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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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October 24, 2004

A Spin of the Wheel

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Posted by Derek

I'm working on my next column for Contract Pharma, and it reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago with a former colleague. He and I had worked at the same drug company for a few years, then he went on to an MBA degree and a job on Wall Street.

How, I asked him, did the two of us spend all those years in school, and spend all the mental effort that we did every day in the course of our jobs, but end up working in fields that are so dominated by chance? Picking winners in the stock market is a lucrative business, as is picking winners in drug discovery, but doing it consistently in either profession is next to impossible. Why, I wondered didn't we have the sense to end up doing work whose rewards were more closely correlated with the effort that went into them?

I still don't have an answer for that one. But a part of it might be that I'd find a job like that a bit. . .well, boring. I like not knowing what's going to happen next, wondering if the next compound is going to be the one that finally works. The jobs where effort and results are most perfectly matched are done by machines, not people. And any job that can by done by a machine should be, as far as I'm concerned. I guess I'll stick with the sort of craziness that only a human can appreciate.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. Todd Romoff on October 25, 2004 11:44 AM writes...

I look at it this way: We get paid (pretty well) for our efforts, whether or not we ever discover a drug (most probably not). We exchange this for giving up our rights to the billions of dollars that the drug would be worth. I think it's a fair exchange.

I don't lose sleep worrying about whether the next compound is active or not. In fact, I take a very dispassionate look at screening data. Remember, Science already knows whether the compound is active - I look at my role as trying to get better and better at predicting what Science will have to say. I am gratified if I am right, but not too disappointed if not - it's more information to help me.

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