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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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« Travels In Numerica Deserta | Main | Pour Encourager Les Autres »

July 11, 2007

First Impressions

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Posted by Derek

Cambridge takes some getting used to, that's for sure. In some parts of town, it's a safe bet that most of the buildings you see are filled with people holding up flasks and staring at them with irritated expressions. The small one-story sites generally house firms that no one much has heard of, sometimes several of them to a building. Then there are the mighty research palaces of Novartis, Amgen, and the like, which manage to state in glass and brick (as clearly as any words could) what black ink will do for you as opposed to red.

New Jersey, where I started out in the industry, has plenty of people in the industry. But the atmosphere was different. Perhaps it was the way that the companies were more spread out into different towns: against a densely populated background they didn't stand out as much. Perhaps it was just some essential Jerseyness that diluted things - after living there for eight years, I wouldn't rule that explanation out.

I do remember my wife and I having dinner at a Japanese restaurant near our house and hearing the table next to us discussing problems with a radioactive assay protocol, but that sort of thing didn't happen as often as you'd think. But here the techno-geek vibrations travel pretty much unimpeded, which is fine with me. . .

Comments (18) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Industry History


1. SP on July 12, 2007 7:41 AM writes...

Actually, you need to be somewhat careful what you discuss over lunch- if you go to Asgard or Desi Dhaba, I guarantee one of the tables around you is in the field. I've overheard things I probably shouldn't have.

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2. Gelfling on July 12, 2007 8:01 AM writes...

Ditto on the T, especially the Red Line.

And it's just common courtesy not to take photos out your office window into the meeting room of the company next door.

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3. Biogeek on July 12, 2007 8:32 AM writes...

Tell me about it! I work in the Kendall Square area - we had to abandon our practice of business lunches at local eateries when we moved here - too many ears about! Now, it's delivery to the office, only...

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4. JBJB on July 12, 2007 9:42 AM writes...

Jersey certainly has a good amount of established Pharma, but not so much in the start-up or bioventure space. This is mainly becasue no one in their right mind would start a new buisness in New Jersey. Based on purely anecdotal evidence, I would even say that the big pharma is slowly moving out of NJ to places like RTP, San Diego, and Cambridge.

But to your point, Cambride is indeed a special place, especially for people with a passion for science and innovation.

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5. GA on July 12, 2007 1:05 PM writes...


Have you tried MIT truck-food yet? Your initiation into Cambridge is not complete until you do.

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6. SP on July 12, 2007 2:21 PM writes...

Oh dear god, truck food. There are a couple decent ones, usually those associated with a real restaurant (Jose's, one of the Chinese ones.) The Globe ran a review of them all last year, I think the reporter got sick or had undercooked chicken at the Chinese one on Main St.

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7. Biogeek on July 12, 2007 2:44 PM writes...

Apropos of the Main Street trucks, the Goosebeary (Vietnamese) one, which had been there for YEARS, apparently lost its Cambridge license a few months back, and has been replaced by a Chinese truck. So now there are two Chinese trucks on Main St, neither one particularly distinguished. Copious hot sauce, helps (also has antimicrobial properties, I think - there's your on-topic Pharm Chem reference).

The parking lot trucks are a bit better (another vote for Jose's), but if you really want good food for cheap, you can't beat Izzy's (he's on vacation this month though).

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8. Christiane on July 12, 2007 5:06 PM writes...

Miracle of Science on Massachusetts Avenue is full of those geek vibrations. The menu is a periodic table and the tables are those lab granite countertops. Seems to be popular with the MIT student crowd in the afternoons. The burgers looked good, but I went for the hummus platter.

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9. MolecularGeek on July 12, 2007 5:21 PM writes...

Gee, now I'm feeling hungry, thirsty, and homesick all at once. Thanks peoples ;-). The Asgard brings back memories; the Tex-mex place that was there before was better in some ways though. Miracle of Science was good, though I ended up doing most of my drinking in the Phoenix Landing. I also recommend the chicken teriyaki sub at cinderella's. La Groceria, if it's still there, was somewhat overrated. Don't miss the Peking Ravs and Yu-shang chicken at Mary Chung's (of MIT Model Railroading Club fame).

o/~ Give my regards to Broadway, Remember me to Central Square... o/~


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10. Derek Lowe on July 12, 2007 6:46 PM writes...

I had lunch at the Asgard the other day, as a matter of fact. I can see where it would get a lot of industry customers, given the location. I had the authentic Celtic turkey sandwich. There's sure nothing to eat further down Sidney Street, unless you can catch a squirrel or something in that park near Millennium.

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11. MolecularGeek on July 12, 2007 8:47 PM writes...

Actually, there is a restaurant in the hotel that MIT put in behind the building that the Asgard is in. I think it's called Sidney's. Better if you are getting a vendor to buy you lunch than if you have to pay for yourself. And the Star Market above it actually has decent take-away, either in the a la carte deli, or if you have access to a section of a fridge and a microwave. If you head down towards the river, there are some small "delis", which actually are pizza and fried seafood joints that also make sandwiches. Dimitrio's isn't bad and they made good onion rings, IIRC. There's also a cafeteria in the 640 Memorial Drive building that's open to the public. It's nothing to walk down there for, but if you have a meeting at that end of Biotech Gulch, it can been a lifesaver.


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12. SP on July 13, 2007 6:25 AM writes...

Actually, there's a fairly new place (not as new as you, Derek) at the corner of Sidney and Pacific called Pacific St. Cafe. They have good bakery things and coffee, grilled paninis, burritos, and enormous lunch specials- $7 gets you potatoes and a huge slab of the meat of the day, roasted turkey or meatloaf or the like. That's getting down to my area, the "red ink" buildings (except for VRTX, who have red ink but a nice building.)

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13. CC on July 13, 2007 9:00 AM writes...

Apropos of the Main Street trucks, the Goosebeary (Vietnamese) one, which had been there for YEARS, apparently lost its Cambridge license a few months back, and has been replaced by a Chinese truck.

Oh, is that what happened to them? They had absolutely terrific stuff (basil chili noodles, coconut curry chicken, peanut noodles) that was a serious rival to real Southeast Asian street food.

As for the rest -- the various Chinese trucks, Jose's, the dueling Israeli and Palestinian falafel guys -- I never really got into them.

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14. Biogeek on July 13, 2007 9:10 AM writes...

Re: Goosebeary's truck

Oh, is that what happened to them? They had absolutely terrific stuff (basil chili noodles, coconut curry chicken, peanut noodles) that was a serious rival to real Southeast Asian street food.

Actually, I forgot to mention - I believe the Goosebeary truck in the MIT Biology parking lot, is still there. Less convenient if you are on the far side of Kendall, however.

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15. Marvin on July 13, 2007 5:28 PM writes...

New Jersey is a great place for start-up Pharmas.
Just what did you mean "Perhaps it was just some essential Jerseyness that diluted things" It was not clear at all or did you intend to be vague.

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16. Processator on July 15, 2007 8:22 PM writes...

Close to the Asgard you have the Thai Cafe that it is not bad. One of the spiciest Tom Yom soups I that I ever had. Closer to Central Square there is a Chinese restaurant called Mary Chung. The owner is a former MIT grad student. Bertuccis in Main is a good choice from time to time.

Nothing comparable though to a nice Burrito in Ana's taqueria at MIT's Student Center.

For those closer to Kendall, nice Burgers in the Tommy Doyles and one of my favorites : A tasca (more expensive though!!).

I miss Boston!!!

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17. Cambridge expat on July 18, 2007 9:18 PM writes...


Don't forget to get an ice cream from Toscanini's -- best I've ever had!


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18. tryp_boy on July 24, 2007 4:42 PM writes...

Toscaninis is indeed the best...

Is the nortn african joint still open on Lansdowne square accross from Millennium???

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