Corante

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: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Emolecules
ChemSpider
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
PubChem
Not Voodoo
DailyMed
Druglib
Clinicaltrials.gov

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
Kilomentor
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
ChemBark
Realizations in Biostatistics
Chemjobber
Pharmalot
ChemSpider Blog
Pharmagossip
Med-Chemist
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
SimBioSys
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Business|Bytes|Genes|Molecules
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Depth-First
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa


Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
FuturePundit
Aetiology
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Sciencebase
Pharyngula
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net


Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
GruntDoc
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine


Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem


Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Instapundit
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus


Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
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

« Back on the Air | Main | The Big Picture »

January 25, 2007

Way Out Here

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

Those Pfizer predictions I posted last week were accurate in outline, but not in detail. (The company must be doing a reasonable job of clamping down on leaks). La Jolla and St. Louis survived, confounding expectations, and Michigan got hit very hard indeed.

That's sad, and ironic. The very research facility (ex Warner-Lambert) that discovered and developed Lipitor, the drug that's been most important in keeping Pfizer afloat, is getting the axe. I know some people up there, and I have a lot of sympathy for them. Not only are they out of a job, but they're out of a job in a part of the country that will almost certainly not be able to absorb them.

I'm having enough of a time trying to keep the moving vans away here in Connecticut, and my state has a real pharma/biotech presence. Nothing compares to the obvious always-find-something locations, though: Boston/Cambridge, SF/Bay Area, San Diego/La Jolla, New Jersey from Philadelphia to New York.

On the other hand, the classic example of going out on a location limb is Eli Lilly. Indianapolis, whatever its other charms (like reasonably priced housing), is not a hotbed of drug discovery research once you leave the Lilly premises. The company has generally paid people well, and it's understood that the premium is partly to offset the risk of moving to a part of the country where there's basically only one place you can work. (Well, there's Abbott in Chicago, and there used to be Searle, but it's not like anyone's going to want to commute from Indianapolis to Chicago).

Lilly's the biggest example I know of, but there are plenty of smaller companies located in unlikely places. Nominees are invited for the Most Isolated Company Award - and I'll kick things off by mentioning Albany Molecular.

Comments (51) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Industry History


COMMENTS

1. David on January 25, 2007 9:35 AM writes...

There was Myogen in Denver, but it's been purchased. Ditto for Kos in Miami. Solvay in Marietta or Encysive in Houston seem like possible winners. 3M in St. Paul is pretty good too.

Permalink to Comment

2. Don B. on January 25, 2007 9:40 AM writes...

I believe that 3M has sold off hteir pharmaceutical group. I don't know what happened to the researchers/people in Minnesota.

Permalink to Comment

3. former AMRI employee on January 25, 2007 9:53 AM writes...

At least Albany Molecular has generally paid people well, and it's understood that the premium is partly to offset the risk of moving to a part of the country where there's basically only one place you can work.

Oh, wait...

Permalink to Comment

4. randomguy on January 25, 2007 10:06 AM writes...

I'd put my vote in for Myriad in Salt Lake City. Great bunch of people in a beautiful city, but well, it's a bit of an odd city too.

Permalink to Comment

5. tom bartlett on January 25, 2007 10:23 AM writes...

Myriad-- Salt Lake city.

Also, doesn't AMRI have a Mount Prospect, Il site?

Permalink to Comment

6. pc on January 25, 2007 10:47 AM writes...

On another note, since AMRI is mentioned, is it true that it requires employee to work 10hr every day?

Permalink to Comment

7. Emma Jean on January 25, 2007 11:03 AM writes...

LigoCyte Pharma in Bozeman, Montana.

Permalink to Comment

8. LNT on January 25, 2007 11:06 AM writes...

Yes, as of a few years ago, it was an unwritten (but well communicated) policy that AMRI requires employees to put in a 50 hour week. I interviewed there and was told this directly. I generally work 50 hours a week -- but it's because I want to get ahead and want to do well. I certainly wouldn't want to work someplace that REQUIRED me to put in 50 hours! That's like taking a 20% pay cut!

Permalink to Comment

9. Steve on January 25, 2007 11:09 AM writes...

The Kansas City area has a big push on for growing the biotech/life sciences arena. Not sure about pharma groups - but if research is your gig, this could be a growth area.
Here's a link:
http://www.mriresearch.org/WorkingWithMRI/Alliances.asp

Very affordable housing, cool ands oon-to-be lively downtown as well.

Permalink to Comment

10. Tuck on January 25, 2007 11:47 AM writes...

TransOva Genetics is based in Sioux City, Iowa, and has a regional center (for collecting ova from bovine donors, I gather -- does that count?) in Belgrade, Montana. Even more remote than Bozeman.

Permalink to Comment

11. Milo on January 25, 2007 12:09 PM writes...

Promega Bioscience (chemistry) is located in San Luis Obispo, CA. Pretty scenery but there is nothing else there science wise (except Cal Poly).

Permalink to Comment

12. Cryptic Ned on January 25, 2007 12:17 PM writes...

IDT (source for DNA oligos) is in a suburb of Iowa City.

Permalink to Comment

13. Milo on January 25, 2007 12:19 PM writes...

Re #6 & #8

I interviewed at CBRD in Delaware 4 years ago and was told flat out that 50-60 hours a week was expected.

I recently saw a grad school chum at an ACS meeting who happens to work at AMRI and he looked pretty ragged... I guess they work their folks hard.

Permalink to Comment

14. rpesin@adelphia.net on January 25, 2007 12:24 PM writes...

La Jolla survived, but there will be significant displacement of employees due to the changing scope of research there towards cancer, ophthamology, and antibodies/vaccines. Conceptually these changes make sense as there is synergy for cancer research with UCSD and Salk. Neighboring Orange County is a the nation's capital for ophthamology related companies. The allegiance with Scripps provides support for the antibodies/vaccine work.

Permalink to Comment

15. Erik on January 25, 2007 12:30 PM writes...

As someone who isn't quite yet in pharma, when you guys take your jobs, how long do you plan on staying there? Obviously this is probably case dependent, but for the normal size companies are you already thinking about where you're going to work AFTER leaving BEFORE you even start????? That's what this discussion seems to be implying....not that I think it's a bad idea to look a few steps ahead....

Permalink to Comment

16. New Grad on January 25, 2007 12:39 PM writes...

As someone who has just taken a job, I can tell that I am not at all thinking about where I will work next. I think we all hope for job security, but change is now just a reality of this field that one has to accept- unlike maybe 30 years ago.

Permalink to Comment

17. dave s. on January 25, 2007 12:43 PM writes...

Belgrade is like 8 miles from Bozeman. It's basically a suburb, part of Greater Metro Bozeman. I wouldn't class one as being more remote than the other.

Permalink to Comment

18. tiki on January 25, 2007 2:22 PM writes...

Hawaii Biotech in Aiea, Hawaii (on the island of Oahu)

Permalink to Comment

19. alchemist on January 25, 2007 2:35 PM writes...

Deciphera (small bio-tech/pharma)
Lawrence, KS

Permalink to Comment

20. horrible on January 25, 2007 3:20 PM writes...

How about Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor Maine.

#1, Isn't Tanox in Houston as well?

Permalink to Comment

21. Chrispy on January 25, 2007 3:35 PM writes...


New graduates:

I was told by someone in HR that the average turnover for biotech technician-level jobs is 3-4 years. As a Ph.D. I am on my third job in nine years -- both of my previous employers went belly-up.

Although I never have applied for a job without the motivation of Unemployment, it is generally true that you will do better, career-wise, to swap jobs every few years. Look at any V.P. level CV and you'll see this. It stands to reason, too -- would you rather hire someone with five years at Bayer, five at BMS, and five at Merck or someone with 15 years at Lilly? Guaranteed the guy who swaps around will have a higher position -- unless, of course, every swap was because they were fired and every position they took an act of desperation.

Something which I am only now beginning to have to come to grips with, too, is that older Ph.D.s with a lot of management experience can have problems finding jobs. Existing management can find them threatening, and they like to promote from within. (How many high-level jobs do you see advertised?) This is a little counter to the swap-jobs-every-few-years thing, but the deal is that when these poeple DO find jobs they're (in theory) good 'uns.

Permalink to Comment

22. daen on January 25, 2007 3:43 PM writes...

Well, if companies outside of the US count, I'd nominate deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, Iceland. And there's a small biotech cluster in Dunedin, New Zealand, which is pretty far away from anywhere else except the rest of New Zealand ...

Permalink to Comment

23. eugene on January 25, 2007 4:13 PM writes...

There is a "greater metro" Bozeman!? Wow...

Permalink to Comment

24. Ben on January 25, 2007 4:28 PM writes...

It's funny that two of the big chromatography suppliers are located in the same town and that that town is in the middle of nowhere. I am, of course, referring to Supelco and ResTek. As a former employee of Supelco and an undergraduate alum of Penn State, I recognize that Bellefonte, PA is not the easiest town to get out of, shipping wise. So it always amazes me when I think about how those two companies can survive.

Permalink to Comment

25. anon on January 25, 2007 5:21 PM writes...

Ben: In a way the location of Supelco makes sense. If I remember correctly, they donated analytical hplc columns to some groups at Penn State in exchange for developing separation methods. (I also graduated from PSU, last generation of the Chandlee era.) Relatively cheap location (suburb of State College) plus a relatively cheap labor source nearby.

Permalink to Comment

26. Erik on January 25, 2007 5:34 PM writes...

What you're saying makes sense Chrispy, I am certainly expecting a move or two in the future down the road.

I always wondered about rising up the ladder into management. Is life really more difficult as you rise up the ladder so to speak? I mean, you should be more valuable to the company, right? Finally having experience and skills and THEN having life get MORE difficult is definitely a raw deal!

Permalink to Comment

27. milo on January 25, 2007 5:49 PM writes...

Anon (#25),

If possible, drop me a comment on my blog, I have a question for you.


Permalink to Comment

28. Jenny on January 25, 2007 6:25 PM writes...

"always-find-something locations, though: Boston/Cambridge, SF/Bay Area, San Diego/La Jolla, New Jersey from Philadelphia to New York"

I wonder when it was the last time you've 'been out there' Dereke?

The tri-state area is weak and San Diego/la jolla is a death zone (friends at a recent biotech co whose stock got torpedoed have yet to find jobs after several months). All of San Diego is a contracting disaster. You never seem to discuss the current absymal state of employment for chemists. What reality are you living in? Maybe you should stick to the 'chemistry is fun talk'? You do your field a disservice by constantly ignoring reality.

Permalink to Comment

29. Dr.Carbon on January 25, 2007 6:32 PM writes...

In 2006, Myriad in Salt Lake City became even more of a pharma-island with the shrinking of our neighbor, NPS Pharmaceuticals. We were invited to walk through the empty NPS labs and glean reagents to cut down on their disposal costs; a very sobering experience.

By the way, we have several job positions open:
1. An RA position in chemistry (hit-to-lead).
2. An RA position with our analytical team.
3. A group leader position in Med Chem (managing 4 people while still working in the lab).

Personally, I'm very happy in SLC. If you ski, rock climb, bike or have a several wives, then this location has a lot to offer.

Permalink to Comment

30. milkshake on January 25, 2007 6:48 PM writes...

Selectide (of Sanofi-Aventis) in Tucson, AZ.

Great place, reasonable housing and you can ski, bike, climb, stargaze or grow prickly pear there. You can have several wives too but it is generally frowned upon by the Czech community..

Permalink to Comment

31. freshblood on January 25, 2007 7:25 PM writes...

i interviewed at AMRI recently and didn't get the slave-driven impression from the many people i met. my former co-worker w/in the co. has nothing but good things to say. never-the-less it is interesting to hear all these perspectives from you btdt industry guys. good blog btw

Permalink to Comment

32. Derek Lowe on January 25, 2007 7:28 PM writes...

Hi Jenny - actually, I have a fairly good idea of what the employment situation is like in these various areas. Dozens of colleagues of mine have been investigating them first-hand, unfortunately.

It's true that SD/La Jolla isn't what it was a few years ago, but compared to some other areas of the country, it's still a target-rich zone.

As for discussing the job situation for chemists, well, since I'm unemployed myself as of next Tuesday, it's not a topic that I like to dwell on right now. But I've talked about many layoff situations here. Interestingly, many of my laid-off chemistry colleagues are finding positions, so the job market, while not booming, could certainly be worse.

Permalink to Comment

33. Anonymous on January 25, 2007 7:29 PM writes...

Out of curiosity, what does the peanut gallery think of the RTP (Raleigh/Durham) area these days? I was thinking it might have a sizable enough population to allow a career to progress without the need for relocation, but then again that might only exist in Boston / CA these days. Anyone have a feel for the environment out there? Growing? Crashing?

Permalink to Comment

34. Anonymous on January 25, 2007 9:09 PM writes...

PDL BioPharma's production plant in suburban Minneapolis is a long ways from other biotech.

Permalink to Comment

35. Steven Jens on January 25, 2007 9:43 PM writes...

Derek, I don't know what part of Connecticut you're in, but I had a boss in Cambridge who commuted daily from somewhere near New London. Of course, he was a little nuts.

I currently have a coworker, still around Boston, who lives near Hartford, but he works from home four days a week, which I suppose isn't an option in your line.

Good luck.

Permalink to Comment

36. Gerald on January 25, 2007 10:12 PM writes...

How about The Woodlands, Texas? Lexicon Genetics is there.

Also, sometimes the jobs are in places where you don't expect them ... these are straight biology though, some with veterinarian tendency:
http://hostedjobs.openhire.com/epostings/jobs/submit.cfm?version=1&company_id=15597

Permalink to Comment

37. Jeremiah on January 25, 2007 11:11 PM writes...

Indianapolis has quite a bit of chemical R&D, actually. Dow Agro's primary research facility and Reilly Chemical are both located there.

There is more than just big pharma for chemists, you know. Besides, it's better than living in New Jersey.

Permalink to Comment

38. molecularArchitect on January 26, 2007 3:18 AM writes...

To describe the current chemistry employment picture in California as "abysmal", as Jenny did, is an understatement. I and several former colleagues, all with >15 years experience, are still unemployed after a year.

Chrispy's comments about the difficulties faced by older Ph.D.s with management experience are a troubling indicator of the future of Medicinal chemistry as a career. There are jobs for new grads and those with less experience. Small companies are unwilling to pay for technical experience and think they can successfully do med chem with a combination of inexperienced teams and outsourcing. In my opinion, this will prove to be a false economy. No one graduates from school knowing how to discover and optimize drug candidates. They might be great synthesis chemists but it takes experience to learn how to function in a multi-disciplinary team and succeed. Schools don't produce good med chemists, real-life experience in industry does.

A huge part of the problem is that the investment community want a quick return and is shying away from funding discovery research in favor of "development-stage" companies. This isn't just a problem in the small biotech arena, P&G recently eliminated all their discovery efforts. Just where in the hell are the discoveries to be developed going to come from without experienced med chemists?

Honestly, I love doing chemistry and have enjoyed my career but I wish I had studied something else. It's hard to accept that my career in chemistry may be over. I'm too young (and can't afford) to retire. The options of teaching at a small college or starting over in a new field (at much less money) are not particularly attractive.

To answer Erik's question: if I were just finishing a PhD, I would not take a lab job. Head into the financial end of the business. That will vastly improve your odds of working until you're ready to retire. If I were early in the PhD program, I'd quit and enter a more lucrative field. If you go for an MD or PharmD, you can still do research but have many other options if the industry continues on its self-distructive course. An MBA or JD will open even more opportunities. None of those 4 alternatives require any more intellect or hard work than a PhD program, probably less.

Permalink to Comment

39. molecularArchitect on January 26, 2007 3:21 AM writes...

To describe the current chemistry employment picture in California as "abysmal", as Jenny did, is an understatement. I and several former colleagues, all with >15 years experience, are still unemployed after a year.

Chrispy's comments about the difficulties faced by older Ph.D.s with management experience are a troubling indicator of the future of Medicinal chemistry as a career. There are jobs for new grads and those with less experience. Small companies are unwilling to pay for technical experience and think they can successfully do med chem with a combination of inexperienced teams and outsourcing. In my opinion, this will prove to be a false economy. No one graduates from school knowing how to discover and optimize drug candidates. They might be great synthesis chemists but it takes experience to learn how to function in a multi-disciplinary team and succeed. Schools don't produce good med chemists, real-life experience in industry does.

A huge part of the problem is that the investment community want a quick return and is shying away from funding discovery research in favor of "development-stage" companies. This isn't just a problem in the small biotech arena, P&G recently eliminated all their discovery efforts. Just where in the hell are the discoveries to be developed going to come from without experienced med chemists?

Honestly, I love doing chemistry and have enjoyed my career but I wish I had studied something else. It's hard to accept that my career in chemistry may be over. I'm too young (and can't afford) to retire. The options of teaching at a small college or starting over in a new field (at much less money) are not particularly attractive.

To answer Erik's question: if I were just finishing a PhD, I would not take a lab job. Head into the financial end of the business. That will vastly improve your odds of working until you're ready to retire. If I were early in the PhD program, I'd quit and enter a more lucrative field. If you go for an MD or PharmD, you can still do research but have many other options if the industry continues on its self-distructive course. An MBA or JD will open even more opportunities. None of those 4 alternatives require any more intellect or hard work than a PhD program, probably less.

Permalink to Comment

40. A-NONY-MUSE on January 26, 2007 9:26 AM writes...

Anyone else find the "colon cleanse" addy at teh bottom of this blog topic highly ironic?

Permalink to Comment

41. Derek Lowe on January 26, 2007 9:30 AM writes...

Tell me about it. I'm trying to see if I can get rid of that stuff. Anyone who goes in for "colon cleansing" needs to cleanse their cerebral cortex while they're at it.

Permalink to Comment

42. Mark M on January 26, 2007 1:13 PM writes...

Re: post #33

I would currently classify RTP as another death zone that is enraptured with the "contractor" idea.

RTP to be full of great opportunities for discovery scientists (including us synthesis folks). Not any more. Supply far exceeds demand and salaries have fallen. Of course, GSK is an outlier in all of this--but there is only so much talent they can soak up and dont even try to get in there as a PhD without either prior big pharma experience or the right pedigree.

I didnt want to, but I had to leave RTP. This is how a lot of folks feel about San Diego/La Jolla.

I am now a recruiter and I can attest to the woeful situation in San Diego. However, up the road in San Fran the opps are much more plentiful.

That being said, these days it is far better for your career to be involved in development than discovery if you want some degree of say on where you live and how long you can stand to be unemployed if you get laid off.

My clients can not get enough analytical, bioanalytical and formulations scientists. I know many a talented PhD organic chemist who has transitioned to one of these fields (or even patent law) and done quite well through tough times.

My transition took me to recruiting.

I wish all job seekers good fortune for 2007.
-Mark

Permalink to Comment

43. milkshake on January 26, 2007 5:39 PM writes...

Merck in Boston was seeking people to few mechem job positions, from RA level up to a lab leaders with n-years of experience. I don't know how fresh this information is though.

Permalink to Comment

44. Jose on January 26, 2007 8:33 PM writes...

Don't forget Bend Research Inc., in OR- not really Medchem (mostly formulation research) but it is certainly a little island....

Permalink to Comment

45. joe on January 26, 2007 10:20 PM writes...

I am a drug discovery biologist and agree with the comments of molecularArchitect comments, even the sad ones related to job selection. For some reason management never appreciates the contribution of medicial chemists to a successful program. From the outside, it may look like the chemists' make compounds at random, and the so-so ones might but not the good med chemists. A good creative chemist is a joy to work with and can turn a program from a 4 year futile effort into a 2 year success story. This type of creativity can't be gotten through contractors or vendors. Big Pharmas should know better than to think it can and small biotechs don't know what they're missing.

Permalink to Comment

46. James on January 28, 2007 2:27 PM writes...

molecularArchitect, would your reply to Erik's question (i.e., what you wrote in #39) be the same if it were a Ph.D. in an engineering discipline (e.g., chemical/biochemical/biomedical engineering) as opposed to a science (e.g., chemistry)?

Thanks!

Permalink to Comment

47. MolecModeler on January 29, 2007 12:54 PM writes...

I'm at the big company in RTP. You (everyone) need to figure out how much you love research. Discovery is the pits, no one cares about you. We all laugh/complain about stupid MBA's making dumb decisions, but who are they affecting? Us. Who's making them? Them. Who's the real fool?

Anyway career transition is probably what I'm looking at, otherwise expect to work 20 years to get anywhere with real decision making posibility (at least in big pharma).

MM

Permalink to Comment

48. Just a dad on February 1, 2007 9:16 PM writes...

Gerald on January 25, 2007 10:12 PM writes...
How about The Woodlands, Texas? Lexicon Genetics is there.

After a little over 6 years with Lexicon my son was laid off on Monday as part of their restructuring. There were approx 125+ people let go.

Permalink to Comment

49. lcguy1 on February 3, 2007 8:57 AM writes...

How about GSK in Hamilton, MT. Kind of out of the way too.

Permalink to Comment

50. molecularArchitect on February 4, 2007 9:53 PM writes...

James (#46), I honestly don't have a clue about career opportunities in engineering disciplines. These folks are more involved in manufacturing and I've never worked in that end of the business. A number of pharma companies are building manufacturing facilities in Singapore. I imagine that there are cost savings associated with this. I assume that Singapore is chosen rather than China or India due to the substantial capital costs and more stable political/economic environment.

Mark M (#42), I can attest that the opportunities in San Francisco are not plentiful. There are some entry level positions but very few for experienced chemists.

So tell me, how does an experienced chemist over age 45 make the transition to analytical, bioanalytical or formulations? Every ad I see in those fields wants people with experience, just the opposite from MedChem.

How did you make the move to recruiting?

I know several people who are exploring the patent agent opportunities. Gads, I would hate to do that for a living!

Permalink to Comment

51. not gonna say on May 31, 2008 11:03 PM writes...

GSK in Hamilton MT had layoffs this week.

Permalink to Comment

POST A COMMENT




Remember Me?



EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO A FRIEND

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):




RELATED ENTRIES
Conference in Basel
Messed-Up Clinical Studies: A First-Hand Report
Pharma and Ebola
Lilly Steps In for AstraZeneca's Secretase Inhibitor
Update on Alnylam (And the Direction of Things to Come)
There Must Have Been Multiple Chances to Catch This
Weirdly, Tramadol Is Not a Natural Product After All
Thiola, Retrophin, Martin Shkrell, Reddit, and More