The idea behind the TMC MSL Club originated in 2016, after a few students at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX attended the Medical Science Liaison Society Conference. The MSL career was exciting and applicable for graduate students, but many people did not know anything about it. The Baylor College of Medicine MSL club was officially born in 2018, with graduate student Nika Furey leading the way. The BCM MSL club held meetings at BCM, where MSLs would come and speak about their career paths and current roles. Dr. Jordan Kho took over as president of the club when Nika moved institutions. In 2020 everything went virtual, and the interest for the BCM MSL club grew. In 2021, the leadership board expanded the name of the club to the Texas Medical Center (TMC) MSL Club to include the multiple institutions in the Texas Medical Center. Matthew Dysthe is currently the president of the TMC MSL Club.
What does an MSL do?
A medical science liaison (MSL) is a member of the medical affairs team within a pharmaceutical company. MSLs build and maintain relationships with the key opinion leaders (KOLs) in a given therapeutic area to gather insights and further the company strategy. Some examples of company strategies that MSLs play a role in include establishing clinical trials, inviting KOLs to serve on advisory boards, and educational events. MSLs are a non-promotional role and are not sales representatives of drugs.
What degree do you need to become an MSL?
Typically to become an MSL, you will need to have a terminal degree. This means a PhD, a PharmD, or an MD. This is because as an MSL you need to be able to communicate the science behind a drug and understand how the drug works in a certain therapeutic area. However, sometimes clinical experience can outweigh the need for a terminal degree. For example, a nurse practitioner who has worked in the breast cancer space for 20 years could make a fantastic MSL.
What are examples of companies that MSLs can work for?
MSLs most often work for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, such as Novartis, AbbVie, Biogen, and Johnson & Johnson. MSLs can also work for medical devices companies, such as Argon Medical Devices.
Do you have to travel as an MSL?
Usually, yes! MSLs will travel to meet with top experts in their field, or the KOLs. MSLs also attend conferences throughout the year to make presentations and to gather insights for their company. The size of your territory dictates how much you will travel. If your territory is 13 states, you will be traveling often to cover all of your meetings. If your territory is only Boston and you live in Boston, you will most likely just need to make day trips to meet your KOLs. When you are not traveling, you are working from home.
How much money do MSLs make?
As stated in a salary survey conducted by the MSL Society in 2020, the average salary for an MSL with <1 year experience is $152,431. For an MSL with 5-6 years of experience, the average reported salary is $179,842. Salary can vary based on the size of the company you work for, what therapeutic area you work in, and how much value you bring to the company.