So you want to be a CEO? What your company should look for when hiring your next Biotech CEO

September 29, 2022

Given the incredible growth of the Biotechnology sector, going from just taking its first baby steps in the 20th century to running a mile a minute in the 21st, top talent is required – urgently.

With more Biotech companies popping up globally, there is an unprecedented demand for skilled, experienced CEOs to lead their way.

However, with every single company in the sector crying out for this same talent, investors and Boards rarely have the ease of choosing their next leader from an eager group of candidates who’ve done this job millions of times before. Without the luxury of CEO experience and lists of accolades and achievements, how do Biotechnology companies hunt down their next CEO?

Well, they need to look for someone that’s got something a bit more abstract: the potential to be a good leader. So, what does it take to be a Biotech CEO, and how do you find them?

Can a Biotech founder be CEO of their own company?

When it comes to running a Biotechnology company, there is a lot of difference between a Biotech founder and a Biotech CEO. However, these can often be one and the same.

Small start-ups typically begin their journey with their leading scientist in charge, which is all well and good when you’re just starting out. The scientist founder/CEO will likely be adaptable, driven and eager to take risks, as this is how they’ll have got here in the first place. They’ll also be great for bringing motivational energy to the team, which is necessary for a small company that is bound to encounter many challenges along the way.

However, this scientist is likely to be inexperienced in leadership, lacking the know-how and maybe even the determination to lead this company way beyond those early discoveries into a mature, fully-fledged company.

That’s why when the company starts to mature, the founder may not cut it as CEO, and that’s perfectly fine. Mature, quickly-advancing companies need someone confident who can sell their ideas to investors, who has the skills to be a manager and the appetite to lead and build a talented team. Essentially, you need someone with a broader skillset than your founder, who may well be a top-quality scientist, but they might not have the abilities to constantly deliver the same level of value that a CEO could.

And because of this, a transition in leadership is required, so you know your company is led by a CEO who’s got what it takes. But what makes an excellent Biotech CEO?

What it takes to become a Biotech CEO

Being a Biotechnology CEO is not just about being good at science. And yes, while that’s a crucial element to the job description, it’s about much more than that. As stated, these elements are much more intangible, something that you can’t really qualify for or prove from your references. It’s about potential.

Passionate about making a change

Biotechnology is not just about going to work, going home and getting the job done. It’s a role that changes the lives of thousands. A good CEO needs to be passionate about their work, and believe that this work has purpose.

With such high failure rates in drug development, your CEO mustn’t be prone to throwing in the towel at every hurdle. They need to have enough passion to dust themselves, and their team off from failure and motivate everyone back onto their next project, as you never know, this could be the big break.

A creative risk-taker

Your next Biotech CEO always needs to look towards the future, constantly thinking of new ways to stay ahead of the game. Entrepreneurial and creative, they need to be abstract thinkers who are open to any challenge, especially in such a risky, volatile environment where you don’t know what’s going to happen from one day to the next.

There’s no point being sat at the sidelines debating whether or not to do something; your CEO needs to take the plunge, motivating their team to do the same. With so many stones in drug development left unturned, like the strive for drugs relating to diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, your next CEO needs to be excited to accomplish the unaccomplished. This is the only way to get the job done.

Not a ‘know-it-all.’

It’s essential to be modest, even when you’re in charge. You need a CEO that’s honest about their weak spots and what they don’t know, so they can go on to build a competent team around them. After all, it can be lonely at the top.

Every employee has something to contribute, so a good CEO will be willing to listen, observe and give each team member agency in their own projects and ideas, no matter their level. Trust in all members is essential for building relationships. People want their opinions to be valued. And, of course, nobody likes a know-it-all.


Although, as much as a CEO must be observant and able to learn from their staff, the ability to be independent is a must. At the end of the day, the CEO is the decision-maker in all of this, so they must be self-sufficient and confident in their team’s work to continue propelling the business forward.

Hiring your next Biotech CEO

As we know, phasing out the company founder to Biotech CEO is often an essential, but tricky process. With not enough high-level expertise to go around and competition from here, there and everywhere, recruitment can be tough.

But that’s what we’re here for.

When it comes to recruiting top talent for leadership roles, we’re the experts. Our unparalleled talent network in the Biotech sector, alongside our modern, fit-for-purpose talent acquisition technology, allows us to pair up top talent with companies that are paving the way for Biotech.

And rather than just looking at skills and experience (which of course still remains imperative to our search), we look at the candidate’s personality and ‘leadership potential’ too. This ensures your company can hire the best fit for the team and you know you’ve got a candidate that’s truly got what it takes to be your next CEO. And with solid commitments to diversity and improving racial and gender representation, we see this as a real opportunity to bring fresh perspectives and new, exciting talent into top-level roles.

Hiring a Biotech CEO is a process that needs some thought behind it, as there are various skills and personality requirements to the job that not everyone has the capabilities for. But don’t despair; we’re here to help.
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Published on 29-09-2022