There's an interesting interview up at Business Week's site with Anthony Ford-Hutchinson, a Merck research honcho. Much of the interview is routine: "How's the new drug for XYZ coming along?" "Why, just fine!" But he does get in a few good cuts:
Q: How would you describe the culture of Merck's research and development?
A:" If you look at Pfizer's annual report and compare it to Merck's, theirs says something about wanting to be the most valued company in the world, whereas Merck's talks mainly about curing diseases."
That's the sound of a catapult in Rahway unloading a bag of overripe Jersey tomatoes in the direction of Groton. He goes on to say that "we don't go after the Nexiums and Clarinexes of the world." I have to applaud that sentiment, and I'm glad to hear someone say it out loud. But I have to note that Merck is coming along with a follow-up COX-2 inhibitor to bring up the slack behind Vioxx. . .I also note that that's a slam against Merck's current development buddy, Schering-Plough, which takes some nerve.
As for merging, he sticks with the Merck line of "no way." Some of his comments really make him sound like my soul brother:
" . . .every time you see a big drug merger, the research at those two companies grinds to a halt. Everybody starts worrying about their jobs. . . "
". . .the research can easily get screwed up when two companies merge. I think the effects of this may not be so apparent right away, but a decade from now the effects will undoubtedly be apparent."
All I can say to that is "Preach it!" Let's hope that we're all doing well enough in ten years to see who's right.
As an aside, if I ever form my own company, it's going to be hard to resist the temptation to have official titles like "research honcho" or "exalted pooh-bah." Maybe if one of my colleagues gets his drug company off the ground, he can use those. Right now, all he has is an evocative name, considering the genomics era. He wants to call it "InVivogen," and I can see the point!