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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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In the Pipeline

« Show What You Know | Main | Peptides as Texts »

October 17, 2006

Up Periscope And Fire All Bow Tubes

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Posted by Derek

Merck had their DPP-IV inhibitor for diabetes approved by the FDA today, which is good news for them and for many diabetic patients. I'll defer discussion of the mechanism and the compound for now, though, because what I wanted to mention is how this illustrates Merck's business style.

The first compound of this type that most medicinal chemists heard about was from Novartis. They popped up as early as 1999 with the first of many publications on their compound class, and a lot of corresponding patent activity. Merck, for their part, stayed out of the spotlight. You had to watch the patent databases closely to get an idea of what they were up to, and they didn't really publish anything until 2004. Novartis, naturally, had plenty of motivation to keep up with the news and knew that Merck was in the hunt, but they were still surprised earlier this year when Merck filed for regulatory approval months before anyone thought that they were ready.

In some cases, you can get a reading on what Merck is up to when they break from their usual stealth mode. For example, some years ago they appeared with a big splash in Science, touting a small molecule that could actually affect the autophosphorylation of the insulin receptor. An oral competitor to insulin? The dawn of a new era? Nah - just an interesting failed project. The compound was going nowhere, and the only thing it was good for was to make a big noise in Science. The contrast with academic publication habits is noteworthy.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Diabetes and Obesity


1. Black Knight on October 17, 2006 9:35 PM writes...

The difference between Merck and the rest of your industry and academentia is of course that if we don't publish (no matter how craply) we don't get funded. Rightly or wrongly, publication *is* academic science.

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2. Kinasepro on October 17, 2006 9:50 PM writes...

mmmm.... patents.

The Merck Deutschland patents, now they have a habit doing showing some creative synthetic chemistry. It would be nice if one of them would hurry up and change their name though! I find the whole Merck KGaA vs. Merck & Co distinction a bit annoying.

Thats just me though.

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3. Come back, zinc! on October 17, 2006 10:48 PM writes...

Do you take platensimycin (Nature 441, 358-361), then, to be dead in the water as well?

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4. skatesailor on October 17, 2006 11:10 PM writes...

Derek, Derek, what contrast are you writing about? Or are you treating your readers to sarcasm? Oh, be still, my heart!

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5. Peter Ellis on October 18, 2006 3:01 AM writes...

Is the Science splash simply for publicity, or does it also act as a spoiler against anyone *else* having a go at the autophosphorylation?

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6. iams on October 25, 2006 10:31 AM writes...

I was working at Novo Nordisk when Merck published their Science paper on small molecule activation of the IR.

It certainly produced a splash within the company and caused major research effort for a long time to be able to exclude that Merck was onto something big.

I guess that also has some value for Merck in the long run.

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