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INSIDE BIOTECH: See the drug companies that are growing the fastest and pay workers the most

  • Insider compiled data on the fastest-growing biotechs and pharmas, and what they’re paying employees and executives. 
  • Hiring and retaining workers has been a challenge in the drug industry, leading to competitive pay packages.
  • One company paid its median employee $701,000, while dozens of CEOs earned more than $18 million. 
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the drug industry has grown, companies are competing to hire and retain the best people. That’s true for every position from the CEO all the way down to entry-level technicians. 

To understand this battle for talent, Insider analyzed reports from more than 150 publicly traded pharma and biotech companies. We included companies with a market value of at least $1 billion. Our list includes companies that trade on two leading biotech indices — the XBI and the IBB — as well as a handful of multinational pharmaceutical companies.

We found dozens of companies that grew their workforce while other industries were conducting layoffs. Insider’s reports showed that one biotech paid its median employee $701,000 last year. That company’s CEO made $32,497,239 in 2020.

Here’s what you should know about which companies are growing the fastest, and what they’re paying. 

Moderna biotech lab laboratory pharma

The biotech Moderna is working to develop personalized cancer treatments that are custom-crafted for each individual patient.

Moderna


Dozens of drug companies boosted their workforces by at least 50% last year

It’s little surprise that biotechs developing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, like IGM Biosciences, Moderna and Novavax, went on a hiring spree last year. But that growth wasn’t limited to companies responding to the pandemic. Insider found 29 companies that grew their staff by at least 50% in 2020.

Several of these companies said they planned to continue hiring in 2021. One of the companies on Insider’s list, Chinese drug giant BeiGene, has already added another 700 employees since the start of the year. 

Even startups are getting bigger. A series of new drug companies has emerged in the past two years that meld multiple smaller startups to either create a single new venture or a holding company with many subsidiaries. These startups are drawing large financing rounds and high valuations, creating companies that are larger in scale than a standard drug startup.

Read more: See the 29 fastest-growing biotech companies, which hired hundreds of new workers in 2020 and grew by at least 50%

A new wave of drug startups with big portfolios and precarious valuations has burst onto the scene. Welcome to the era of ‘mega biotechs.’

To attract the best talent, drug companies are boosting salaries and throwing in equity

Experts have warned for years that the growth of drug companies is outpacing the number of scientists and researchers actually looking for jobs. Companies have to be competitive to grab the top talent, they told Insider. That can mean offering competitive compensation packages, including stock and other benefits.

Insider found the 23 best-paying biotechs, which all paid over $300,000 to their typical worker in 2020. 

Read more: Employees at top biotech companies can get paid up to $701,000. Here’s where workers made the most in 2020.

highest paid drug CEOs 4x3

From left to right: Albert Bourla, Helen Sabzevari, and Giovanni Caforio

Crystal Cox/Insider; Precigen; Mark Neuling/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Image; Marianne Ayala/Insider


Close to 30 drug company CEOs earned more than $18 million last year

High levels of compensation went all the way to the top of the biotech and pharma food chain. Insider found the highest paid chief executives in the drug industry, including two who each made more than $100 million last year

Most executives make the majority of their money from stock awards and bonuses. In 2020, that served them well. Novavax CEO Stanley Erck, for example, saw his pay package jump from $2.4 million in 2019 to $48 million last year, fueled by the company’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts and resulting stock price jump. 

Read more: These are the 17 CEOs who made the most, led by Regeneron, Guardant Health and Royalty Pharma.

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