Considering a career in pharmaceutical biotechnology? Our Cork Institute of Technology resident ambassador from Malaysia Clement Shi Jie Sim gives us a breakdown of what to expect.

What is Pharmaceutical Biotechnology?

Pharmaceutical Biotechnology is a relatively new and growing field. It involves using the applications of biotechnology to develop therapeutic medicine to treat or cure a disease. An example of a biopharmaceutical drug would be insulin, which is used in the treatment of diabetes.

Pharmaceutical drugs are synthesised by low molecular weight organic chemicals. Well known examples of these are pain medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Biopharmaceutical drugs are produced by a protein or nucleic acid-based substance by means of genetic engineering. Examples of these are vaccines, hormones and monoclonal antibodies.

Why study in Ireland?

Ireland is the home to nine out of the top 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world — Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, GSK and many more. Low corporate tax incentives encourage many multinational companies to set up their base in Ireland. According to GradIreland, in 2014, the pharmaceutical sector in Ireland was booming with exported products valued at a staggering €64 billion.

Furthermore, the cost of living and tuition fees in Ireland are far more affordable, compared to other countries such as the UK, USA and Australia. In addition, international students are allowed to work for 20 hours a week during the academic term and 40 hours a week during holidays.

Why study at Cork Institute of Technology?

Cork is the home to many of the top biopharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly, Janssen Sciences, BioMarin and AbbVie so prospective employers are close by. Pharmaceutical Biotechnology is a four-year degree course offered by CIT. Each year, only 40 students will be accepted into the course. The smaller number of students allows for more interaction between lecturers and students. There are a total of eight semesters along the course of four years. In each semester, there are sixmodules which are split between coursework and exams.

 A huge factor which contributes to the popularity of this course would be the exposure to frequent practical labs. Through the labs, students are equipped with essential technical skills necessary when working in the biopharmaceutical industry. In year three of the course, it is mandatory for all students to go out on work placement for 16 weeks. This is a perfect platform for students to further develop their experience and skills when working in the industry.

I would highly recommend this course at CIT. Anyone with good analytical, organisational and technical skills, time management and the ability to work in a team should apply if they have a passion for this field.

My Experience

A group of students standing in front of a glass front building

Janssen Sciences Scholarship Award Finalists

I was chosen as a finalist of the Janssen Sciences Scholarship Award which was awarded by Johnson & Johnson. I have recently completed mentorship programs with industry mentors from Janssen Sciences and Boston Scientific. Both mentors have helped to guide me towards a bright career path by providing me with constant support and advice.

I am having a great time studying on this course as it has taught me a lot, especially with the technical side of things when working in a lab. I have also made so many friends on my course — they have allowed me to fully embrace Irish culture. I am currently the class representative of my course, which means I have to address any academic related concerns to the head of department.  I have loved getting involved in all aspects of student life at CIT. During my mid-term breaks, I would often take the opportunity to travel around Europe — this has really broadened my perspective of the world around me.

Studying in Ireland was truly one of the best decisions I have ever made. I would highly encourage others to step out of your comfort zone and consider CIT as an option for further study.