams toward implementation of the strategic and operational plans and tracks progress to goals.
  • Manages and tracks program progress as assigned on a continual basis, identifying and tracking both cross-project and cross-functional risks and issues related to scope, timelines and budget. As appropriate, informs Senior management and ensures timely resolution.
  • Manages project information for assigned projects and is responsible for developing and maintaining good relationships with other functions fostering positive interactions and ultimately support achieving desired project outcomes.
  • Responsible for supporting departmental and corporate initiatives to drive process improvements.
  • Responsible for maintenance of the project actions, decisions and risks for project team interactions.
  • Partners with Finance team in driving quarterly forecasts and mid-to-long term budget planning for defined programs; reviews, challenges and ensures endorsement of projections by Senior Management.
  • Identify innovative solutions (e.g. automation) to business operations and collaborate with product development teams in the creation and deployment.



  • Understanding of the clinical, regulatory, and commercial requirements for early and late stage drug development
  • Knowledge of clinical operations and the regulatory process.
  • Knowledge of global drug development, registration, and market launch requirements.
  • Thorough understanding of each functional area’s role and contribution to the development process.
  • Ability to develop and drive implementation of cross-functional global drug development plans (GDDP), including strategic assessment of budgets and timelines.
  • Familiarity with IT solutions integrated into the healthcare/pharmaceutical business.
  • Meeting coordination and facilitation skills.
  • Effective interpersonal communication in a remote/virtual environment; Communicates in an open, balanced and objective manner.
  • Maintains diverse, balanced and effective teams.
  • Demonstrates flexibility; approaching process changes, technology and new responsibilities with and open curious mind.
  • Understands importance of potential outcomes and takes into consideration while utilizing information, sourcing and processing.
  • Works creatively within predefined standards.
  • Understands strategic change management and initiates application as appropriate.
  • Strong analytical skills.
  • Solid computer skills with MS Project, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
  • Excellent interpersonal, communication and negotiation skills.
  • Bachelors; 5 years of Project Management experience in Pharma or Biotech.



  • Drug / product development experience is a must.
  • Familiarity with Planisware is a plus.
  • Familiarity with software development is a plus.