Austin Parker’s blog post “Building An Entrepreneurial Perspective” is a guide to others who can’t or don’t see themselves as entrepreneurs. For those of you in the life sciences, this is a call to action. Before you accept a long and complicated path in medicine or health science research, ask yourself, “Am I an entrepreneur?” If so, then perhaps at least take a look around and see what your other options are.
“I am going to be a doctor/scientist.” This is what you told yourself, your family, and your significant other as you embarked on advanced training for a PhD or an MD. It’s what everyone heard. It’s what everyone expects. You are on the journey.
But is the vision still the same? Do you still see the white coat and sitting in the lab or the clinic as the path for you? For many folks, it potentially isn’t.
For the scientist, the choice is not necessarily their own. Sure, in 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) planned to invest $33.1 billion1 in approximately 50,000 competitive grants that directly support 27,500 investigators2 and 300,000 researchers. The NIH supports an additional 6,000 scientists in its laboratories.3 In 2015, research investments also included $26.5 billion—from other federal agencies ($6.3 billion), foundations ($4.7 billion), and other non-business organizations ($15.5 billion).
That’s a ton of money. But with a newly-minted life scientist (or a struggling postdoc), there is a lot of competition. In fact, NIH and biomedical funding and total awards show minimal growth,1 yet the number of newly minted (e.g., < 35 years old) life science PhDs continues to grow. The message for women scientists is concerning since women accounted for much of the 7,000 increase in life science PhDs received between 1993 and 2002.4
The failure rate of entrepreneurial pursuits is high, but what is the failure rate of an NIH grant application? Failure is part of the process of success. If entrepreneurship has some appeal, then keep reading the next series of blogs as we delve into the idea of entrepreneurial intent and discuss the process of switching from life scientist to business person, including moving the numbers from p values to investor ROI.
Office of Budget (OB) Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources (ASFR). FY 2017 Budget in Brief – NIH. HHS.gov. February 16, 2016.
Lauer Mike. How Many Researchers?. NIH Extramur Nexus. May 31, 2016.
Budget. Natl Inst Health NIH. October 31, 2014.
Sciences National Research Council (US) Committee on Bridges to Independence: Identifying Opportunities for and Challenges to Fostering the Independence of Young Investigators in the Life. Where Are We Now?. National Academies Press (US). 2005.
Photo Credit: The image “Path split by the ‘Batchelor’ seat” (4 July 2009, 640 × 405 [271 KB], jpg) was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph’s page on the Geograph website for the photographer’s contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by Bob Embleton and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.