This year, we took off to sunny Florida for the 11th Annual MSL Society Conference. We loved getting a real-time update on what’s going on in industry while there. We are excited to share the top 3 takeaways from the conference this year!

The struggles of transitioning into industry:

There’s always a large percentage of attendees that are aspiring MSLs at this conference. This is such a great place for those folks to network. The hard truth is, it’s been more difficult than ever for aspiring MSLs right now for a few different reasons.

  • After COVID, a lot of companies are not only looking for experienced MSLs, but they’re also going one step further and needing MSLs with experience prior to COVID. They’re needing MSLs that already have established KOLs and understand the nuance of how to overcome difficult access issues.
  • There have been more layoffs this year than we’ve seen before. This means all these aspiring MSLs are not only in competition with each other, but they’re also competing with experienced MSLs that are actively looking as well. These experienced MSLs can start a new job almost immediately. They’re often flexible with compensation, and are already coming in with specific MSL and/or therapeutic experience as well. This makes it difficult for someone without experience to compete with.

It was great to see so many new faces, and people eager to be MSLs, but the trend this year was how hard the process has been. This isn’t just with landing a job. This struggle has started with a company even wanting to interview candidates without industry experience.

Additional industry roles being added to medical affairs:

It seems like every year we learn about new roles or exciting areas coming into medical affairs. We’ve seen the wave of excitement when immuno-oncology came about, we’ve seen more hybrid MSL/Managed Care roles. Last year we saw a rise in the Thought Leader Liaison role, and Artificial Intelligence coming into the scene.

This year we learned more about the Clinical Trial Liaison role, and the development of Digital Liaisons.

The Clinical Trial Liaison seems like a great interim role to provide clinical trial support to the MSLs and the KOLs. Many of the CTLs are there to answer questions surrounding the trials. They also raise awareness about trials, problem solve, or give insights about inclusion and exclusion criteria and more. We’ve seen an increase in companies specifically hiring for Clinical Trial Liaisons. Based off the meetings at the MSLS Conference, it looks like that will continue to trend upwards.

On the digital side of things, we’ve seen an increase in needing specific liaisons for this area as well. Not only because of the presence with Digital Opinion Leaders, but also because of the growth in social medical in general. There could have easily been a meeting just surrounding TikTok and X (formerly Twitter) and the pros and cons to having a medical affairs presence. Social media is such a delicate balance because viewers trust people using specific products, or people with specific conditions versus hearing educational info from someone that works directly with the company supporting that condition or product. But the risk with that is misinformation, or how different conditions or treatments can be with everyone. So, the question is, how do we bridge that gap? Although there’s no perfect answer, based on the conversations surrounding this, the need for these Digital Liaisons is huge.

Network, network, network!

We loved getting updates on industry while at the meeting, but we would all still agree that the biggest takeaway is networking, and just how important that really is.

Although a lot of these sessions are interactive, the true conversations happen during the networking breaks or social hours. This is where you get to build on conversations that were started during sessions. You get to introduce yourself to people of interest, or folks you may have only met online so far. For a new or aspiring MSL, you never know who you’ll meet or what conversations or opportunities could come up just from networking. It’s so important to put a face to a name and give someone the opportunity to really get to know you and your personality.

There were so many great new people we got to meet at this year’s conference, and so many familiar faces that we got to catch up with.

If you attended this year, were there other key takeaways you had? We’d love to hear what stood out to you compared to what stood out to PharmaFinders.