Man, is Merck's pick for new CEO ever getting some tepid reviews. I'm agnostic on the subject, but the coverage of Richard Clark's promotion range from resigned sighs to outright handwringing. In that latter category, see this article by Melissa David at TheStreet.com:
"When Merck crowned a new CEO last week, some disappointed investors saw fresh evidence of an entire industry that has yet to get its priorities straight.
Merck chose an insider without a background in medicine at a time when observers agree that the company desperately needs to focus on developing new drugs. Moreover, Merck made its selection even after its glory faded under a previous nondoctor, Ray Gilmartin.
Richard Clark, tapped last week to replace the embattled Gilmartin, is no master of drug research or even the marketing activities that, to the dismay of some, now seem to drive the industry. He has instead spent his 33 years at Merck concentrating on such areas as manufacturing and information technology."
You know, it's odd, but the chemists and biologists inside most drug companies even see the M.D.s as a little suspect, a bit insulated from the real world of research. Just goes to show what perspective can do. . .mind you, I'd rather have a medical type any day than someone from marketing. (No offense, guys, but we're different species and we both know it.)
Meanwhile, over at Forbes, Scott Gottlieb has a theory about why someone from the production end of the company is on top now: cost cutting. If we can't come up with the big-selling new drugs, then we can squeeze the overhead on what we have. His downer of a wrapup:
"This is one way to view Clark's ascendancy as Merck chief. The company is not preparing for a future filled with its own breakthrough research but, instead, for life as a regulated utility. It is a future where profits are increasingly set by price controls and cutting costs has become the best way to squeeze out extra income."
Well, that's just fine. From a scientist's standpoint, that sounds about as exciting as working the second shift down at the bottling plant. It's going to be up to us in the industry, particularly the R&D end of it, to try to keep this from happening. If we can actually get some new drugs, and whole new categories of drugs, for major unmet medical markets, perhaps we can escape this dystopia. There are a lot of technology bets being placed out there - here's hoping some of them pay off.