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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 29, 2004

Different or Not? You Tell Me.

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Posted by Derek

Yesterday's post suggests a question for the audience. The whole reason that big companies put up these satellite sites is to tap into a different labor force and generate ideas that wouldn't necessarily have happened back at the Mothership. I know that I have readers at Novartis-Cambridge and J&J-La Jolla, among other scattered sites, so here's my query: Does this work at all?

Does the hoped-for cross-fertilization take place between these sites and the academic/biotech environment they sit in? Is the work force really different from the people at the main site? And is there any not-invented-here rivalry between them? Are things really done differently, or does the corporate culture still permeate?

I'm particularly interested in hearing from people who've worked at both the main research site and the newer ones - I realize, though, that that isn't a big fraction of the work force at these places. Those of you who work at companies with research split between Europe and the US have some insights to offer, too, I think.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Industry History


1. Mike on October 29, 2004 9:53 AM writes...

I'm an East-coast employee of one of the companies you mention with a facility in La Jolla. From my perspective, there is some difference in corporate culture. This is mainly due to the fact that the La Jolla employees tend to be much younger - having hired most of their personell within that last few years, they tend to be near the beginning of their careers (on average).

Here on the East cost, however, I'm one of the youngest people on my research team and it's been eight years since I got my PhD. My coworkers probably average out to be ten years older than me. There are even chemists here that have been at the company since before I was born.

We do have active collaborations between the sites, but I suspect that the numbers and significance of these are below what is ideal.

In terms of the "not invented here rivalry", I notice that it exists to a certain extent, but I don't see it as something that significantly hinders productivity, collaboration, etc.

So, in general, I think having a site located in La Jolla is a net benefit to the organization as a whole, but probably not to the extent that the people in upper management originally envisioned it.

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2. dvhw on October 29, 2004 12:17 PM writes...

Companies I've worked for mostly have trouble getting people on different floors to communicate, much less different cities!

Few companies in any industry get this right. The two that do the best, in my opinion, are Intel and IBM. Intel has the advantages that they started after the Internet age, and that they are in the IT business. So it fits what they do.

IBM has organized their research organization intensively around their multiple sites. They get huge value out of it.

Since IBM can do it, and has been doing it for decades, pharma companies can do it too in principle. I just haven't seen it.

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3. Jake McGuire on October 29, 2004 1:01 PM writes...

I didn't work in a multi-site pharma company, but in a multi-site high-tech company, and I have to say that I think the remote sites helped a lot, given a certain degree of management competence. There was an odd combination of esprit de corps and not-invented-here syndrome ("We'd better get this to work, since otherwise they're gonna try to do it back in San Jose, and god knows what kind of mess they'll make out of it"), and in any given geographic area the people who gravitate towards the 800-pound gorilla employers are going to be different from the people who gravitate toward the smaller organizations, and if a company can find a way to take advantage of both types, it's probably going to help.

It certainly seems to have worked better than the small-company-bought-by-large-company environment that I'm in now.

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4. Peter Ellis on November 1, 2004 1:10 PM writes...

Well, I'm an academic working at Cambridge University (transcriptional profiling in spermatogenesis). Now I've told you, do you feel cross-fertilised? *grin*

For me, I very much appreciate the view from "the other side" or the academic/industry divide, such as it is.

Interestingly enough, I foung the blog not by any work-related link, but by a Google search for the parody of Wandering Aengus that you posted some long while back. The wonders of the Net.

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