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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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October 21, 2009

Pfizer's People

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Posted by Derek

I wanted to highlight a comment that showed up recently in the latest Pfizer post:

I would just like to point out that there is often mention of Pfizer as being a poorly productive R&D outfit on this blog, but there is rarely any mention of the scientists themselves. Having worked as a chemist at both Merck and also at Pfizer, I would just like to point out that in my experience, the chemists at both are highly productive, extremely hardworking, and passionate individuals. It's a shame that the discussions here do not distinguish between those carrying out the research and the direction of the company overall.

That's true, and although I've put in disclaimers like that in the past, I haven't recently. There should be some sort of default blanket statement for cases like this. I know a lot of people at Pfizer, and they know their stuff. Pfizer's problems are not due to a shortage of smart, competent, hardworking people. Everyone in the industry is having a hard time keeping a good pipeline of drug candidates going these days, no matter how good they are.

But I think that the course that Pfizer has put itself on is making its problems worse, and doing damage to the entire industry at the same time. That actually makes it even more of a tragedy, the fact that they have so many good people there trying to make things work.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. Mark on October 21, 2009 1:07 PM writes...

This is very true. In the 10 years or I so spent at Pfizer, I got the chance to work with some of the most talented scientists I have ever met.

Unfortunately, many of them were frustrated at the obstacles the company put in front of them OR they had simply resigned themselves to the situation. A real waste of talent.


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2. Anon on October 21, 2009 3:06 PM writes...

To be excellent, a movie needs both excellent actors and an excellent director. If the director sucks, so will the movie. That is pharma's problem in a nutshell.

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3. RTW on October 21, 2009 5:39 PM writes...

Mark, I was at the A^2 site for 20 years. I largely enjoyed the first 15 years until the take over of WL. The last 5 became quite hellish. It has never been about productivity of the grunts on the ground. Its mostly the poor decision making by top management which often wasted the effort put forth by those productive individuals. By all measures the PD site in Ann Arbor was probably the most overall productive by many metrics. We had long before learned how to maximize our efforts and lower costs before the takeover, through masive analytics automation and other methods. This however didn't stop the closure of the facility. Where any of lessons learn in A^2 taken up at other sites - Only by those that transfered from A^2 to them. I heard reports that much automation and advanced informatics solutions where not picked up and used because of it not being invented there attitude.

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4. Nick K on October 22, 2009 4:04 AM writes...

My experience at Pfizer was that the hardworking, productive scientists were overlooked in favour of corporate clones and yes men when it came to promotions. The management culture thus perpetuated itself.

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5. Crossing on October 22, 2009 5:28 AM writes...

It is not only the "overlooked" problem. Some scientists at Pfizer are very good at stealing others' ideas and results and backstabbing colleagues. Such people usually get promoted very fast but damage the research culture quickly as well.

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6. smurf on October 22, 2009 2:49 PM writes...

Backstabbing is far more common at GSK and Merck.

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7. gargomeal on October 22, 2009 11:50 PM writes...

I can agree with 1,4 and 5 (but clearly you find these people at other places aswell. what I observed was a particularly strong 'evolutionary' advantage for loud and hype-oriented personalities at PFE due to constant changes in supervisors/projects/directions which is perhaps harder to live in for more quiet personalities).
Nevertheless I definetly want to admit that I enjoyed most of the time working at PFE. There were smart and very creative people and a good spirit of innovation. With the given changes in the last years I see more and more leave (at least those who can and don't have any family obligations....). And when I read that an upper management guy (D.Roblin) says about the merger “It’s an exciting time for scientists because there’s nothing like new data.” it just makes me feel sick and sorry for my old folks....

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