About this Author
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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« Watch This Space | Main | Publish, Then Perish »

November 9, 2006

Help Wanted - I Hope

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Posted by Derek

Well, here's a post I didn't think I'd be writing, although the possibility (given my industry) has always been there. The Wonder Drug Factory has decided to totally rearrange their research divisions, and we've been informed that our site is slated to close. Several hundred people will be losing their jobs, and I'm one of them. I don't agree with the decision (hey, I never think it's a good idea to turn me out on the street), but "out of my hands" doesn't begin to describe it. By all appearances, things will be shut down by the end of the year.

So the job search is on, and I'm going to start it by using whatever size platform I've built here. As for my background and experience, well, si curriculum vitae requiris, circumspice. I'm told by colleagues that reading my site is a pretty good simulation of having me around in person, so (for better or worse), that's what you'd be getting. I can provide a more traditional CV on request, of course, with the accompanying lists of patents, publications, and previous projects.

For family reasons, I'd prefer to stay in Connecticut, but I'll obviously start looking farther afield depending on what's out there. Industrial drug discovery is my strong point, naturally, but I'm certainly willing to listen to other ideas (academia, etc.) I can be contacted at I also want to mention that I have a number of very capable colleagues, at all levels of experience. Recruiters and search firms, give me a call - I can put you on to some excellent prospects: chemists, biologists - we've got 'em all. Or more accurately, we had them all, until today.

I'd been reasonably optimistic as the clouds gathered here over the last few months, but at the same time I've been preparing for this event, which is within error bars of the worst case. As for my attitude toward such things, I can tell you that Epictetus said it a long time ago:

Work, therefore to be able to say to every harsh appearance, "You are but an appearance, and not absolutely the thing you appear to be." And then examine it by those rules which you have, and first, and chiefly, by this: whether it concerns the things which are in our own control, or those which are not; and, if it concerns anything not in our control, be prepared to say that it is nothing to you. . .

When therefore we are hindered, or disturbed, or grieved, let us never attribute it to others, but to ourselves; that is, to our own principles. An uninstructed person will lay the fault of his own bad condition upon others. Someone just starting instruction will lay the fault on himself. Some who is perfectly instructed will place blame neither on others nor on himself.

Losing this job has not been in my control. Finding another one is. Here goes!

Comments (61) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Current Events | Drug Industry History


1. Jonathan on November 9, 2006 3:29 PM writes...

Wow, sorry to hear that, Derek. Me and the rest of the gang over at Nobel Intent wish you luck in your search and your future career!

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2. John Thacker on November 9, 2006 3:47 PM writes...

Ouch. Very sorry to hear that. Seems like all the drug stocks are off today too.

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3. Erich Schwarz on November 9, 2006 4:04 PM writes...

"Seems like all the drug stocks are off today too."

Gosh, I wonder why? It couldn't be because of sudden new bright ideas like this:

could it?

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4. GATC on November 9, 2006 4:15 PM writes...

Sorry to hear that Derek. I've been through this twice in the past eight years (the last time just a week before Thanksgiving); pretty much SOP for Pharma. It sounds like you have the years in for a good package and certainly have made plenty of contacts over the years with your blog. Sorry I'm not an SVP with instant hiring authority. I am sure you know the routine with head-hunters, but just in case:

Hang in there.

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5. Deepak on November 9, 2006 4:19 PM writes...


Good luck with the job search. Given your profile and obvious expertise, the only thing that can keep you away from being employed soon is timidity on the part of those seeking to hire you.

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6. Palo on November 9, 2006 4:24 PM writes...

Derek, I´m sorry to hear this.
Best of luck in the search.

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7. Jose on November 9, 2006 4:34 PM writes...

I've had good experiences with these folks...

Management Recruiters of Willow Grove-

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8. Don on November 9, 2006 4:44 PM writes...

I know exactly how you feel Derek. Went through the same thing almost two years ago when a NJ-based company decided to shutter their San Diego research site. My advice to you: enjoy your severance package and hopefully some time to relax. While the job search seems daunting at the outset, nearly everyone laid off from my company is in a better position now-and no longer naive enough to believe in job security!

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9. sks on November 9, 2006 5:17 PM writes...

I am sorry to hear this. Wishing you luck in your job search.

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10. Paul on November 9, 2006 5:20 PM writes...


I read your blog everyday. I'm sorry to hear the news. Lost my own position here in the Bay Area due to a site closure in January. Still looking. It's a tough market for experienced med chem PhDs. Good luck.

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11. Ashutosh on November 9, 2006 5:32 PM writes...

Sorry to hear that. Good luck with the job search; I am sure you will emerge triumphant in that.

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12. Petros on November 9, 2006 5:45 PM writes...

Comisserations Derek. I know what its like as it happened to me when the same Wonder Drug Co cut back its operations on other sites, Ironically I had to turn down the opportunity to move to the site you've been it for personal reasons.

Trust it all works out for you.

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13. Tot. Syn. on November 9, 2006 5:54 PM writes...


Sorry to hear your news - but as a capable chemist with some excellent interweb PR (this website), I'm sure you'll be fine. My limited experience of site closures is that re-employment will happen if you want it to. For the most part, the people I knew at Merck, Stevenage have done well and found enployment. However, perhaps you could take this as an opportunity to move your particular role towards something that interests you more as a challange? It's a very personal thing, but best of luck :)
BTW, you could always set up the Lowe Research Group in academia... you know there's ideas you just want to try!

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14. broadie on November 9, 2006 6:37 PM writes...

Sorry about your news. You could always try the Broad Institute in Boston, if you'd consider the move. Stuart Schreiber's program is doing some interesting stuff that is starting to translate...

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15. milkshake on November 9, 2006 6:43 PM writes...

There is often light at the end of the tunnel - from the train coming in. My past two employers, SUGEN and Celera San Francisco are now dead and gone, too. Write up what you have on your current project and move on. The job market for medicinal chemist is now improving from what it was half a year ago so you shouldn't despair. Good luck to you and all, maybe you will get into a better and less nutty position as a result. Are you looking into small companies also?

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16. anon on November 9, 2006 7:15 PM writes...

"I also want to mention that I have a number of very capable colleagues, at all levels of experience. Recruiters and search firms, give me a call - I can put you on to some excellent prospects: chemists, biologists - we've got 'em all. Or more accurately, we had them all, until today."

Thanks for looking out for the rest of us as well. I'm sure that most expected that this would happen, but it was good to see the professionalism of my colleagues today after the news was delivered.

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17. Ψ*Ψ on November 9, 2006 7:22 PM writes...

Sorry to hear about that. If I had any suitable connections, I'd try to help you out...unfortunately, I'm useless here, so good luck.

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18. Will Baird on November 9, 2006 7:40 PM writes...

FWIW, try if you care to try national lab work.

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19. DLIB on November 9, 2006 7:40 PM writes...

WOW, Sorry to hear the news, but it's an opportunity to take some RnR and breathe some fresh air.

Best of Luck,


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20. Richard Friary on November 9, 2006 7:42 PM writes...


A moment ago I e-mailed you a list that I hope will help. Please let me know if you receive it. Thanks.


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21. RKN on November 9, 2006 7:43 PM writes...

If you enjoy writing you might want to consider looking into science journalism. People that understand the details of complicated processes, and can explain them to laymen in writing, I should think will become increasingly more valuable.

I don't know, just a thought.

In any case, change is good, and I'm sure you will do well. Best to you and your family as the adventure unfolds.

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22. sean on November 9, 2006 7:57 PM writes...

When we were in college, who would have ever thought that being an engineer or chemist would have the job security of a Major League Baseball coach?

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23. KP on November 9, 2006 7:57 PM writes...

Wait, so let me get this strait. You're saying that this whole blogging doesn't pay the mortgage?

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24. Bitter Pill on November 9, 2006 8:11 PM writes...

Sorry to read this happened to you. From experience, I know it hurts even when you see it coming.
Does anyone see this as yet another step in the large scale departure of R&D jobs from Big Pharma in the US? It seems like a dicey career path these days unless you are willing to hop from biotech to startups.

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25. Novice Chemist on November 9, 2006 10:07 PM writes...

My best wishes as well.

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26. BCP on November 9, 2006 11:04 PM writes...

Best of luck, Derek. I'm confident you'll be at Wonder Drug Factory #3 before long. I wish you and your less visible colleagues all the best in the job hunt -- I'm confident that prospective employers have picked up on this sudden availability of talent in the marketplace.

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27. Dweezil on November 10, 2006 12:00 AM writes...

Sorry dude. That is rough. And to think that once upon a time I did dream of a pharm career - let's just say I gave up that dream about the time I started seeing people wearing "Pfired" shirts...

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28. pz on November 10, 2006 1:14 AM writes...

It's really a shame that The Wonder Drug Factory would let folks like you go. But who knows, it could well be your turn to take a fresh look at the otherwise daily "routines" and decide to take on totally new challenges. Better opportunities may lie ahead.

There's an ancient Chinese saying: 塞翁失马 焉知非福, with a close translation as following:

Blessing or Bane (Sai Weng Shi Ma, Yan Zhi Fei Fu)

Near China's northern borders lived a man well versed in the practices of Taoism. His horse, for no reason at all, got into the territory of the northern tribes. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

After a few months, his animal came back, leading a fine horse from the north. Everyone congratulated him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a cause of misfortune," said his father.

Since he was well-off and kept good horses his son became fond of riding and eventually broke his thigh bone falling from a horse. Everyone commiserated with him.

"Perhaps this will soon turn out to be a blessing," said his father.

One year later, the northern tribes started a big invasion of the border regions. All able-bodied young men took up arms and fought against the invaders, and as a result, around the border nine out of ten men died. This man's son did not join in the fighting because he was crippled and so both the boy and his father survived.

Best of luck Derek.

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29. Tutti-Durutti on November 10, 2006 1:18 AM writes...

Sorry to hear your news. Seems to happen to everyone in this industry at one time or another. Good luck with job hunting.

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30. coracle on November 10, 2006 3:51 AM writes...

As a job hunter myself, you have my sympathies.

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31. bamh1d on November 10, 2006 4:13 AM writes...

If I could make a synthesis of my own experience together with some of the comments posted here:
1. This is actually normal (at least typical) for the big pharma industry (me: 3 times in 10 years)
2. Try to resist the perfectly natural feeling of anxiety about the situation, which can lead to depression-type feelings. Instead, enjoy the break and use the time well, rest and reflect, do more physical exercise and invest some time in thinking seriously about what you want to do next.
3. When you start looking, you'll discover that there are actually a lot of opportunities out there for experienced people. Of course, accepting one of those opportunities may well require some changes in your life and your family's life. Nature of the biz.
4. Of course there are no guarantees, but from my own experience and that of my colleagues it seems to actually be true: most people who go through this do go on to something better.

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32. DrJ on November 10, 2006 5:47 AM writes...

Damn those mergers. Even being a white knight doesn´t pay out anymore.

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33. nrdd on November 10, 2006 9:08 AM writes...

Sorry to hear the news Derek, wish you and your Wonder Drug Factory colleagues the best of luck with the job hunting. I get the feeling that this might mark the beginning of a new and unexpected direction for you, I hope it all works out well.

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34. Gil Roth on November 10, 2006 9:20 AM writes...

Hey, Derek,

You'll always have a place as a columnist at Contract Pharma. Plus, our Managing Your Career columnist (Dave Jensen) may be a good resource for your next phase.

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35. mdl on November 10, 2006 9:35 AM writes...

Hey Derek,

Sorry to hear the news - I appreciate the turmoil that changing jobs can bring, but like many other posters, there's often a silver lining. Good luck with your job search.

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36. Mark Senak on November 10, 2006 9:36 AM writes...

I wish I owned a drug company, your troubles would be over. I hate a cliche, but I truly have found where a door closes, a window opens. Much luck and good wishes.

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37. Nick on November 10, 2006 11:10 AM writes...

Sorry to hear this. Hope all goes well next year. From what you write here, I am sure it will.

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38. Anonymous on November 10, 2006 11:11 AM writes...

I know a another cliche about the situation:
"Getting laid off can be helpful in the long run; for immediate effect it's better to get laid often."

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39. Truth Hurts on November 10, 2006 12:25 PM writes...

I wonder why your drug company didn't consider such a great asset and offer you something elsewhere?

Perhaps your talents at blogging are more your forte than research.

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40. patentobserver on November 10, 2006 12:37 PM writes...


Sorry to hear about the job. You might consider intellectual property law. You seem to have a talent for it.

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41. Luke on November 10, 2006 3:49 PM writes...

My Condolences Derek!

As someone who just celebrated their last day at a company where I was laid off, I can safely say that there is a market for us (I have a fair number of interviews either in the books or planned) and that you should not take it as a reflection on you.

That all said, Keep your chin up, stay optimistic, and network away!


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42. Sebastian Holsclaw on November 10, 2006 5:00 PM writes...

"Does anyone see this as yet another step in the large scale departure of R&D jobs from Big Pharma in the US?"

Derek's problems probably aren't a result of it, but if we aren't careful we could up with yet anouther step in the large scale cessation of R&D jobs as we know them in the world.

The current level of research is funded by the US market. Curtail that market, and pharma research will suffer.

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43. Monty Loree on November 10, 2006 6:29 PM writes...

That's rough, I hope things go well for you.
Job uncertainty is never fun.

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44. s on November 11, 2006 7:27 AM writes...

I'm sorry to hear about this misfortune. Unfortunately, it does happen, and we live in a time where you need to have your resume up to date at all times.

I know that you're not interested in moving, but Boston's just up the road... relocation packages can be quite generous, and the current real estate market favors the buyer. Bargains can be had.

Good luck with the job search.

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45. Alex on November 11, 2006 8:56 AM writes...


Your advice during my jobsearch was instrumental to my success. I have never been happier in my new job, thanks to you. I just read about your misfortune. If you think there is anything I can do to help, don't hesitate to contact me.

best wishes

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46. dearieme on November 11, 2006 5:31 PM writes...

Best wishes, obviously, but answer the Big Question. Are you prepared to sacrifice the beard?

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47. Chrispy on November 12, 2006 4:30 PM writes...

Derek, I am curious about what your perfect job would be. (I get the impression that this last one wasn't.)

There is plenty of room for industry newsletters, and this could be your opportunity to stop working for The Man.

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48. biff on November 12, 2006 6:35 PM writes...

@Truth Hurts: As one of Derek's colleagues at the Wonder Drug Factory, rest assured that he is every bit as good of a medicinal chemist as he is a blogger. Unfortunately for all of us, it was a bloodbath for the WDF's US researchers. All 600+ of us got the boot, except for one small, specialized group in California that doesn't do small molecule chemistry.

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49. Joe on November 12, 2006 11:03 PM writes...

Having just lived through one of these "business decisions" by another big pharma, I can see what you & your coworkers are facing. Oddly enough, you may have just been given your next writing assignment. You need to write about what happens to you & your discarded brethern. Knowing what to do, what works & what doesn't after a layoff in pharma research is the most important practical thing someone can learn after starting a career in pharma. For the next few months, you will be watching a slow train wreck as careers spin off in unimagined directions (some up to higher & brighter positions, some down to bleak deadend jobs). Your postings will be cathartic for you and educational for the young & unscarred in your audience. And most importantly, writing these posts will keep you occupied while waiting for the phone to ring (it eventually does).

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50. jo5ef on November 13, 2006 12:44 AM writes...

Tough break, I agree with KP - there goes my plan of blogging for riches. Seriously, you should think about science journalism.

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51. Hap on November 13, 2006 1:46 PM writes...

Sorry that you are losing your job. I haven't had many jobs and the experience of getting my current job was not all that good (I like my job, but getting here was not half the fun). I hope that it goes better for you.

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52. Hap on November 13, 2006 1:48 PM writes...

Re 46: Do you work for the Yankees? I didn't think most employers did the no beard thing, and Marge Schott isn't around anymore...

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53. Jake on November 13, 2006 4:26 PM writes...

Sorry to hear about your situation and the general state of Pharma. Best regards with your job search, I hope the delay is short and the new job rewarding. Lets just hope that wherever you go, there will be no policies limiting the blogging of employees.

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54. Chris on November 13, 2006 5:54 PM writes...


You might check out a job search engine:

You can target a geographic area with it.

Good luck.

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55. schinderhannes on November 14, 2006 4:16 AM writes...

Hi Derek,

I know this doesn’t help in any way, but I just felt that you should know this:
On the European end of the wonder drug factory a lot my colleagues (as well as me) are absolutely shocked by this darn business decision as well! We do not see any strong rationale to it.
Modern business logic with the take over of a competitor triggering this is cruel. Certainly some people over here (and in the company taken over) are relived to see downsizing hit you rather than us, but everybody with their heart on the right spot is very depressed about the situation.
I wish you and all your colleagues all the best and dearly hope that the US employment marked is strong enough to cope with all the extremely talented people looking for new jobs.

I hope we stay in touch,

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56. Darth_Bubbster on November 14, 2006 10:50 AM writes...


Very bummed to hear about the decisions of Wonder Drug. Every good person that I know of that's been through this has finished on the up-side, even if the path isn't all that fun.

Best of luck!


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57. srp on November 14, 2006 8:11 PM writes...

Derek: I'm sorry to hear about this closure. It's hard to believe you won't come out ahead in the long run, though, given the qualities you display on this blog.

Will we ever find out about vial 33?

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58. Jim Hu on November 14, 2006 8:44 PM writes...

Wow...I don't check your blog for a few days and this happens! Add my best wishes to the other 57 or so commenters. I can't imagine you won't find something good. I just hope your next employer doesn't ask you to stop blogging.

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59. Star on November 29, 2006 11:57 AM writes...

i can't believe a good blogger like you could lose a job... with your good skills in both pharma and writing, i'm sure a lot of pharma companies would pay good money to have you working as somebody on their marketing/advertising/newsleetters team...

anyway, best wishes to you... =)

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60. Jon H on December 2, 2006 9:15 PM writes...


Just a word of advice from experience: you have roughly six months to find a job. After that, your resume will be received as if it said your hobby is molesting goats.

Not that I think it would take you anywhere close to six months...

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61. Flash on December 14, 2006 11:52 AM writes...


Sorry also to hear about your situation. Been there before and wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I did end up with a much cooler job however, and the neighborhood we landed in following my relocation turned out to be the best part. Thanks for the inventive contribution you have made to the community of pharma industry researchers. Keep on writing.

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