Those in the science and medical community were dealt a major blow by President Trump’s 2018 budget request, which called for massive cuts to scientific and medical research.
Combine this news with the grim reality that the United States is producing more research scientists than academia can handle, and you have a pretty bleak work environment for budding scientists.
New Boston startup LabMate could give scientists a leg up, however — via the growing gig economy.
Launched in May 2017, LabMate is an online marketplace that connects biopharmaceutical companies and investment firms with scientists from top-tier universities for jobs and consulting projects.
“Far too many highly-trained scientists are competing for dwindling faculty positions,” said Craig Russo, co-founder of LabMate. “And there’s a lack of opportunities for them to transition their work into projects with companies.”
The startup’s mission is to empower academic scientists to use their knowledge and technical skills to break the current scientific career bottleneck while also creating untapped value for the biopharma industry.
“In life science recruiting, a lot of companies rely on static postings like Indeed,” Russo said. “This is an inefficient model that’s time-consuming and costly. On LabMate, once a company posts a job, our system uses an algorithm to match that project with the right expert.”
Russo said LabMate solves these pain points while offering a cheaper and more effective platform than traditional recruiting firms.The current market standard is $1,000 per hour for a phone call with an expert, Russo said.
Meanwhile, LabMate has recommended price points based on expertise so that companies can match with the right scientist. For example, a conversation with a doctoral fellow with deep expertise on a particular subject would cost $75 per hour, while a seasoned faculty member might suggest a cost of $150 per hour.
The way the marketplace works is pretty straightforward: A faculty member or postdoc can set up an account on the website at no cost, while companies post projects for which they need a particular scientific talent.
Scientists are then matched with projects they’re well-suited for, and if the two parties agree on the terms of the arrangement, the project begins.
The company gains expertise for a short-term (or long-term) project, which helps them move forward in rapid product development and business objectives. Meanwhile, a scientist gains an additional paycheck, as well as recognition in the industry.
Since launching, Russo said LabMate has seen over 100 scientists sign-up.
For the remainder of 2017, Russo said the startup will focus on targeting more Boston-based biopharma companies and startups, as well as scientists. Eventually, he would like to expand the platform to cities like San Francisco, Palo Alto and San Diego.
“There are at least 9,000 postdocs in Boston alone looking for opportunities,” Russo said, “And at least 200 to 300 large biopharma companies that we want to tap into here. This is the place to be for life scientists.”