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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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November 9, 2007

One Year

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Posted by Derek

I was reminded yesterday that today is the one-year anniversary of the day that we found out that the Wonder Drug Factory was being closed down. I remember that presentation rather well. I was one of the more optimistic ones, thinking until the last that we had about a 50/50 chance of the ax, but by the time the meeting began everyone had heard what was really coming.

Unpleasant, that was, and it did extend a cloud over the following holiday season. The job-searching period that followed wasn't anything I'm looking to relive, either, although my severance pay kept it from being anywhere near as bad as it could have been. And in the end, things worked out well. I thought they would, but as my wife pointed out to me at the time, I generally think that things will work out well, so that isn't as good an indicator as it might otherwise be.

But the whole thing was a useful reminder: no one's sitting back in a comfortable chair in this industry. You're riding a wild animal, instead. Working at a smaller company makes it easier to remember that, as many people here around the Boston/Cambridge area know, but there's no drug company so large or so profitable that it can make any guarantees to anyone. Patents expire, companies get taken over, drugs drop out of clinical trials or get pulled off the market.

But on the flip side, discoveries get made. Things make it through trials even though no one thought they might. New ideas get tried out, and given how little we know, just about anything has a chance of improving our lot in research. That's the thing about science: we don't have to be stuck where we are; we can invent doors and walk out of them into something new.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Industry History | Who Discovers and Why


1. Wavefunction on November 9, 2007 5:25 PM writes...

Isn't Novartis doing relatively well compared to some of these other big companies (read Pfizer)?

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2. LNT on November 9, 2007 10:04 PM writes...

For those of you who have been through layoffs, what is typical for a severance package? Is it based on your years of service? Is it different for PhD vrs. MS/BS, right? (I would hope so since it's clearly harder to find a job as a PhD chemist)
Just morbidly curious in case it ever happens to me....

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3. anon on November 10, 2007 9:27 AM writes...

Yes, Derek is right about not getting too comfortable in one place. I went through the last round of "rebound" with Derek, and am currently "at risk" of being laid off again. I spent the past week filling out HR paperwork to reapply for my current job.

Each theraputic area is treated as a seperate business group by my current employer, so you have to go through the formal interviewing process again to switch to another theraputic area. I was granted an internal interview for next week, which I am in the process of preparing for. I won't find out if I have an offer until after things are settled in my current department (early december). It seemed that my current department is going to lose the highest number of people, and we are a satellite site for a much larger site overseas. There is a little less risk in other groups.

Thanks to all of my former WDC colleagues who provided job search information to me. Depending on how things turn out here, I may be sending resumes to you soon.

LNT - Industry standard seems to be two weeks of pay for every year served with a minimum of a certain number of weeks, but this may vary. Director level PhD's probably get a MUCH nicer package, but I don't think that the lower level PhDs are treated any differently than a MS. (Well, your base salary is obviously higher so you would get more money that way, but it is still the 2 weeks/year served.) Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

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4. John Spevacek on November 12, 2007 9:35 AM writes...

As was said when I was commiserating with a fellow laid-off employee, "We're all contact employees - we just don't know how long the contract is." I can imagine Kafka would write a wonderful short novel if he were still around.

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