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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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May 13, 2005

ASCO Fever

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Posted by Derek

Well, today is the start of the ASCO meeting, which as I've mentioned is an interesting, important blizzard of hype and spin. A number of companies (Imclone, Merck KGaA, Bayer, Genentech, Pfizer and others) have presentations that will be watched closely. Some of these will take place over the weekend, which will at least keep a few stocks from having to halt trading (unless there are some big order imbalances come Monday morning, that is. . .)

It's hard to keep a proper perspective on this sort of presentation. One thing to remember is that everyone involved realizes the spotlight that they're under, and has planned accordingly. I've long thought that scientific meetings, as they've come to be run, are one of the worst places to discuss scientific results. I'm sure that many of the interesting and important conclusions are things that would only become clear after sitting down with the complete data sets for a few days (or weeks). Distilling all of it down to a meeting talk, even assuming (charitably) that you're not trying to sell something or divert attention, is going to degrade the information.

So, enjoy the news bulletins, and good luck with the stocks prices. But don't take ASCO more seriously than it deserves.

(By the way, another preview of the conference can be found here. Can anyone tell me what the author means in her last sentence, "The financial component is one area that is sorely lacking in research"? Here I thought that we were getting beaten up on for making the "financial component" too darn important. . .)

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Cancer


1. qetzal on May 13, 2005 9:27 AM writes...

"I've long thought that scientific meetings, as they've come to be run, are one of the worst places to discuss scientific results."

I definitely agree with that. These days, even the "scientific" conferences all seem to be mainly about posturing and PR. Sort of like leks for scientists. ;-)

I can dimly remember, back in grad school, going to meetings where real science was presented. Talks lasted 45 or 50 minutes, not 15 or 20, so you couldn't just skim over the data - you had to go through the details. Of course, that made it much harder to get away with weak or unwarranted conclusions.

I haven't been to a meeting like that since my degree. Maybe it's just because I've been in biotech ever since, where the conference speakers are always playing to a financial audience (even if that's not who's actually in the room).

Are there any "real" scientific meetings any more? Or am I just slipping into geezer-hood, mis-remembering how much better things were "when I was a grad student."

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2. DV Henkel-Wallace on May 14, 2005 1:05 PM writes...

You mean there are _talks_ at conferences? I didn't realise! I have always gone to meet others and talk to people I know.

Being gregarious takes practice, but is really worth it. Talking to people is the real value of the conference. And when you are starting out you don't know anyone yet, so you have to learn how to meet others. They never seem to teach this in school.

(actually, qetzal, I also remember a few good presentations, but most aren't worth it. Even when the science is good, the presenter usually just reads the slides, which means not only is the presentation boring, but is actually worse than just reading the paper in the comfort of your own bed. Refereeing needs to evolve so that the refs can verify that the presenter 1> knows how to give a good presentation and 2> knows how to give a _useful_ one.

(There are only two useful topics someone can give: A> this is stuff in our paper that's not obvious/hard to understand without more depth and B> This is stuff we've been working on / new results we have since the paper was submitted.)

I don't go to many myself.

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