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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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May 13, 2009

Takeda Evaluating Scientists on "Quality"?

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Posted by Derek

This may be just the Japanese equivalent of HR-speak, but I would like to know what it means:

Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Asia’s biggest drugmaker, will change its research and development policy by providing compensation to scientists based on the quality of their work.

“We focused too much on the quantity and speed of research and development, which didn’t necessarily bring results,” company President Yasuchika Hasegawa told reporters at a briefing in Tokyo. “I want to change everyone’s mindset.”

The problem is, evaluating the quality of individual scientific performance is notoriously difficult. Or was the problem that Takeda was too focused on the numbers, and has decided to back off on that? (I think I could be behind that initiative). Perhaps some one at Millennium could comment on whether they've heard anything about this?

Comments (24) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Who Discovers and Why


COMMENTS

1. Muruga on May 13, 2009 12:07 PM writes...

The statement by Takeda's president makes perfect sense. He has spoken about quality from the context of 1) highest standard of the research and 2) innovation (creativity). Sub-standard candidates are often pushed through clinic / FDA, compromising the quality, because of number's shake and / or stiff competition. Secondly, innovation (and not me-too concepts) holds the key for the sucess of any pharma company.
Drug discovery is no more driven by an individual but by a team. The quality of individuals, which form the team, is quite important.

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2. Alig on May 13, 2009 1:02 PM writes...

"innovation (and not me-too concepts) holds the key for the sucess of any pharma company."

Really? Last time I looked most of the top 10 best selling drugs were not first in class.

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3. NH_chem on May 13, 2009 1:06 PM writes...

At a previous position, it was curious to me that those who made a bunch of amides with no activity were praised for their output while others working on more sophisticated routes to active compounds were not recognized.

It is always a numbers game since that is easy to quantify. Ultimately, the department needs to produce and the department head should compensate (salary/bonus) accordingly.

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4. Commentator on May 13, 2009 1:18 PM writes...

There's something no one seems to be bringing into the conversation. The Japanese pharmaceutical industry is quite overstaffed at the moment. It's been that way for a while now. Yet because of the depression in Japan, no one is willing to accept a buyout, so everyone stays with their current job. It sounds as though Takeda has a solution for the problem: salary reductions under the guise of "quality compensation". Expect this to spread like wildfire within the Japanese pharma industry. The question is whether it gains traction in the US. Don't be surprised if Roche or Pfizer decide to go this route in the next 18 months. It would be an easy way to shuck some of their soon-to-be-redundant headcount.

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5. Hap on May 13, 2009 1:28 PM writes...

Wow, it's even worse than I thought: accept pay cuts or quit (and we won't have to pay unemployment). I was just figuring it was their attempt to fire with cause and get out of paying unemployment.

Of course, lots of unemployed drug people probably will provide a nice crowd for the "drug price controls" hearings.

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6. RandDChemist on May 13, 2009 1:39 PM writes...

I was in a situation where numbers mattered, with a difficulty weighting. Every meeting the numbers were thrown up in our faces. Everyone knew it was a farce, but no one could challenge it.

So if they are backing off the numbers that so many are enamored with still, then that is excellent. Wisdom is being displayed, albeit late.

If not, they will have trouble. Big time.

How do you quantify quality r&d? Tough. Real tough. There are a lot of factors that go into a quality scientist.

Innovation is another tough area to get a grasp on. No easy answers here either.

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7. Big biotech on May 13, 2009 1:51 PM writes...

Funny, these CEOs spouting off this crap they get from huddling with their HR bozos.

Too much institutional inertia, and nothign at Takeda is going to change.

Evaluations in biotech, as in all industries, comes down to popularity, nothing more.

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8. MedChem on May 13, 2009 1:55 PM writes...

Commentator,

If you look at the number of employees, Takeda is A LOT leaner than its western counterparts. So I don't know what your statement about its overblown size was based on.

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9. hmmm on May 13, 2009 2:06 PM writes...

The only meaningful output of a drug company is earnings per share.

Given that it takes years (as little as 3 or 4, but only is speacial cases) for a drug to generate EPS, it would be niteresting to see how this is evaluated annually.

if not careful, one could be left with the near-fraud in the financial industry, where traders took long term bets with little chance of being profitable, in order to juice quarterly bonuses.

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10. CMCguy on May 13, 2009 2:36 PM writes...

I do think there has been pervasive focus on generating numbers (projects/compounds/clinical candidates) that has developed in Pharma in past few decades, although surprised this change in direction is from a Japanese company who always seems to take a longer view to drug R&D (at least relative to US firms) so that apparently has become dominate Global approach. It may be overly simplistic to connect to shifts in Management who did not come from technical background and thus were more apt to want metrics of this sort.

Today programs seems to run at such a frantic pace that leave gaps or perhaps most suitable candidates advanced which causes troubles down the road. As #6 RDC notes tough to measure quality in R&D too (perhaps need the Supreme Court Justices take on Porno) however if Takada (and others) can reach a place were R&D can have time to adequately learn techniques demanded, do the experiments to generate reliable data, seriously evaluate (in cycles as required) then decide how to proceed on would trust that means better results in the end.

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11. SRC on May 13, 2009 4:57 PM writes...

I love efforts to reduce the unquantifiable to scalars.

My favorite attempt occurred at a senior management meeting where several programs were rated from 1 to 10 on categories ranging from "likelihood to kill patients," through "COGS" to "label design" (I joke, but it was something trivial like that).

The brain trust then chose which program to continue based on the sum of the attendees' "ratings" and adjourned, congratulating themselves on having used an "objective" method. (The margin of victory: one rating point. True story.)

Hard to know even where to start critiquing that one.

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12. hell to the chief on May 13, 2009 5:40 PM writes...

I agree with MedChem above. I have worked on joint projects with 2 Japanese companies (neither of them were Takeda though. They were greatly undermanned in chemistry by US standards. The consequence of this, I believe, was a stricter adherence to the me-too approach rather than riskier or more innovative strategies. Essentially they outsourced that part to us on both occasions.

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13. 20yearsofit on May 13, 2009 9:08 PM writes...

We've all seen how the "numbers" game is played in med chem groups.

In the end it simply won't matter any more, the hard numbers of what goes into and what comes out of small molecule research just don't add up the the people with the cash have heard enough.

It's over, if you're currently studying synthetic organic chemistry in college, get the hell out, RIGHT NOW

Permalink to Comment

14. 20yearsofit on May 13, 2009 9:10 PM writes...

We've all seen how the "numbers" game is played in med chem groups.

In the end it simply won't matter any more.

When you crunch the numbers, what goes into, and what comes out of small molecule research, they just don't add up.

The the people with the cash have heard enough, had enough, seen enough, they don't care anymore.

It's over, if you're currently studying synthetic organic chemistry in college, get the hell out, RIGHT NOW

Permalink to Comment

15. 20yearsofit on May 13, 2009 9:11 PM writes...

We've all seen how the "numbers" game is played in med chem groups.

In the end it simply won't matter any more.

When you crunch the numbers, what goes into, and what comes out of small molecule research, they just don't add up.

The the people with the cash have heard enough, had enough, seen enough, they don't care anymore.

It's over, if you're currently studying synthetic organic chemistry in college, get the hell out, RIGHT NOW

BTW, I saw how Takeda in SD was staffed, the caliber of the people was appalling, mainly castoffs from Ontogen, the leadership was even worse.

Who cares what Takeda has to say?

Permalink to Comment

16. AR on May 14, 2009 10:01 AM writes...

This makes sense, actually. As a company, Takeda pursues the best-in-class concept of a drug as compared to the first-in-class. Having said that, I suspect the definition of quality will still come down to the opinion of senior managers. We all know how very important they have been to the success of big pharma.

Permalink to Comment

17. F9 on May 14, 2009 1:06 PM writes...

Unless you guys unioni-ze you'll get a five year career then the boot. But my impression of most chemists is that they are sheep in white lab coats.

Oh, nooooo, we'll wait for the invisible hand to save us!! Surely the executives are looking out for us!!

Why aren't Medical Doctors's crying over low wages?? Because they are effectively unionized and keep the international inflow numbers down.

I predict 70% of you will lose your jobs in the next three years.

Practice the following:

"Do you want a drink with your burger and fries"

"Do you want a drink with your burger and fries"

Permalink to Comment

18. Hap on May 14, 2009 1:34 PM writes...

I keep wondering how a union is going to save jobs from being outsourced rapidly, and I still haven't gotten an answer. Unless everyone threatens to quit or quits if they start outsourcing (like committing suicide for fear of death), or unless you commit sabotage (which, at best, will destroy your company, and at worst, make you unemployable and jailed), I don't see what leverage a union has to discourage outsourcing. Since most chemists aren't on the same political page (and the page most, it seems, are on is unlikely to oppose outsourcing), combining the political muscle of chemists into an effective tool to oppose outsourcing is unlikely and likely to be ineffective (and would not require a union, anyway). Chanting "union! union!" as a mantra for chemists' job ills seems about as effective as waving a dead chicken (and depending on the union, potentially smellier). If unions were effectively formed, they would probably accelerate, rather than decelerate, outsourcing. So the mantra is either ineffective or counterproductive. (Productive analogies might be made to coal miners of the last century, where some of the barriers to unionization that exist for chemists existed for coal miners, but that seems over your head.)

Doctors were effectively unionized from the beginning, and determine the standards by which their field runs, so the cost of attempting to hire out of system is extremely high. Most fields, on the other hand, have nowhere near that level of leverage (something a union won't help, at least in anything less than 10-20 years), and have lots of people from everywhere who have learned how to perform the fields' tasks.

Permalink to Comment

19. hmmmm on May 14, 2009 1:57 PM writes...

Unions won't help chemists any more than GM workers have been helped.

Chemists have to face the facts that chemistry is not a high value add profession. Reality is, those fantastic total synhteses by guys like KC (and yes, I get that they're not alwasy applicable on a process scale) have reduced chemistry to a rote technique that can be done just as well by a US trained chemistry PhD in Shangai as in New Jersey. There's a resaon nearly half of PhD students in chemistry (check with NSF) as non-American.

Permalink to Comment

20. F10 on May 14, 2009 2:54 PM writes...

"Chanting "union! union!" as a mantra for chemists' job ills seems about as effective as waving a dead chicken (and depending on the union, potentially smellier)"

If you require the majority of drugs to be manufactured in the USA and hit imported drugs not developed in the USA (must have a US patent and FDA approval) with tarrifs, you can diminish outsourcing.

Drugs require FDA approval, so this is where you can apply leverage.Although you can manufacture drugs in India and China, do you think those guys can afford them??

The US still has leverage. You can provide incentives to develop drugs here (Via extended FDA approval for exclusivity and/or patent extension).

If you can encourage the above reforms then unions
can work their magic.


As to

"Unions won't help chemists any more than GM workers have been helped."

That's nonsense. All unions are not alike. Since we will not allow outsourcing in my model, you're not competing with foreign labor. A chemist can set the price of his labor just as an MD can. You just need to have the balls to do it Dr. Wimpy.

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21. hmmmm on May 15, 2009 7:56 AM writes...

The notion that we can stop trade with other countries is simply incorrect and will never happen (especially with the amount of US debt the PRC holds). Trade between groups has been expanding since humans began to cluster 120K+ years ago, and can no more be stopped than can the sunset.

"A chemist can set the price of his labor just as an MD can. You just need to have the balls to do it Dr. Wimpy."

Your notion that an MD sets the price of her labor is also naively incorrect. the market sets the price of labor. Herr MD can charge what they wish, but that's only of use if someone will pay it.

It is s pity, as chemists labor does contribute to society, yet, with no visibility, no one cares.

Permalink to Comment

22. F-20 on May 15, 2009 9:04 PM writes...

"Herr MD can charge what they wish, but that's only of use if someone will pay it."

No. Herr Doktor and his union set the price of his labor. If you restrict supply you increase demand. Govt backs their union hence their salary and job stability.

Chemists are perpetual victims of self inflicted wounds. Get angry aggressive and take yourself seriously and the executives will fall in line.

Permalink to Comment

23. Tok on May 16, 2009 9:47 AM writes...

Scenario:
All chemists unionize and strike in order to stop outsourcing and/or get better pay/job security.

1. Manufacturing of drugs currently on market continues, academic research continues, revenue is not affected (contrast to labor unions, where revenue effectively stops immediately).
2. Drug companies are now no longer paying for R&D, yet still getting full revenue and thus get big profits. Executives get big bonuses.
3. Chemists starve to death long before any effect on pharma bottom line is observable, if it is even quantifiable in the first place.
4. Pharma outsources to India and China anyway because the U.S. Chemists Union effectively has no bargaining power.
If doctors stop doing their job, people immediately begin dying. If chemists stop doing their job, some nebulous medicine that doesn't yet exist simply never exists. Nobody, not even the chemists themselves, know what's been lost. There's a huge difference there.

Permalink to Comment

24. F-000 on May 16, 2009 10:47 PM writes...

No pipeline = no stock price = no executive bonus. Drug companies are about the future.

If every chemist went on strike, the negative PR would force the executives to roll over. A drug company cannot 'cut' its way to prosperity. Just look at Pfizer to see the results of that strategy. You might look up business concepts such as 'net present value' and WCC to understand why your reasoning is flawed.

The problem is that TOK and Dr. Wimpy and most chemists have low self esteem. Chemists are beaten and mistreated as grad students in order to instill a subtle form of brain damage. THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THAT PHARMA BUSINESS MODELS REQUIRE A PERSISTENT RETURN ON CAPITAL TO COMPENSATE FOR THE TIME BASED EROSION OF THEIR IP INVESTMENT.

If Janitors can regularly strike, I see no reason why chemists can't. YET A STRIKE BY CHEMISTS WOULD STRIKE AT THE HEART OF THE PHARMA BUSINESS MODEL!

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