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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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January 8, 2009

Short Items: India, Sanjay Gupta, Satori Pharmaceuticals

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Posted by Derek

I have a few short links for everyone today. One series of posts that you might not have seen from Xconomy is a tour of the technological hot spots of India by Boston University's Vinit Nijhawan. It's interesting stuff for people like me who haven't been to the country, and he isn't shy about pointing out both the good and the bad about India's current situation. He's not focusing on the chemistry/pharmaceutical sector, but it's an interesting read in general. I would very much enjoy seeing a similar series written from China - perhaps the Xconomy folks are working on that one?

Next: if Sanjay Gupta really is going to be surgeon general (and why not?), it's worth watching his exchange with Michael Moore when Moore's movie "Sicko" came out. This is a 17-minute YouTube clip, and you may not make it through if you can't stand Michael Moore, but it has some good moments. Gupta is a *lot* more reasonable dealing the Moore than I would have been, but gets hammered on for his pains anyway.

And here's an interesting one, from a financial standpoint. Raising money for startup companies has, in the last few months, gone from the usual state of “not so easy” to “nearly impossible”. Everyone’s hoping for that to improve, but for now, this is a nasty time to try to float a new startup. That goes for follow-on financing, too, naturally, and that can hurt even more than troubles with start-up money. You can potentially delay the launch of your new venture – after all, no one else is getting anything off the ground, either – but if you’re already got a company going, the funds need to keep flowing. Companies that lined up more money in the middle of 2007 are shivering over the narrowness of their escape.

So it's impressive that an outfit called Satori Pharmaceuticals has made it through a full round of venture funding, and for Alzheimer's therapies, no less. That's a notorious graveyard for good ideas, but (at the same time) it's equally notorious for being hugely under-served. Good luck to them - they'll need it (and don't we all?)

Comments (20) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Alzheimer's Disease | Current Events | Press Coverage


1. Sleepless in SSF on January 8, 2009 9:57 AM writes...

Derek: if you intended to put in a link to the Gupta/Moore YouTube clip, I'm not seeing it.

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2. Derek Lowe on January 8, 2009 9:58 AM writes...

Oops - just fixed that. Thanks!

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3. Sleepless in SSF on January 8, 2009 9:59 AM writes...

Sorry for the double post, and I see the link now. Either you were fixing it as I tried to post or I was blind to start with :-)

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4. MTK on January 8, 2009 10:36 AM writes...


Paul Krugman would disagree with your assessment on Gupta. ( )

Everyone's got an opinion, so I guess I might as well give mine.

I honestly don't know what the Surgeon General does. By that I mean I don't know what his actual responsibilities are or what authority he has. As near as I can see the Surgeon General is to health what the First Lady is to childhood literacy. If that's the case Gupta's fine with me. If, however, the Surgeon General has real power to influence and implement policy, than I would prefer someone with actual public health experience.

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5. emjeff on January 8, 2009 10:41 AM writes...

MTK: That has always been the complaint I've heard from career Commissioned Corps folks. who resent some guy/gal walking in off the street and putting on admiral's bars. But it's not likely to change...

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6. Wavefunction on January 8, 2009 11:25 AM writes...

MTK, I agree. If the Surgeon General could significantly influence policy then I would not be happy with Gupta's choice. As I see it though, the main duty of this office seems to make public health announcements based on a knowledge of important health issues. That seems to me why Gupta has been chosen, and then I think it's a good choice.

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7. DrSnowboard on January 8, 2009 11:54 AM writes...

"While at Pfizer, Ives led central nervous system and oncology teams that discovered more than 50 clinical candidates including multiple new products and was a co-leader of in-licensing teams for Pfizer products including Celebrex and Aricept, according to Satori."

So Pfizer has no pipeline problem then, according to Satori. Or did someone put a biotech trailing zero on?

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8. Hap on January 8, 2009 1:01 PM writes...

"Biotech trailing zero"? I hope that their funders didn't use that methodology.

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9. Matt on January 8, 2009 1:54 PM writes...

You think that Sanjay Gupta using false data and outright lies to try to discredit Michael Moore was reasonable?

You fail to remember, Moore's statistics were all correct, and CNNs statistics were all wrong.

I guess if you're into corporate shills who dismiss facts to continue to promote the Status Quo falsehoods handed to us by private insurance CEOs, then maybe that's your version of reasonable.

Sounds like a bunch of corporate smarm to me, though.

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10. wcw on January 8, 2009 2:35 PM writes...

That isn't quite right -- Moore was mixing years a bit, and using projections in some cases but not others. However, on balance, his numbers were mostly correct, and Gupta's mostly incorrect.

Now, I like this pick. That said, I'd say Gupta's decision to play gotcha with Moore reflects poorly on his judgment. Luckily, the SG doesn't set policy, he sells it. Gupta's a good salesman, his heart is in the right place, and his occasional poor judgment in gotcha journalism isn't an issue here.

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11. HelicalZz on January 8, 2009 3:01 PM writes...

I have been to India and oversaw a process development project there. It was not well planned out but did succeed in its purpose. While there I saw both very professional and absolute rat hole contract laboratories, so do your diligence beforehand or be prepared to struggle with the project [I worked with very bright chemists there, but ones who had simply never performed scaleup work before - our fault not theirs IMO]. I'll give the Xconomy article a read later, should be interesting given my experience there.


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12. Joe Six-Pack, Ph.D. on January 8, 2009 3:57 PM writes...

I have to part ways with you on the subject of Michael Moore, Derek. While he is indeed an egotistical blowhard, compared to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly he is genuinely interested in the plight of everyday Americans and, again in comparison to Rush & Co., offers viewers a chance to form their own conclusions. "Roger & Me" and "Bowling for Columbine" are truly amazing documentaries- entertaining yet extremely thought-provoking, and I haven't seen a credible fact-based rebuttal to either movie. There are aspects of "Sicko" that I don't agree with, but the same is true of the large pharmaceutical company I currently work for...and I didn't detect an anti-research agenda in "Sicko", just an anti-corporate greed one. Perhaps you can point us to an acceptable alternative to Michael Moore, Derek? Alex Gibney's "Taxi to the Dark Side" or "The Smartest People in the Room", perhaps?

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13. clinicalpharmacologist on January 8, 2009 4:33 PM writes...

Quoting #7 from Dr Snowboard
"While at Pfizer, Ives led central nervous system and oncology teams that discovered more than 50 clinical candidates including multiple new products and was a co-leader of in-licensing teams for Pfizer products including Celebrex and Aricept".

Interesting that the "multiple new products" are not identified while the in-licensed products are.
"Discovering" clinical candidates is not hard if your barriers to progress are low enough (or your bonus depends on it). Turning them into useful medicines is the hard part, as we all know.

However, in an underserved and very tough development area, I wish them good fortune.

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14. milkshake on January 8, 2009 5:28 PM writes...

50 Pfizer clinical candidates: Success has many fathers. My ex-boss credits himself on his startup company page (and Wikipedia page) that he is co-inventor of a successful life-saving drug. I know that his actual contributions to that discovery were modest: he was doing the docking studies. Later as a manager he made his biggest mark in search for back-ups that went to pilot human trials before getting shelved. We are both on the main patent so in this respect we are both co-inventors of that marketed life-saving drug - even though I joined the company after the discovery. (Patent continuation is a wonderful thing...)

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15. CMC Guy on January 8, 2009 6:02 PM writes...

I know it is an understatement for the role of the Surgeon General but seems to be more a ceremonial/PR type function these days (although currently largely silently) so from that perspective Dr. Gupta's media experience would appear beneficial.

I have greater concern about the yet unnamed appointment of the next Head of the FDA as likely to have substantive impact on the industry/drug approval process. Many of the mentioned possible candidates have clear "no-friend to Pharma" biases (which seems to be a litmus test for consideration) and while having appointee overtly pro-Pharma likewise bad choice, the Head of the FDA should promote adequate/responsible regulations while smoothing needed cooperation and innovation in and between industry/FDA. Admittedly this is a very hard balance to achieve particularly with Congress' pattern of adding burdens without resources and attempting to (micro)manage.

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16. fred on January 8, 2009 8:52 PM writes...

""Discovering" clinical candidates is not hard if your barriers to progress are low enough"

Yea, sure looks great on a CV. Of course we in the biz understand that "clinical candidates" equals "the team leader liked these"; it does NOT equal "these compounds WENT TO THE CLINIC".

Also note: every Ph.D. who survives more than5 years at PFE is
a "director"

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17. Sili on January 9, 2009 2:46 PM writes...

Didn't one of Clinton's SGs have to resign over suggesting masturbation as a way to put off having sex?

It would seem that being reality-based is not an asset in that position.

I really really hope times have changed. The recent stats on teen pregnancy and STIs (which I can't find at the moment) should have been the final nail in the coffin of Ignorance Only policies, but of course the fundies blame comprehensive sex-ed with the cry of "More ignorance!". You need an SG who can put a stop to that nonsense once an for all.

You've seen Orac's opinion, of course?

Sid Schwab looks whelmed, but seems to agree that the job is PR and not policy.

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18. Hap on January 9, 2009 3:10 PM writes...

Jocelyn Elders. I remember my postdoc in grad school (who was really conservative) rationalizing why she got bumped (of course, he was rationalizing why condoms shouldn't be available in schools, as well, so...).

Ignorance works well for some things - it's just that physical events generally don't care if you ignore them or not. It doesn't work well for fiscal policy, either. (Insert liberal rant about Republicans here).

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19. PorkPieHat on January 14, 2009 12:15 AM writes...

About Satori, given the PureTech Ventures backers, it seems instead of the company raising the capital, the capital raised the company. I believe that is the PureTech model...identify the niche technology that serves an unmet need, assemble the team and fund the company.

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20. PorkPieHat on January 14, 2009 12:15 AM writes...

About Satori, given the PureTech Ventures backers, it seems instead of the company raising the capital, the capital raised the company. I believe that is the PureTech model...identify the niche technology that serves an unmet need, assemble the team and fund the company.

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