“we can deliver talent faster by having global connectivity
and cooperation internally within the business”

Global growth partners

Proclinical links life-sciences firms with specialist talent globally


Text by Toby Waters / Photos by Kageaki Smith

As scientists’ understanding of human biology, pharmacology and life sciences continues to grow, there is an increasing need around the world for specialists to research and to develop applications for the advances being made. However, efficiently deploying professionals — with the necessary level of specialised expertise — to where they are needed is a monumental task for ordinary recruitment agencies, even those with a global reach. And it’s that space Proclinical fills.

Founded in London in 2005 by CEO Daniel Smart, Proclinical is a recruitment and consultancy agency that specialises in the life sciences sector. It has grown rapidly over the past 14 years, having opened 14 offices in 10 countries, and has had an annual average growth rate of roughly 45% for the past five years. Earlier this year, the firm opened its newest office in Japan.

“Every part of our business is expanding, and we’re moving into new areas,” says Smart. “But at our core is science, and life sciences specifically.”

Most of Proclinical’s consultants have a degree in life sciences or have worked in some capacity in the sector, so they bring in-depth knowledge of the field to their work and invaluable support when working with both clients and candidates. Consultants work in one of 10 niche areas, referred to as functional lines, best suited to their area of expertise, including regulatory affairs; clinical research; biometrics; commercial; medical affairs and physicians; as well as quality assurance and validation.

“Some of the jobs within the drug development process, for example, are complex and very hard to understand, such as pharmacovigilance,” explains Smart. “The Proclinical philosophy has always been to hire scientists and teach them recruitment — it’s easier to teach recruitment than it is to teach science.”

Japan Country Manager Hiroshi Yamaguchi adds: “One of our latest star recruiters studied molecular biology and worked as a medical representative at AstraZeneca before joining us. Because we are industry experts, we speak and understand the language of life sciences companies.”

Consultants at the firm take the time to carefully research a client’s business before their first face-to-face meeting, examining everything from current market share to upcoming clinical trials to the products they are looking to launch. So, when they do sit down with a client, they can focus solely on understanding the type of candidate they need in order to achieve their plans and goals.

“When we talk to clients, we try to understand the challenges: what are the milestones to achieve and in what span of time?,” says Yamaguchi. “We are trying to add clear value, rather than work passively. Our consultants propose creative solutions, while telling clients what is and isn’t realistic.”

Smart emphasises the fact that, today, the firm’s unique selling point is its ability to “connect and mobilise people all around the world.” With offices in Europe, the US and Asia, Proclinical can quickly match clients with the ideal candidate, no matter where they might be. In order to achieve this, the firm has evolved to become a very collaborative business, where consultants do not compete aggressively with one another — as they do at many recruitment firms — but cooperate within and across offices.



“Clients have an account manager that looks after their interests across all of their service lines, across all functional lines of expertise and, crucially, across all of the countries where they want to grow or want to be present,” says Smart. “Then those account managers work with our recruiters around the world, who specialise in those areas, to fill the roles in question. We feel that we can deliver talent faster by having global connectivity and cooperation internally within the business, which in turn helps our clients to grow faster.”

Of paramount importance is finding the right talent.

“Often what decides whether or not a company succeeds and gets their product to market is down to the level of talent that they have within their core team,” Smart says. “We’re all about making sure that those companies have those right people. What we’re finding in the life sciences sector in Japan is major talent shortages, so we’re using our international network and collaborative strategy to attract Japanese-speaking professionals back to Tokyo on behalf of our clients.”

According to Smart, Proclinical currently has a global database of more than 250,000 screened and qualified life sciences professionals. Going one by one through that immense amount of data is slow and impractical, and narrowing techniques can run the risk of accidentally filtering out the perfect applicant.

To overcome this, Proclinical continually invests in technology that advances its ability to find the right person. It develops its own tools and software to speed up the search process, and it uses AI to keep in touch with candidates and make sure their CVs are up to date.

“We’re able to monitor the data that comes through Proclinical automatically,” Smart explains. “We can prioritise our searches and get to the active, highly relevant candidates faster than has been possible traditionally. We’re really focusing on improving the quality of service that clients get.”

The time and labour saved by this technology also makes finding candidates less costly, he notes, and these savings can be passed on to the client — savings which can then be invested in research.

“We’re expecting to grow very quickly in Japan,” Yamaguchi adds. “Through our international connectivity and use of technology, we’re able to supply a better quality of service without charging the client more.”

In addition to its staffing and executive search services, Proclinical has created a consulting division to give firms end-to-end strategic, operational and commercial guidance.

“We’re not just providing people,” Smart states. “We’re actually providing the services that help these biotech companies to get their product to market by providing regulatory affairs and market access consultation.”

As Proclinical expands in Japan, it also plans to assist international companies in opening new offices here, a service that has proven popular with its US-based clients.

“We could find good commercial people in Japan and employ those people on behalf of the companies that are trying to enter the Japanese market,” Smart says. “We also offer end-to-end relocation support and help with visa requirements.”

Linking life-sciences businesses in Japan to the best talent from across the world quickly, efficiently and affordably will be good for Proclinical, its clients and its candidates. But the resulting scientific advances could ultimately benefit us all. 

“We speak and understand
the language of life sciences companies”