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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: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

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July 31, 2005

At Your Newsstand Today

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Posted by Derek

I'd like to recommend the latest issue of Science, which has a multi-part special section on drug discovery. (Problem is, that link will only work if you're a subscriber, and none of the content is outside the wall.)

I'm not just plugging the articles because one of them quotes me, although that was a nice surprise. The section is a well-done, realistic view of what drug research is like, which should be of interest to the journal's readers (who skew academic). Helping to close the often surprisingly large gap between academia and industry is probably a good deed.

I think that researchers on the industrial side usually feel they have more perspective on that issue, since all of us came from university science departments to start with. Of course, we're not a random sample, since we're disproportionately made up of people who high-tailed it out of academia at the first opportunity. At the very least, we have plenty of people who didn't find the life appealing enough to stay.

Of course, anyone who finds the life of a grad student or post-doc wonderfully appealing probably has some kinks in their psychological hose. I'm sure that being a professor is a much better lifestyle. It is, isn't it?

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Press Coverage


COMMENTS

1. Erich Schwarz on August 1, 2005 12:41 AM writes...

I was wondering what you thought of Science's latest issue. I'm glad to hear that it's cogent (since I'm an academic with a subscription, and would like to get a good accurate overview of where things are in 2005).

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2. jsinger on August 1, 2005 9:45 AM writes...

Of course, we're not a random sample, since we're disproportionately made up of people who high-tailed it out of academia at the first opportunity.

I'm not sure why even that caveat is necessary -- I'd say your original statement that "I think that researchers on the industrial side usually feel they have more perspective on that issue, since all of us came from university science departments to start with" is right on the nose.

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3. SRC on August 1, 2005 12:24 PM writes...

I'm sure that being a professor is a much better lifestyle. It is, isn't it?

Nope.

Surely not before tenure (the worst time of my life), and not even afterwards. Post-doc years were by far the best. Just do research, no grant grubbing, no grad student recruiting, no dealing with personnel problems, no administration, no hassling for space and equipment. I enjoyed lecturing, but many don't, and they would add "no teaching" to that list.

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4. DJohn on August 3, 2005 9:59 AM writes...

[I'm sure that being a professor is a much better lifestyle. It is, isn't it?]

I was an undergrad intern in pharma in the mid 80s and went to grad school planning to return, but got sidetracked by the fact that many US universities are more often in incredibly nice places to live unlike big population centers onthe East Coast.

I think that one's taste for the professor life really depends on whether the institution suits your specific combination of interests in and talents. I was at a major US state school of pharmacy where teaching was a big, required component. In return, you really only needed to have 1 large grant (R01 or equiv) to get tenure, instead of 2 or 3 as in our accompanying med school (but with almost no teaching). Also had an incredibly supportive, younger chairman who wouldn't ask you to do anything that he hadn't done himself - leadership by example, an exceedingly rare trait in either pharma or academia. I won't say that it was all rosy, but I really enjoyed my 9 years as a prof and had the joy of turning out 3 really good PhD students (you can still do that in pharma, but not always). I actually liked grad student recruiting and even some administration, like heading the PharmD admissions committee. Some of us get an amazing charge out of watching our recruits and trainees succeed and, in several cases, do even better than us.

I did well enough to get tenure, only to have a family health issue cause me to relocate, surrender tenure, and try to find a job in a much more competitive academic market. I then saw the underbelly that SRC describes and realize that you can no more generalize about academia than pharma. In my current market, you have to be a Howard Hughes-class researcher to even get hired into a tenure-track position - I couldn't even get hired by a pharmacy school ranked below my previous institution because I 'only' had one R01. After a year, I found a relatively happy medium in a non-profit research institute.

BTW, congrats Derek on your coverage in The Scientist as well - I'd expect even more traffic in the ensuing weeks.

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