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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: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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January 28, 2007

What Can Academia Do?

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Posted by Derek

So, as reader CalProf asked in a comment the other day, what should academic scientists who want to help discover drugs be doing?

As a first approximation, I'd say not drug discovery. That sounds a bit strange, I know, but there are some good reasons behind it. Modern drug discovery takes a lot of resources, from several rather widely separated fields, and it's not easy to bring all the necessary people together in an academic environment. You need med-chemists to make the compounds, pharmacologists and molecular biologiss to develop and run the primary and secondary assays, in vivo people to dose and evaluate effects in the animal models (which they'll also need to develop, in many cases), toxicologists, formulation chemists, computer modelers, scale-up chemists. . .and it's a great help to have people in each of these departments who've done this kind of thing many times and know all the obvious pitfalls. It's a lot easier to organize this as a company where everyone is hired to do their specialty, rather than try to run it with whatever post-docs and grad students you have handy.

But that doesn't mean that academia can't play a big role. They already do, of course, in doing much of the basic biochemical research that leads to new drug targets. Unraveling which protein interacts with which in some important cellular process is as basic as it comes, and most of the time that won't lead to drug one - but once in a while those experiments will set the entire industry off on a chase.

Another place where some academic thinking could come in very useful would be in attacking the important pharmaceutical processes that we don't understand: things like pharmacokinetics, oral availability, human versus animal toxicology, and (lots of) better disease models. The inefficiencies in these areas caused by our lack of knowledge are costing everyone billions of dollars - any improvement at all would be good news. Of course, it's not like the industry hasn't taken a crack at them, too (after all, there are those billions of dollars out there to be rescued from the bonfire). But we really need every approach we can get, and some fresh thinking would be welcome.

Want some more in that vein? Better ways to dose large proteins. New formulations, so that insoluble gunk like Taxol could be given in a dosing vehicle that doesn't occasionally give people anaphylactic shock. Some hope of predicting blood-brain barrier penetration. More understanding of active transport of drug-size molecules, and how it varies between species and among different cell types. Make no mistake, these are hard problems. But whoever can make real progress on them will get plenty of recognition, plenty of funding, and will be a flat-out benefactor of humanity to boot.

Comments (35) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Academia (vs. Industry) | Drug Development


COMMENTS

1. milkshake on January 28, 2007 9:54 PM writes...

Academia should develop tools for research, not products.

It is also bad training for the poor postdoc/student to be asigned making the methyl/ethyl/propy/isopropyl analog series - and he then even cannot even present his unimpressive work when looking for a job (because their patent did not get published yet.)

The institute where I work is actualy pretty good at bringing people from different fields together - most of these people were hired from industry with specific intention of getting a drug discovery site up and running. But is non-typical situation - what happens more often in academia is that a chemistry professor is hiring biologists or biology professor getting chemists, with predictable results and nobody has a clue about late stage PK optimisation.

If one likes to start doing drug discovery in academia, one needs financial backing and manpowere at least comparable with a startup company. One should also take maximum advantage of industry experience. Hiring people fresh from shcool won't do.

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2. eugene on January 28, 2007 10:33 PM writes...

Perhaps there is a case to be made for a 'national drug company'? Sam's Pharma. With a mandate from congress and an independent board of directors.

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3. Milo on January 28, 2007 11:04 PM writes...

What I think needs to be remembered is that in order to deconvolute many enzymatic pathways, a specific inhibitor is often needed. Therefore, academic labs that are interested in the biological effects of enzyme X almost always need a small scale med-chem effort just to make the tools to look at the enzyme.

It is one thing to have a med chem effort directed at developing the tools to help the biologists, it is another thing to try to develop things to help the patient.

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4. mark on January 28, 2007 11:20 PM writes...

As an academic researcher and current recipient of your NIH (aka, tax) dollars, I'm inclined to second the notion of not burning through limited funding in direct pursuit of what the private sector is designed to do. (Although were I able to add formatting, the word 'direct' would be in italics, and perhaps underlined as well.)

And yet...

I'm curious to know what the actual academic track record is in this regard. Perhaps someone out there can attend this particular session of the Med Chem division at the Spring 2007 ACS National meeting, and report back:

"Drugs from Academia: Marketed Drugs Discovered in Academic Labs."
J. E. Macor, Discovery Chemistry, Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutic al Research Inst., Five Research Pkwy., Wallingford, CT 06492, (203) 677-7092
(http://pubs.acs.org/cen/meetings/84/8436meetings.html)

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5. Canuck Chemist on January 28, 2007 11:23 PM writes...

Great remarks Derek. I’d like to see more good people make the transition from industry back to academia, because I think they can have some great insights into some of the unmet problems you mentioned related to developing medical treatments.

As a postdoc with involvement in a new “drug development� institute, I agree wholeheartedly with Milkshake’s comments. Especially because the teamwork that is needed to develop a drug is just not going to happen between profs and researchers with diverse goals and research interests. That being said, I think that institutes which focus on bridging the gap between biology and chemistry can serve an important purpose. I think it’s a more reasonable goal to discover and develop tool compounds (modulators of biological targets) for novel targets. The work by Schreiber, Schultz and others to provide compound libraries for biologists seems like a worthwhile cause. Even more important, I would say, is the continued research by academics into the isolation and synthesis of natural products and their analogs. This is an area which most big pharma cut back on when the combichem craze started. The work by Danishefsky into the synthesis of epothilone analogs stands out as some very nice work which led to important clinical results. I would also underline the innovative work of bioengineers to provide cheap syntheses of natural products (e.g. Keasling’s work on the large scale biosynthesis of artemisinin), and also work by Clardy to make otherwise inaccessible natural products from expression systems using DNA isolated from soil microbes. The great value of these natural products is worth another discussion…

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6. Steven Jens on January 28, 2007 11:52 PM writes...

Eugene, would your "national drug company" be substantially different than spending public funds on basic research at NIH and hundreds to thousands of research universities?

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7. Joshua on January 29, 2007 9:21 AM writes...

Derek - though I certainly understand where you're coming from (and I've heard this same point-of-view from a number of people who work for pharmaceutical companies), I'd like to ask you who should be developing drugs for all those important, yet neglected, infectious diseases that are responsible for the deaths of millions of people in developing countries?

Don't get me wrong - I completely understand that drug companies are for-profit enterprises and that they have a responsibility to their shareholders to maximize profits. And the math is simple: earnings from erectile dysfunction drugs, chronic diseases, etc. >> earnings from new anti-malarials, TB drugs, other infectious diseases, etc.

I agree that academic groups might not be able to tackle this problem as efficiently/effectively as a drug company, but someone needs to do this (thank goodness for the TDR, the DNDI, and the NITD...)

If most pharmaceutical companies aren't willing/able to tackle these problems, why shouldn't academic groups give it a try?

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8. JSinger on January 29, 2007 9:32 AM writes...

Modern drug discovery takes a lot of resources, from several rather widely separated fields...

What I've been urging, ever since I arrived in industry from (biology) academia and found that I didn't have the slightest idea how the drug discovery process worked, is education for basic researchers. Local, decentralized, one or two day seminars where university researchers listen to a series of short presentations from the different line functions.

Hopefully that will lead to scientific advances. (Maybe some smart grad student who really, really understands his system will have some bright idea about formulation!) But, if only out of intellectual curiosity, you'd think basic researchers would want to understand where their work goes, instead of just adding "...and may lead to a cure for cancer." at the end of every RO1 proposal.

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9. S Silverstein on January 29, 2007 9:32 AM writes...

Another place where some academic thinking could come in very useful would be in attacking the important pharmaceutical processes that we don't understand: things like pharmacokinetics, oral availability, human versus animal toxicology, and (lots of) better disease models.

Another thing academics can do is to attack (critique?) the ideological/social assumptions in pharma that lead to suboptimal use of pharma's own resources, such as:

1. The HR disaster area - the belief that work is about "process" and "skillsets", not "ability and creativity", which translates to poor hiring and retention practices (a symptom is the automated screening of resumes on the basis of a far too granular 'skills grid', as opposed to what a person has done);

2. The habit of putting people without domain expertise into improper positions of authority, right up to CEO level;

3. The short-term focus on profit at the expense of long-term strategy;

4. The morale-killing effects of mass layoffs, which are certainly a sign of management failure both in the necessity for them arising, and in the execution despite the effects on overall morale;

5. The bumbling that goes on it IT (on the provider side, examples such as here).

In other words, the social aspects of the business. This is an area known as social informatics. This is not rocket science, nor biomedical science, but the effects of inattention to this area are quite serious.

As a former (downsized) pharma person, I have firsthand experience.

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10. biff on January 29, 2007 9:56 AM writes...

Re. a "national drug company," a curious blend of politics and business has led a few places to push the idea of "national champions" - for example, the French with Sanofi-Aventis and the Germans with Bayer. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

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11. MolecularGeek on January 29, 2007 10:48 AM writes...

I wholeheartedly agree that academia ought to concentrate on the research that makes drug discovery possible. Sadly, this may not be an option for most researchers. NIH is on a crusade for translational research, read "what you do ought to be clinically relevant in 5-7 years". It also sounds a lot like them trying to force academic labs to become the postulated USA National drug company above. This is just a bad fit. As has been noted, drug discovery is a cross-disciplinary process, and with some exceptions, PIs don't like to depend on external collaborations for their primary funding.

What worries me the most is that funding for basic research in biomedical science is drying up, even as the government scrambles to add dollars to the NIH budget. The NSF can't pick up the slack, especially when they have to avoid stepping on toes at NIH over what they fund, and DoE and NASA have very limited mandates as well. Academic labs may not discover many drugs, but they have provided much of the underlying knowledge that allows for target selection in industry. Who is going to pay for this now? As I have said before, big pharma is getting risk-averse, and I can't see Pfizer (pfor example) paying for teams of biologists to unravel the signaling pathways that control pre-natal bone development (again, as an example). There may be interesting results that come out of it, and I am sure that any of us can suggest ways that such a topic could be the basis for a drug discovery/development project, but in the absence of a clear economic incentive, I wouldn't bet on it. I hope that it won't come down to us only understanding the processes in the human body that are profitable to interfere with.

MG

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12. Dennis on January 29, 2007 11:03 AM writes...

I am an undergrad interested in organic synthesis. It seems to me that you're suggesting that most of the problems that should be tackled by academia are biological or biochemical in nature. Do you believe organic synthesis has any place in academia?

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13. eugene on January 29, 2007 12:27 PM writes...

#6 (also, #10, #11) Steven, no it would be completely different. The government has a national aerospace company, so it could expand into the drug business. It would have a similar structure to an existing large entity (eg. Bayer), and would operate like an industrial entity. NIH is nothing similar. Too many disparate groups competing for funding on different projects. This company could also compete with the private sector for talent, and would rely on people from the private sector (or formerly from the private sector) to oversee it. This would be an even better arrangement than NASA. Think of Russia's national oil company. They behave as a private entity but act solely in the interest of the cronies in Moscow to the benefit of the country (or maybe just the cronies). I'm sure a real democracy can do better.

The government would essentially be negotiating with itself over drug prices, and although the company would probably be operating at a loss because of it, it would be worth it. Especially if the government figures out how to make a buck on insurance. Plus neglected diseases could be pursued when it is politically convenient (not economically convenient).

In any case, I just though I'd throw out the suggestion so that someone with a better knowledge of politics and business could shoot me down.

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14. Jose on January 29, 2007 12:49 PM writes...

Mark-

regarding your questions about marketed drugs from academia, there are only a few examples, as far as I know. Holton's taxol semi-synthesis, and Dennis Liotta's (Emory) anti-virals is about the sum total....

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15. Anonymous on January 29, 2007 12:56 PM writes...

Let's not also forget the possibilities with all the charity funding becoming available. Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett, it might be possible to fully fund more not-for-profit organizations (academic or otherwise) dedicated to discovering treatments to those illnesses which are difficult to profit from. I think it's a mistake to fund more targetted research at the expense of more basic studies (as the NIH is doing), but if we can find a way to fund both (e.g. by more private and public support), that would be great. What about pouring a fraction of all that useless pharma marketing money back into research?

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16. Canuck Chemist on January 29, 2007 12:58 PM writes...

(Whoops, ignore the previous anonymous comment)

Let's not also forget the possibilities with all the charity funding becoming available. Thanks to the generosity of Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett, it might be possible to fully fund more not-for-profit organizations (academic or otherwise) dedicated to discovering treatments to those illnesses which are difficult to profit from. I think it's a mistake to fund more targetted research at the expense of more basic studies (as the NIH is doing), but if we can find a way to fund both (e.g. by more private and public support), that would be great. What about pouring a fraction of all that useless pharma marketing money back into research?

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17. david on January 29, 2007 2:04 PM writes...

A national drug company. You mean like the Pentagon? Or Central Intelligence? Those are national, and they're monopolies which don't function very well in spite of considerable legal leeway. (And let's not forget the wonderful results brought by the folks who brought us Iraq II--all of which are striking endorsements for national anythings--not.)

As for academia, last time I looked, most department chairs had major problems in making a commitment for $500K to support a prized faculty member for a couple of years to get grants funded. Now you're asking them to wager $50-100 million on a drug which may never make it to market? I don't think faculties have either the patience or understanding to do discovery work, even though the process looks so straightforward to them. Also, the level of regulatory scrutiny associated with discovery and development would cause tremendous faculty reaction. All in all, if faculties think the process so easy, they should incorporate and show their stuff. I think they'll get discouraged at how hard it really is.

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18. Al on January 29, 2007 2:57 PM writes...

A UK Perspective

It is perhaps telling that not one person has yet commented on the role that the academic community has in educating the bright young people entering the industry. [Surely undergraduate and graduate education is at least half the task of a university, or doesn't that count for anything anymore?]

In my personal experience, the teaching of medicinal chemistry is at best patchy (BSc in Chemistry with Medicinal Chemistry), with little to no input from experienced industry hands in the lecture theatre teaching the theory and practise of what it is that goes on in drug discovery labs around the world.

Lookie here for the med chem offering from Aberdeen University (UK) a top rated department for undergraduate teaching. Looks to me like not one specifically tailored component for an industry bench med chemist. Rubbish!

http://www.abdn.ac.uk/chemistry/ug/prog/medchem_bsc.shtml

Perhaps industry should be looking to do what it can in bringing the challenges and excitement of drug discovery into the classrooms of universities and colleges across the land. You quite often hear of apparent skills shortages with companies looking to recruit into the junior ranks.......so why the disconnect?

In my experience it is equally true that at present most universities have little to no interest in actually teaching med chem (at least what an industry person would call med chem anyway!). A while back I was half-pondering a return to academia, but was lacking in formal teaching experience. What I did was to offer to teach some classes/workshops in med chem to give the students an informal (ie unassessed) introdcution to medicinal chemistry. Not one of the 40 or so institutions I wrote to was in the least interested in the offer, even though I was offering to do it at marginal cost (travel+expenses).

So to Prof. California I say, establish yourself a solid teaching program. Invite in outside lecturers from industry. Visit industry labs and ask about what they do, about what they feel their BS/MS new hires generally lack in terms of knowledge. Build from that. Pester your new found contacts in industry for projects.

It is a two-way street, but at the moment the parties are standing at opposite ends, pretending not to care what the other half is doing.....

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19. CA prof on January 29, 2007 4:19 PM writes...

I'm happy to see that nobody is really promoting the idea that academics just need to keep producing kids with synthesis union cards for the methyl-ethyl-butyl-mill. However, this is still a big (usually unspoken) reason for sustaining the (usually big) labs that do that sort of vocational training.

As someone who watches the academic side of things, I can say that there are very, very few in this business who kid themselves about "doing everything". Nobody on an R01-style budget, or even a big NIH grant-budget, is trying to do lead discovery, animal tox, and human trials. However, many academics think they can do discovery better than risk-averse Big Pharma. One of the most pressing issues in that approach is "how far do we need to take a molecule before Pharma pays attention to us?" In vitro kinase inhibition? Cell culture model of angiogenesis? Animal model of angiogenesis? Animal model of cancer? You get the idea.

The "forgotten diseases" model is also an angle - usually for the more expensive enterprises.

Derek's wish list for academic contributions falls under what I would call "removing risk" from development. Predicting PK, oral availability, etc. might increase the yield of leads that become drugs b/c, presumably, Pharma would be able to better focus its resources on things that have a chance of showing efficacy. However, as far as I can tell, the academy has mostly given up on what Derek lists. You won't find many Pharmacology departments that actually do pharmacology any longer - at least not at the "top" schools. Don't even get me started on physiology.

I think academics have a better shot at removing risk by inventing new things - either new knowledge (how a signaling protein works), or new technologies that might help with target validation/credentialing or better disease models, etc.

I was interested in Post #5 from Canuck chemist. I, for one, don't put much faith in screening small molecules for perturbants of biology. Want a new drug? Show me safety and efficacy! Want a new biological probe? Show me specificity!!! I think the specificity question is a huge albatross for that business. Also, time will tell, but did Sam's group really add any value to the epothilone story? In other words, if Sam had not done that work, wouldn't Pharma and biotech have found the same variants? I would certainly hope so.

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20. A-non-y-mous on January 29, 2007 5:39 PM writes...

The question isn't really what should academics do, but rather, what should NIH do. Most (not all) academic researchers are at the mercy of the steel fisted and currently penny pinching NIH for their RO1 support. They write the grants that they feel NIH will fund so that they can support not only their students, but themselves as well. Successful RO1 awards display micro-to-milimolar compounds, and are full of catchy buzz words and catch phrases: "potential drug", "cure cancer", "revolutionize the drug industry", "previously unknown therapeutic target", ad nauseam. The NIH likes these words. They want to feel important too. They want to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

I would like the NIH to get back to funding more basic science. Remember, academic research is about learning; training new grad students how to think and approach problems. With that background, then they can go into industry and apply their skills to real world problems.

If academic research is to change, it has to start at the source: NIH.

But really, besides dwelling over where the money would be better spent, are NIH funded med chem projects really that big of a deal? Probably not. So ignore the above and remember the below.

Hi, I'm cantankerous, and these are my $0.02.

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21. CA prof on January 29, 2007 6:58 PM writes...

Just a quick comment about post #18 and the idea that academics are not teaching enough of this stuff. In short, we try, but it's a bit like having priests lecture about marriage counselling - what the heck do we know?!?!

I've always thought that this sort of science was better suited to the physicial/med student model. Teach them the basics and then send them into the "wards" to learn the real way. As for a degree that reads "Medicinal Chemistry", I think Derek has posted his opinion of the value of that in previous posts, and I completely agree. I don't think modern drug discovery can be "taught", but I sure as heck hope it can be learned.

I don't think anyone has to spend much time at all trying to convince young people that drug discovery is interesting or an important part of all of our futures.

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22. mark on January 29, 2007 7:38 PM writes...

Jose,

I believe that part of the difficulty in confidently assigning academia or research institutes more direct credit in drug discovery (as opposed to occasionally receiving, say, a Best Supporting Actor Award in Target Validation) is that the provenance of certain drugs is murky, or sometimes just forgotten.

Two examples worth citing: AZT and taxol. The former was first synthesized at the Michigan Cancer Center (although towards a different indication than for which it is now approved). The latter, which you mentioned, involved nonprofit activity that predated Holton. Taxol emerged from natural product extract screening at the NCI, followed by compound isolation at Research Triangle Institute, and subsequent mechanism of action determination at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Fast-forward through clinical trials to eventual licensing by pharma, and the rest is med chem textbook fodder.

These two cases are perhaps dated and certainly in the minority, but my gambling instinct tells me that we haven’t seen the last of convoluted discovery stories of important therapeutics that originate in nonprofit laboratories.

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23. Dr. Know on January 29, 2007 9:08 PM writes...

There's alot of scratching head here but the reality is that automated factories producing trillions of compounds (along with slave wage factories in the Ukraine and India) is where all this is heading. Only about a 1000 Americans earn a PhD in chemistry each year and yet the US fails to provide a lucrative living for even these few dedicated individuals. I'd suggest you spend your time ORGANIZING instead of discussing inspired flights of fancy. You can only save the 'field' when there are people in it to save. Right now you're being outsourced (particulary via those academic labs) and buried in a sea of new arrivals. How can you expect salaries to rise with a tidle wave of people coming in and factories moving to China?

There's no reason a chemist should make any more than the minimum wage. Market forces will push you there if you allow them to. In a few years a BS or PhD in chemistry will be one of the most worthless pieces of paper you can own.

Form a union and fight back if you care. Or do you expect one of those cut to the bone MBA's to look out for you?

(a comment from an ex-chemist)

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24. The Strider on January 30, 2007 6:12 AM writes...

Academic researchers can and do discover promising targets or molecules with therapeutic potential. Such discoveries can result from a through study of a pathway, a plant, a complex, etc. that is very natural for an academic lab. These discoveries can be very promising but someone still needs to bridge the gap between the in-vitro indications and the in-vivo validation that are needed for Pharma to show interest. I don't think that there is a good solution right now. It is also important in these cases to take care of IP issues because commercial companies need to know that the target/molecule they are working on is protected.

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25. molecularArchitect on January 31, 2007 12:26 AM writes...

This is a good thread and addresses several problems in the whole pharma/biotech enterprise.

Re #9: All excellent points. I see no solution as long as the top people in the industry continue to come from the ranks of our top B-schools. MBAs seem to be incapable of thinking past short-term profits, of understanding the complexity and difficulty of drug discovery and development, or having any concern for the people (i.e. disposable human resources) responsible for the technical advances enabling their grossly inflated salaries.

Re #20: I've spent my career in the industry but have written many grants and served on NCI grant review committees. The political pressue on NIH, NSF, etc to produce "measurable" results is intense. Funding real basic research is difficult in this environment. A great example is that, under pressure from lobbying groups, Congress appropriated a huge amount of money for breast cancer research. This money did not go to NCI though. It is administered by the Department of Defense, who wanted nothing to do with the program. NIH/NCI/NSF are pawns in the congressional/lobbyist power games.

Adding to this is the desire of universities and professors to cash in on intellectual property. This has caused fundamental changes in the academic research environment. Changes which have not necessarily been to the benefit of science. The current dispute between Holton and Florida State University shows how big money has corrupted academia. There are many other examples. When I was a graduate student, the members of my department's three synthesis labs interacted closely, we even had periodic joint group meetings. I've been told that this is no longer the case at many top schools. Students are discouraged from interacting with members of "competing" research groups. Exactly the training that one does not need to suceed in industry.

Re #18: I've said before that schools don't make good med chemists but the schools alone are not at fault. The technical management of industry is populated largely by an "elite" that comes from just a handful of renowned academic research labs. Their hiring is biased towards those of similar hard-core synthesis training, preferably from the same handful of academic labs. Graduates of more broadly focused medicinal chemistry programs are often seen (by these managers) as generalists who are not experts in synthesis. This managers prefer to hire synthesis experts and teach them med chem. This being the case, there is little incentive to change the academic model. What is absurd about this reality is that the chemistry we do in industry is rarely cutting-edge. The creativity is in the design of the molecule not its synthesis (except in process, that's where the real synthesis experts are). Med Chemists use the same basic reactions over and over again.

This incestuous hiring also leads to industrial med chem groups where everyone has been trained to approach problems in the same way. Is it any wonder that so many pipelines are dry?

In summary, current academic practices are inadequate to train the talent needed for success. All efforts to reform academia to address this will fail unless industry changes its own approach to staffing. We will all need to wear coats in hell when this happens!

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26. milkshake on January 31, 2007 1:40 AM writes...

I a problem with hiring hot graduates fresh from the best groups is that they tend to have big ego - which is a good thing with a bright young guy, to make his mark in the world - but not necessarily the best situation for the lab. You cannot have too many hungry egos and arrogant self-confident guys who don't know much about developing a drug but like to commadeer others. You need to have a mix of people that besides being competent are reasonably content in their position and don't see it just as a stepping stone.

There was a strange atmosphere at Agouron whn I was interviewing there, just before the Pfizer merger - and I think over-saturation with the best and brightest was a part of it...

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27. MTK on January 31, 2007 6:24 PM writes...

A US national drug company? You've gotta be kidding me. There are areas where government is useful and essential. Competing with the private sector for the discovery and development of consumer products (which is essentially what drugs are)ain't one of them. If there is money to be made, the private sector is nearly always better. If the 20th century taught us anything it's that Adam Smith kicked Karl Marx's behind. Seriously, is there one government agency anywhere in the world that is better than the private sector in putting out a product? Airbus may be about as close as it comes and a) they're only government subsidized and b) they're really hurting right now.

This is what will happen if a "National Drug Company" is formed. You'll have biology research based in Congressman A's district, chemistry based in Congressman B's, DMPK in Congressman C's, Senator Byrd will make sure that there are 300 IT jobs in West Virginia. You get the point. It would be a complete waste of our tax dollars.

Now I understand that there areas such as developing nation diseases which will never get worked on by the private sector, so what do we do then? Assuming it's in the national interest to solve some of Africa's health issues (and I do), then the government should issue a massive prize, something like $10 billion, for a malaria vaccine, and let the private sector work its magic.

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28. eugene on January 31, 2007 8:10 PM writes...

I think it's just very reflexive to say that the government cannot do better than the private sector everywhere. In countries other than the USA, this is simply not the case.

The USSR aerospace industry for example, performed very well when it was still the USSR. A little caveat, was that the aerospace industry was the only one where competition was allowed. Basically, there were several government sanctioned airplane manufacturers competing with each other. It created an unbelievable amount of innovation and quality products.

How about the insurance companies in Canada? The British Columbia insurance company is getting competition only recently, and is doing fairly well still. Being the only insurance company for a while (opposite to my first example), allowed the company to collect data on where most of the crashes happened in road accidents. The ten most dangerous intersections were improved to make them safer every year. This would not happen in the US unless competitors decided to get together and share data (and it eventually did happen after enough American companies became cognizant of the Canadian example and decided it would save them money).

Why have one national drug company? Have several. And give the 10 billion prize to the one that manages to find the malaria vaccine first.

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29. Sohbet on December 5, 2008 4:28 PM writes...

I think it's just very reflexive to say that the government cannot do better than the private sector everywhere. In countries other than the USA, this is simply not the case.
thanks

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30. Sohbet Odaları on July 26, 2009 1:47 PM writes...

I think it's just very reflexive to say that the government

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31. Sohbet Odaları on July 26, 2009 1:49 PM writes...

I think it's just very reflexive to say that the government

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32. Sohbet Odaları on July 26, 2009 1:49 PM writes...

I think it's just very reflexive to say that the government

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33. Andy on July 26, 2009 3:34 PM writes...

Was this the chorus? :)

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34. Bored on July 27, 2009 9:08 AM writes...

Government can do some things well. Our military, throughout its history is a good example of government doing a good job. Our space program, for the most part, has been a good example as well. But Government can't solve all problems, or even most problems. Individuals do that. The more we rely on Government, the less incentive any of us have to do anything.
Since the last election, a lot of Americans were
riding a wave of hope based on rhetoric. That ship has sailed.

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35. Shirleen Richart on July 20, 2012 2:25 AM writes...

These days of austerity as well as relative stress and anxiety about getting debt, many people balk against the idea of utilizing a credit card in order to make acquisition of merchandise or even pay for any occasion, preferring, instead to rely on this tried plus trusted procedure for making settlement - cash. However, if you possess cash available to make the purchase 100 %, then, paradoxically, that's the best time just to be able to use the credit cards for several motives.

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