BioPharma Challenges during COVID-19 Pandemic Report

A few weeks ago, Adante Staffing Inc. surveyed BioPharma leaders across Massachusetts on how
their companies and management teams were dealing with the immediate impact of the COVID-19
pandemic. The goal of the survey was to gather the information and publish it to the BioPharma
Community as an educational resource. This is the first of many reports we hope to publish in the
coming weeks to keep the BioPharma community informed.

For this report, we contacted 1000+ industry leaders representing Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical
companies, both large and small in size, to gain their perspective on protocols put in place, challenges
their companies were facing and how managing and hiring has changed in recent weeks. These
interviews were conducted both over the phone and via email.
We interviewed leaders with unique backgrounds that varied from C-Suite to Heads to VPs and HR
and found there was a common theme……BioPharma is still going strong.

While the way business is being conducted has slightly changed, the community has quickly adjusted
to these changes, put their heads down and continued business-as-usual. Nearly everyone is having
some sort of difficulty of working from home whether it be school-aged children present (often without
help), not having the camaraderie, environment and culture present that folks in the community
cherish so much, or experiencing bouts of fear and anxiety that is omnipresent everywhere. Because
individuals go through these bouts at different times, it is as important now more than ever to
communicate with your team and company as frequently as possible and always in a positive and
constructive way.

Executive Summary
We are in strange and unchartered territory, both personally and professionally. People are trying to
wade through with optimism, but COVID-19 has put fear and anxiety in most leaders and
entrepreneurs, even if momentarily. Nobody is really certain how long this will last and everyone is
doing the best they can under these stressful, trying and uncertain circumstances. Luckily, the
BioPharma community has made tremendous progress in acclimating to the “new normal”.
Companies are continuing to work diligently in research and development and have made vast
changes so that all staff are safe.

Q. What protocols have you put in place to accommodate the current climate?

BioPharma companies are taking extreme measures to ensure all protocols and more are being
followed with guidelines from the CDC, WHO, Massachusetts Healthcare and local authorities. Many
facilities have completely shut down operations to undergo deep cleaning and sanitization with some
mandating that employees submit a request, and must wait for approval, before entering the building.
Facilities that remain open are research based organizations that only have essential staff on-site,
typically only a few per staggered shift, wearing approved protective masks, gloves and lab coats.
Essential staff are reserved for in vivo scientists, facilities and high priority research projects. Most
projects that work with third party suppliers and service vendors have been put on hold. The few
essential personal on-site will maintain social distancing with some labs specifically taping off work
areas. Lastly, a variety of BioPharma companies are offering rentals for essential personnel to get to
work if they do not own a vehicle.

Q. What is the % of people in your company working from home?

This statistic is overwhelmingly universal. Most facilities are 100% remote and with the facilities that
have essential staff on-site, typically only a few employees (sometimes only 1 employee) are on-site
during any shift while 90% of staff is considered non-essential. If an outbreak occurs, there are clear
policies in place for an Immediate shutdown of the facility and the facility will stay closed until negative
results are obtained.
Q. Is your lab staff working from home or have you created a schedule for people to safely be
in the lab? How are you keeping “social distancing” within the lab?
Most lab personnel are working remote with limited staff going on-site at any given shift. If more than
one essential employee has to be on-site, timetables and schedules have been created that stagger
personnel so they can ensure social distancing with additional scheduling for set-up and use of
equipment & rooms and areas taped off by 6 foot spaces so employees are aware of the guidelines.
Some companies have issued a letter for employees in the event they get stopped by a government
official. Other companies have an operations person on-site to ensure essential employees are
adhering to social distancing. If the employees get too close – they have to leave.

Q. How are you managing/assessing your team? What means of communication are you using
to stay in touch and how often?

All Industry leaders indicated that they were managing and assessing their teams as much as they
normally do, but in perhaps a different manner. Industry leaders are using a variety of resources to
keep in close contact with their teams. These include telephone, video conferencing, web calls,
emails, town-hall meetings, chats and blogs. There are a variety of interesting tools available that
managers are also using: Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, Microsoft Teams and Slack as a
collaborative messaging tool amongst coworkers, with Zoom and MS Teams being used by the
majority.
Most departments are communicating with teams on a daily basis and communicating with corporate
on a weekly basis or biweekly basis. Report writing, research studies, analysis and paperwork seems
to be the primary remote work-load however some companies have instituted training programs on
leadership and educational assignments for employees. Additionally, other companies have created
picture channels and a wellness & corona connection channel where employees can post updates.
Some have implemented weekly lunches with the CEO where employees have the choice to join via
Zoom or non-video. Others have set up a dedicated email address so when an employee receives an
email from it they know it’s important to read.

Q. Are you continuing to interview? If yes, what means are you using?

Overwhelmingly, the response to this question was an astounding YES by 97%. Industry leaders that
were not interviewing either worked in an academic research hospital or were in an incubator space.
Again, the means to which interviews are being conducted are varied using tools stated previously.

Q. When are you going to be hiring? Will you have new hires start while “shelter-in-place” is
advised?

60% of BioPharma companies who are negotiating offers are looking for new hires to start
immediately and will conduct introductions and on-boarding virtually. 34% indicated that they will likely
make offers but delay on-boarding until shelter-in-place is lifted; targeting June or July 1 start date.
6% indicated that they will not likely make any offers or hire while shelter-in-place is advised.

Q. What are your current hiring constraints?

Overall, the majority of hiring constraints were more common with what industry constraints typically
are (44%) sans the coronavirus: budget limitations & money, visas being delayed, finding top talent &
not having enough lab space. 6% mentioned that not having face to face introductions & meetings
and uncertainty about project timelines could be major constraints, i.e. if a patient identified with
COVID-19 happens at any sites, there would be delays because sites would be completely shut
down. 6% mentioned that everything has been put on hold and there would be no hiring. A positive
44% indicated that interviewing/hiring is still ongoing with no constraints, however, different strategies
have been put in place while others are continuing to view this time as an opportunity to be creative,
innovate and to really accelerate the future of work.

 

Adante is a BioPharma Consulting & Talent Acquisition firm headquartered in the Greater Boston
area. We partner with VC funded to mid-size Biotech, Pharmaceutical, and Genomics companies to
attract, build and retain innovative, dynamic and high-performing research & development, technical
operations and quality teams.