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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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« An Innocent Question | Main | Problems and Solutions »

January 12, 2007

Ghost Town

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Posted by Derek

I'm nearly finished with two manuscripts to send out before departing the Wonder Drug Factory. One is the last paper from an earlier project - it's interesting stuff, but now I'm one of the last people on the author list who's still (nominally) with the company. Everyone else left (or was laid off) even before the final act. The other paper is the "Vial Thirty-Three" work, which has been a fair amount of work to bring together. But it makes a pretty good story now that I see it in one place, and I'm very hopeful of finding a good home for it in a high-end journal.

These will both be going out very soon, mainly because I'll be going out very soon myself. The last possible day for anyone in research is January 31, but the site is well on its way to emptying out already. As you go down the halls, there are people scattered here and there at desks, working on presentations or finishing up manuscripts or notebooks. But there are more empty spots than occupied ones, and the labs themselves are almost all darkened. It's an odd sight - like a perpetual 6 AM. You feel like you're the first one in the place all day long.

Some folks have found positions, others are out interviewing, and others are still waiting for the phone to ring - but not all of that needs to be done from work, clearly. Between the departures and the people who have no need to show up, the research organization that used to be here is now like a box of marbles spilled on the floor. The really difficult trick would be rounding everyone up again. One side effect of all this is that all of us are going to end up with contacts all over the industry, which could certainly come in useful. (The networking sites like LinkedIn are filling up with ex-Wonder Drug employee profiles these days, including mine).

I've polished off my notebooks and done some lab cleanup, but the rest of the lab (and most of my office) have been waiting on these manuscripts. Now that they're nearly ready to submit, it's about time to empty out the file cabinets and clean off the shelves. The end is most definitely in sight. And like a lot of people around here, I'm more than ready for the beginning of something else.

Comments (13) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Closing Time


1. een of andere vent on January 12, 2007 9:13 AM writes...

I look forward to read the 'Vial Thirty-Three'-titled paper in 'Nature' next month, and I wonder how well your networking doing.

Good luck these days...

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2. cf on January 12, 2007 10:09 AM writes...


I am wondering, has the Wonder Drug Factory offered to (at least some of) its soon-former employees positions at its locations in Germany?

Thanks in advance for a detailed answer.

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3. pc on January 12, 2007 11:26 AM writes...

Have you made the final decision regarding the next venture?

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4. Srikanth on January 12, 2007 11:34 AM writes...

You will find job soon. Big shortage of skilled workers in America.
. Hurt USA. Look at GDP and stock price. Stock price go up and so do worker prosperity. GDP go up and so do citizen well-doing. ACS told me chem jobs falling out of sky! Helped me get a job, so will very much help you. If I could I would hire you. But I think no Americans in my division since they would get bored and want too much. Still waiting to start since lawyers at company doing something I dont know. Me sleep on friend couch. Back hurt.

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5. Mike Burden on January 12, 2007 11:57 AM writes...

Stumbled across this website - Sorry to hear you are leaving -

Random question if you were producing a drug discovery event - what would be cutting edge, must have material / subjects that would be included to attract the drug discovery scientist to an event?????

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6. ann on January 12, 2007 4:54 PM writes...

Good luck with your job searches; today was my last day at the WDF. It is a ghost town, and I only got to see a handful of people before leaving. You were on the phone when I stopped by, so I will have to wish you and the others that I couldn't talk to good luck here. My contact information on the master list is accurate...just got my new apartment this afternoon. Time to get on with life...

For my colleagues who are sticking around to the end...IS took my computer by 3pm today. They are being pushed to redeploy them to people in the C buildings. Just giving you warning, so that you have time to take care of everything before they arrive.

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7. clazy on January 12, 2007 5:51 PM writes...

Wow, Derek, I haven't visited in a while--I see I've missed a bit and I'm shocked! Also saddened to imagine the place empty. Good luck finding a job that suits your talents and an employer that suits your style.

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8. Derek Lowe on January 12, 2007 10:13 PM writes...

A few people have been offered positions in Germany. From what I can see, you could easily count them on your hands, and I only know of two people that have accepted. (One of them did a post-doc there, and has some experience in the country).

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9. molecularArchitect on January 13, 2007 4:51 AM writes...

Hi Derek,
At least you got to wind things down and finish what you felt was most important. Celera kicked all but a handful out the door on the day the closing was announced. The security goons they hired treated us like suspected thieves. The few who were left were offered retention bonuses to clean things and help the business folks with selling programs and transferring data/compounds, etc to the new owners. I was allowed back in one day to pick up some approved slides for my seminar. It was so depressing to walk the halls and see the emptied labs and offices. Good luck, I sincerely hope your search goes faster than mine has.

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10. milkshake on January 13, 2007 2:46 PM writes...

When Pfizer closed SUGEN, we knew about it 3 months in advance about it and we got 6 months extra salary as severance. Since in the last two months we did not have to go work, it was effectively 8 months severance (except that one could not start a new job before the closing date)
After the anouncement the initial shock and indignation, the atmosphere there very much looked as the ghost town that Derek described.

(The closure happened in a bad job market situation also - but about two thirds of chemistry decided not to go to Pfizer other sites and did not even interview there.)

An excellent european chemist at SUGEN had his green card in the late stages of the the process; his green card application fell through because of the closure. But the job market situation was tough - lots of jobless chemists - and it was not easy for him to find an employer who would sponsor his new H-2 visa. He was in real danger that he would have to leave US. So the management kept him in the empty building for extra month or two, to help hime out. And it worked, he found a new job eventualy. As it happened, he now works in a hood right next to me :)

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11. anonymous on January 13, 2007 4:31 PM writes...


Are you one of the two going to germany?. good luck.(post doc guy?)

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12. BlogReader on January 14, 2007 12:18 AM writes...

Are you going to continue blogging, even when you are between jobs? I hope so, this site is always a welcome find in Google reader

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13. Srikanth on January 14, 2007 1:53 PM writes...

German guy probably on h1-b visa, not h2-visa. H1-b visa is for technical people with college eductation, h2 visa, no such need.

The trick everyone think of is how to get off h1b because it is good for only three years. Some come with wife, have kid (who is now American citizen) and get to stay that way. Others marry person on greencard so they get become a citizen on a greencard too. Then h1b visa can be passed on to someone else. Srikanth dont care because I rather be rich in India, so will take my money and go back home.

American society will crumble without Srikanth. Very sad amercians dont want to be chemist. Wrong caste anyway.

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