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my background is in biotech and i've worked at a small handful of biotech startups in a scientific capacity.

here's my advice: unless you have friends who can set you up with the right VCs and ensure that they will be willing to overlook your lack of experience and IP, don't bother.

you're not going to get up to speed working in the lab on your own in any short amount of time. learning the theoretical stuff that you need to know won't take long, but you probably won't understand how to use the theory to make something novel until you've spent time in the lab. and you won't know how to vet the ideas of people with phds, either.

then there's the elephant in the room: risk. biotech is extremely risky because drug development is difficult even under ideal conditions. making "niche drugs" is even more difficult than making drugs for the mainstream because niche diseases won't have as much of the scientific background already researched when you sit down to try to come up with a useful therapy concept.

if you want to talk in more depth about the skills which are actually needed to get into the field in a scientific or a business capacity, i've advised someone who reached out to me here on HN about that exact topic in the past, and i'm more than happy to discuss it with you via email. check out my profile if you're interested.




But here's the question: maybe you can become a provider of highly optimized big data processing or data visualization software, without deep knowledge in biology?


you probably can, but it's hard to know what will be in demand without doing a lot of customer interviews with the people who would need your service.


Where is the best place to meet the right people? I talked to my friend (PhD) and she explained the process of conversion from Illumina file formats all the way to numpy , but I would love to know more.


boston is the best place to meet people in biotech. more specifically, it depends on the kind of data product you're trying to make. there are a plethora of networking events for biotech in the area, and a lot of the local nonprofit institutions will have valuable people for you to meet as well.


Why are Phds so cheap to hire if their skills are so valueable?


> Why are Phds so cheap to hire if their skills are so valuable?

Is a hamster wheel. Your skills are valuable only while you are running. If you stop, your huge time and money investment loses their value gradually, and if you stop for too much time (getting pregnant, suffering an accident or having small kids) you are out of the game. Thus, for many researchers cheap work is better than none.

And there are the stupid artificial constrains, a damocles sword in the shape of a clock. Scientist work is related with Universities schedule. They can expect to be hired mainly at the beginning of the year or in summer, hired for the next year. If you miss the train you will need to wait for another year.

Scientists are expected also by society to produce X discoveries at the interval of age Y and have a limited time for that. This is really idiot. Would be like expecting Leonardo painting the Monna lisa in three years maximum (and exactly between 27 and 29 yo), or stop painting.

And there is also a huge vanity factor. To be associated with an university or big brand even if you just make the coffee there, is good for the ego and help constructing your identity and selling you better later.

None of those have any relationship with what science really is, a method to solve problems, of course


There is not enough demand (and relatively large amount of supply). Biotech isn't like software where it adds immediate value. There are hoops to jump through (unless you are only doing it to cure a disease affecting yourself). The liability is high if things fail. People have accepted bugs as part of computing, they are not so generous when it comes to civil engineering, and even less so when it comes to the life sciences. And most importantly, too many wannabe researchers and not enough money to go around.

To use an analogy, game developers. Plenty of supply because of everyone wants to be game developers. The work is difficult, pay is bad, work-life balance non-existent. Not to mention the economics are brutal. Are individual game developers valuable? Certainly. Are they cheap too? Yes. The problem is structural (big AAA firms as gatekeepers on the high end, tremendous amount of competition on the indie end).

The problem with Bio/Med/Pharma is also structural. Med school supply is capped by forces like professional associations (fancier terms for doctor unions/lobbies), hospital supply is also capped by the similar forces, with perhaps some contributions by the pharma industry. As for pharma, I think enough people has complained about it that it's not worth elaborating here. There has never been a shortage in bio talent or consumer demand. The bottleneck is due regulatory and policy reasons.

HN treats computing and software like how certain groups treats guns. This is the exception not the norm. Most other industries have tremendous oversight/interference by authorities that the move fast break things method is difficult to apply. In practically any other field, the barrier of entry is artificially high and information is locked-in, not open and shared.

Imagine if you create a new Kubernetes load balancer and to get it deployed you need to have it "approved and certified". You pay perhaps 4 figures to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation who is "accredited" by the Association for Computing Machinery to certify software. Sounds ridiculous? This is the way of life for practically everything that is not generic software (embedded automobile/medical/aerospace software is the exception)

Need a leftpad library? Be prepared to discuss licensing for "intellectual property". No fixed pricing on page, a salesperson will contact you and negotiate.


Disclaimer: I have a PhD. I think one problem is that the love of the subject matter motivates people to go far beyond the bare minimum training required to get a job.


Other comment mentioned game developers; I think another obvious comparison is pilots. Anything people will do because it's fulfilling or prestigious or a popular mission in life will produce an excessive number of applicants for positions.


they're used to working at slavery wages (sub 30k) to get their phd, so even a low salary will feel like a big bump to them.


Supply > demand




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