Is Chemistry Manufacturing and Control (CMC) a flourishing contractual job sector to look out for?

We have explored the different areas within Contractual employment for Regulatory Affairs in Singapore last November. You can read about it by clicking here. What was interesting – the article dispels myths of contracting work and generated awareness on the growing gig economy within the pharmaceutical industry.

Contracting is a trend that is expected to persist in 2018 with greater receptiveness towards freelance work and project-specific roles. Temporary workers are befitting roles in an economy where labour competition is fierce and high-paying positions are scarce. This is especially evident within regulatory sectors in pharmaceutical organisations where talents are both niche and limited.

One particular specialisation in Singapore that is experiencing a niche and limited talent pool market –  Chemistry Manufacturing and Control (CMC).


What is CMC?

CMC is a crucial area within drug manufacturing where strategic planning and regulations are handled. This includes the process of formulating a dossier – planning and understanding the varied raw materials that go into making a drug (solvents, chemical starting materials, inactive ingredients, etc.) and monitoring the quality of it before use.

CMC also manages the drug’s lifecycle where calculated steps are taken to control, monitor and regulate for instance, the shelf life of a proposed label.

Ultimately, CMC plays a central role in assuring that the drug sold to the public:

  1. Will have the quality attributed and demonstrated to be safe and effective

  2. Will meet appropriate standards and is consistent

  3. Is as described on the label and packaging

To commit to the above, a dedicated CMC hub is required to ensure that processes are consolidated and managed interdependently. Hence, it is not just the technical skills that would be essential in the performance of the hub, but the communication process also determines the sustainability of the business. 


Are pharma companies focusing their CMC hubs in Singapore?

Singapore has been an attractive location for the pharma industry, with many global MNCs as well as a growing pool of start-ups. It is also the reason why it is a conducive place for CMC-focussed operations. This is due to the following factors:

  • Competitive and strategic environment for growth

Pharmaceutical organisations across the globe struggle with declining R&D, pressures on costs, margins, and heightened competition. To curb these issues, firms leverage on Singapore’s efficient ecosystem to improve their productivity and increase profitability.

With a strong positive outlook projected by GlobalData, Singapore is expected to exceed the S$1.35 billion mark in 2019 for pharmaceuticals and regulatory affairs. This further convinces big players like Roche and Pfizer who have already started CMC hubs in Singapore.

  • Increasing capacity to equip talents with right skills

In light of the limited pool of CMC talents in the market, Singapore is gearing up for the future by promoting training and development programmes within this sector that is flourishing. The National University of Singapore’s Pharmacy Department offer Master’s modules and seminars covering issues on CMC. This include in-depth discussions on FDA guidelines and a thorough understanding in control of product attributes.

Back in 2017, Duke-NUS Medical School also held CMC workshops that aimed to encourage greater harmonisation of drug quality standards in Asia.


Is CMC opening up more contractual roles in Singapore?

While the focus on CMC hubs shift in Singapore, contracting and freelancing are areas that have experienced a rising demand. Be it the demand for flexible working hours or perks that continue to shape the expectations of job seekers, an increasing number of organisations are expanding career opportunities within the contracting space to attract the limited talent in the market.

There is a common perception that the CMC sector require solely full-time specialised roles. This is due to the nature of the area where it requires continuity in the manufacturing process. However, as the sector moves from continuous manufacturing to batch manufacturing, there is more opportunities for CMC specialists and generalists to get involved in project-based roles.  

Currently, there is reduced marketability if an individual over-specialises within CMC. Over-specialisation is often a problem within manufacturing as it may result in lower salary packages when this specialty is out of favour in the marketplace. For instance, if one relies purely on the role of testing (of the product), the skill-set will not be sufficient to ensure product quality over the long run. A manufacturer that understands the ‘big picture’ would be of greater value as they would be able to understand the variability of sources throughout the manufacturing process and could pre-empt issues as well as potential solutions. 

Fortunately for the area of CMC, skillsets are often transferrable. Talents can come from varied international and regional backgrounds yet be able to adapt to a change in work environment as manufacturing controls are generally standardised.


Are you a CMC specialist or perhaps may be hiring for individuals within CMC?

If you are interested in a change of lifestyle that allows you to manage a better work-life balance, freelancing or contracting could be a viable option. With the gig economy taking over the pharmaceutical industry in an extremely rapid pace, contracting may very well keep you relevant in the industry where you may be exposed to various up and coming projects.

Whether you’re a fresh starter looking for a job in the market, or a full-time CMC regulatory affairs specialist looking for a change, the demand for contractual jobs are on the rise. It may be a good opportunity for you to jump on. Likewise, organisations who are more open towards offering contractual roles would also be ahead of its competitors if it wish to attract talent looking for purely contractual roles. And this is likely due to the exposure an individual gets from contractual jobs.

If you are interested to find out more about career opportunities within the CMC contracting space or how your competitors may be hiring within CMC, do drop us an email at [email protected] or follow us on our LinkedIn page to stay updated with relevant industry insights.


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