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Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

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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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« It's All Local, All Right | Main | Different or Not? You Tell Me. »

October 27, 2004

Pharma Flock Begins Migration

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Posted by Derek

If I were New Jersey, I'd be worried, and not just for the usual reasons. It's no longer the necessary place to go for a job in the drug industry. Novartis, which has been in the state forever, declined to expand in Switzerland but also passed on New Jersey, choosing the Boston area (Cambridge) instead. For the last year or two, they've been the major hiring force in the entire pharmaceutical industry - and it's a good thing, too, because there have been some losses at other companies in that time.

The Boston/Cambridge area has been pretty hot the last few years. AstraZeneca's main US research site is there, too, supplanting the old Astra sites in New York state and the Zeneca site in Wilmington. Merck decided to expand there, too, although with their recent troubles it's anyone's guess what's going to happen to the site and the people they're hiring. Their official opening was one week after the Vioxx news broke, which must have toned the celebration down a tad.

On the West coast, it's the San Diego area that's getting all the big names. Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have both expanded out there, and there are plenty of small outfits springing up. It's like Cambridge with better weather, not that that's a very demanding criterion.

So where does that leave the good ol' Pharma Corridor, from Philadelphia to New York? Used to be, you could hit most of the big guys with a rock from the New Jersey Turnpike (or perhaps the Garden State Parkway, which was literally within a flung Erlenmeyer from the windows of the first industrial lab I ever worked in.) I don't know when the last major expansion in the area was - probably ten years ago. And there's some food for thought for the fish-nor-fowl Connecticut branch of the industry, too (Boehringer Ingleheim, Bayer, BMS-Wallingford, Pfizer's mothership). Some of those companies have expanded over the last ten years (Pfizer, most notably), but no new behemoths are moving in.

And it's too early to say if these new sites are going to do what they're supposed to: crank out lots of new discoveries. The whole point of moving to La Jolla or Cambridge is to tap into the wild, creative crowd that's supposed to inhabit these places. Can they deliver, or will it be time to be off to Little Rock, Albuquerque, or whatever the happening cities are twenty years from now?

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Industry History


1. jsinger on October 28, 2004 11:40 AM writes...

Genentech is supposedly looking at office space in Cambridge, with an eye towards a resaerch presence.

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2. Stevo on October 28, 2004 12:21 PM writes...

Hey- what about Chicago? We have wild creative types here too! Abbott is here.

The midwest is also the home of Lilly, but wild, creative types are probably in short supply in Indianapolis. :)

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3. jeet on October 28, 2004 5:26 PM writes...

part of the reason I've seen is to tap into the research/ start-up activities in these areas. I've been hanging out in south san francisco for a little over ten years and there is a biotech firm sprouting every week or so within 30 miles of here. they used to be UCSF/ Sanford/ Cal spin-outs but now most are started by industry execs from other biotech firms.

cambridge is like that and so is san diego. both are nice places to live and have great university research available.

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