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February 13, 2006
Heart-Warming Stories of Success
One of the things about the Rishton article that set off some of my colleagues at work is the section where he discusses small-company successes. They've got a point, because the list is a bit off. Among the companies that he mentions as being very productive are Neurogen. I have a problem with that choice, partly because I've known people who've worked and interviewed there. I'll give them credit for surviving as long as they have, but the reason that's worth congratulating is that the company has, to my knowledge, never made a dime.
They've been at it for ten or fifteen years now, and have never brought a compound to market. Now, I can't be too hard on them, because they're working in the CNS field, which is a well-known Boulevard of Broken Dreams in drug development. But still, their success rate (measured where it really counts) is zero. The sort of success they've had is in getting other companies to invest money in them, which many have done over the years. That's nothing to sneeze at, but it may not be something that we should all emulate, either.
Another company on his list is Sepracor, and you'd have to consider them a special case, wouldn't you? After all, I don't think that we can all make a living by ripping off(or more charitably, piggybacking on) other people's patents - can we? That's what got them to where they are today. Their current success story, Lunesta (eszopiclone) is the S enantiomer (the left-handed form) of an older Aventis drug, zopiclone (note the generic name: S-zopiclone, get it?) I understand and agree with Rishton's point about working on druglike molecules, but somehow I don't think this is quite what he had in mind. . .
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