Carol Malysz, Executive Director, RI Bio

Project management is becoming more accepted and better appreciated earlier in the drug discovery and development process and by more companies. It used to be thought that project management was just for big pharma or late-stage programs, but nowadays project management is increasingly important in entrepreneurial environments where meeting the demands of the time-to-market challenge requires greater efficiency and optimal productivity.

What Makes Life Sciences and Project Management Unique?

Although the concepts of project management are the same (e.g., defining objectives, team, and scope; planning timelines, milestones, resources, and budgets; identifying risks and dependencies), because there are so many unknowns in regulatory, drug discovery, there are always differences in the precision of timelines, predictions of probabilities of success, regulations, and resource management in life sciences, compared to other industries.

One of the biggest challenges in a life sciences project management role is to put together an integrated timeline while working through the ambiguity at various steps. This is where exposure to life sciences industry will come in handy. While the nature of the projects may be unique, the tools and techniques of the project management are the same.

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Becoming a Project Manager in Life Sciences

People are beginning to choose project management as a career path at the beginning of their life sciences careers, rather than later in their careers. This is mainly due to higher visibility and perceived value of project management in life sciences now, than in the previous decade.

One of the biggest benefits of gaining project management skills is being able to straddle both the science and business worlds and work with many people in diverse functions and at different levels within an organization.

Although certifications are not always required, certifications are advantageous because they show a level of commitment to the practice and demonstrate an individual has received formal training. PMP (Project Management Professional; administered by the Project Management Institute — PMI) is the gold standard for project management certification. It takes dedication and hours of studying to receive it and maintain it. While the PMP certification is not specific to the biotech industry, it is intended to be used across all industries.

If someone is already working in the industry but in a different role, shadowing or being mentored by someone in the project management function can provide some practical experience and help determine if biotech project management is the right direction for that person. Ideally, a combination of training and experience is a great way to enter and advance in the field.

It’s also important to understand that different biotech companies have different philosophies about what type of background they want for their project managers. Life Sciences organizations tend to favor project managers with science and business backgrounds because they understand the nuances of the life sciences industry.

ABOUT RI BIO: As the Professional Trade Association and Hub for Life Sciences in the greater RI area, RI Bio advances the industry and professionals through education, collaboration and advocacy. Learn more about our Project Management Training on our website or contact us at