Following great leaps in innovation, the Hong Kong Life Sciences Industry’s accessibility to the Chinese market is driving candidate demand


A revolutionary breakthrough in oncology treatment in 2016 has seen Hong Kong’s Life Sciences industry look towards new directions in therapy. This comes at a time when multinational corporations are decamping to the region in the hopes of taking advantage of Mainland China’s huge potential market, while the biosimilar and generic drugs industry booms. All of this has led to a demand for candidates in various major fields.

Amidst a great fanfare of recognition and hope, the rise of Immunotherapy as the key driver for making a significant impact on the treatment of cancer has seen oncology become the primary area of concern in the Life Sciences sector.

With Hong Kong more of a commercial hub than a centre for R&D, this new development is leading to a rise in the requirement for candidates with experience in leading strategic product access plans and formulating the implementation of reimbursement enlistment, and “companies are struggling to find the candidates with the relevant skills,” according to Dean Stallard, Managing Director of Hays Hong Kong.

“With there being just two main market players that dominate the immunotherapy market, Bristol-Myer Squibb and Merck Sharp & Dohme, and as the therapy is still very new, there are distinct shortfalls in the types of candidates required.”

This shortage is likely to continue, as corporations that would have once based their regional hubs in Singapore in order to take advantage of the city state’s accommodating tax regime are instead decamping to Hong Kong from where they intend to take advantage of the region’s close proximity and jurisdictional links to Mainland China, and thus break into the lucrative Chinese market. This is ramping up the need for Life Sciences professionals in the area, putting further strain on the candidate pool.

Outside of Immunotherapy there has been a steady rise in companies pushing generic and biosimilar drugs over the last 12 months, something of which the Big Pharma organisations are attempting to resist.

“Traditional Big Pharma are becoming more and more combative in the development of new drugs, but their market share is being affected by the creation of generic and biosimilar drugs. As such, Pharma are looking to ways of retaining their best talent, causing further competition in the candidate market” adds Dean.

With new therapies in oncology and the rise of biosimilar drugs, we are seeing an ever increasing number of regulations and drug price controls, with companies battling to have their drugs implemented on the lists of those approved for public hospitals.

Regulations are getting tighter and tighter because there are more drugs in an expanding market. Therefore companies are investing resources in going through the complicated drug enlistment process, success in which means a guarantee of business from the public hospitals. Extensive resources have been allotted to this with lobbying a key aspect. Candidates who are experienced in this facet of the Life Sciences industry are in much demand,” says Dean.

“At the same time you have companies trying to persuade doctors of the effectiveness and benefits of their drugs, so pharmaceutical companies are extremely interested in candidates who have experience in this commercial advisory side of the sector, those who have the higher oncology qualifications such as medical doctors, qualified pharmacists and PHD holders.

“For senior positions, particularly marketing and sales directors, companies are looking for candidates who can combine these qualifications with business acumen and high presentation skills.

“As Hong Kong’s Life Sciences industry predominantly relies on its commercial acumen, these positions require a lot of high level government lobbying.”

An overview of what other trends have been observed in Hong Kong’s Life Sciences sector can be viewed below.

  • Companies looking to widen the talent pool are increasingly turning to their groups overseas in order to find Hong Kongers living abroad willing to return.
  • Pharma companies are attempting to improve their perception within society, moving away from the image of large companies driven by profit at all costs, and instead as more altruistic organisations providing a much needed service.
  • They are also using this PR as a way of enticing candidates; particularly using the social media network LinkedIn to do so.
  • Hong Kongers working in the Life Sciences industry are attending conventions and networking events in increasing numbers, with the Madrid based ESMO considered most influential. Candidates new to the sector are advised to take part.
  • There had been an expectation for a ramping up of mergers and acquisitions of in the industry during 2017, however these have not occurred in the numbers anticipated.

To view the full Inside Story of Life Sciences in Hong Kong report, please click here.

To find out more about Hays, visit their website here: