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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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« Lab Equipment: Any H-Cube Troubleshooters Out There? | Main | Telling the Layoff Story »

November 11, 2009

Pfizer's Chemistry Head Count - Really?

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Posted by Derek

A reader who's (unfortunately) in a position to know the details sends along some numbers on Pfizer's chemistry shakeout. According to his figures, Pfizer (pre-Wyeth merger) had about 900 chemists. The Wyeth deal brought in about 350, but no one expected the merged department to stay at 1250 - instead, the guess was that the new chemistry staff would be in the 1000 range, which is what I would have guessed, too.

But the chemistry head count is now apparently headed to about 850: smaller than it was before the merger. I have to assume that outsourced chemistry isn't included in this total, and that that's where the deficit is being made up. It is being made up, right? Pfizer isn't actually trying to become a bigger company with a smaller research staff - right? Posters and coffee mugs about working smarter and doing more with less can only take you so far, you know.

As I say, these are numbers from the inside, and I'll be glad to listen to (and post) corrections to them. But from what I'm hearing, this is accurate - and no one (especially at Wyeth) saw this coming on as hard as it has. . .

Comments (51) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


COMMENTS

1. anon on November 11, 2009 8:21 AM writes...

Every time we underestimate the sheer stupidity of Boston Market Man, we find we are in error. More hundreds of people gone who were HELPING humanity and contributing far, far more to the world than he ever could.

Permalink to Comment

2. FME on November 11, 2009 8:54 AM writes...

So,

I do not know anything about the headcount you are referrring to.
I have, however, already mentioned in this fine forum) I strongly believe, that the industry is trying, correct that, is actually altering their business model. That is to say, to outsource "handiwork" outside of the US/Europe and focus on marketing. This argument fits exceedingly well with the current news be it from Pfizer, J&J, MRK and what have you not.
All the best

Permalink to Comment

3. Anonymous on November 11, 2009 9:00 AM writes...

Has anyone checked the Wuxi web site Chinese version, and compared to the English version? There are some very interesting things to be learned. The Chinese version contains much more aggressive language, & presents Wuxi as an enterprise to discover and develop new drugs - not the "partnering" subservient stuff on the English version site. And Wuxi has purportedly learned the trick of repatriating native Chinese speakers into good positions, then slashing their salaries once they have moved back and are committed. Wuxi is rapidly developing a really bad reputation among Chinese chemists in the US.
The rhetoric for the mergers about streamlined R&D, partnering with Asian CROs & CMOs is reflective only of those few CEOs and upper management types who will directly benefit monetarily from saving a few dollars now. The fact that these upper management pharma guys are training our competitors is beside the point - the O/S strategies make money for these few hundreds of individuals across the industry, at the expense of not only pharma jobs for scientists in the West, but also at the expense of human health globally.
I would like to ask these few hundred CEO/upper management folks what their plans are for their respective companies' survival ten years from now. Do they truly expect O/S to save the so much money over the long term? And how fast will new innovations come from vendors under their thumbs? Or will we see more and more Dr Reddy's type chemistry that is "a sack of raving nonsense." How many more melamine and heparin disasters? And how will the CEOs/upper management types distance their names when the next disaster is tied to a Big Pharma due to the suspect Asian vendor? You will have to own that disaster Mr Kindler, Mr Clark, Mr Viehbacher, Mr Brennan, and your entourages of yes-men.
But what's a few tens of thousands of jobs lost, or a few thousand deaths from tainted drugs when you have the chance to make so much money now?

Permalink to Comment

4. You're Pfizered on November 11, 2009 9:25 AM writes...

I think that the notion that we are training the WuXi and ChemPartners of the world and that they are skimming compounds, intermediates and scaffolds is widely understood by folks in the trenches. Once you get past a certain level, however, it's probably looked upon as self-serving paranoia by scientists who don't want to lose their jobs.

It's the middle managers who still feel that this type of activity is happening, and yet go along with the experiment without expressing their thoughts that irritate me. They figure that as long as they have their position as an intermediary between the two companies, all's right with the world.

Can't say I blame them in this job market.

Permalink to Comment

5. emjeff on November 11, 2009 9:45 AM writes...

"Pfizer isn't actually trying to become a bigger company with a smaller research staff - right?"

Of course they are. Then, in 3 years they'll wonder why projects are taking so long...

Permalink to Comment

6. Anonymous on November 11, 2009 9:47 AM writes...

Do you guys really think that the type of chemistry being done in big pharma cannot be outsourced to China or India. Building heterocycles using Suzuki couplings and similar stuff is not exactly challenging stuff. And big pharma chemist, never made the attempt to encourage their management to go after the real hard stuff (natural product SAR) which has the high risk/ high reward potential or anything else really different or novel. It is difficult to make a drug but do you guys really think that it is difficult to engineer low nanomolar compounds using traditional SAR for the majority of targets that are being worked on in pharma. And no one wnats to touch targets that have traditionally been challenging to optimize against or some other truly novel paradigm.

You reap what you sow guys.

Permalink to Comment

7. Former PFE on November 11, 2009 9:58 AM writes...

Pfizer laid off 50,000 when they bought Pharmacia, so one can expect similar carnage from this acquisition. I call it the "one plus one equals negative 10" theory of trying to build a balance sheet through value destruction.

Pfizer's plan to build a significant relationship with China, as part of a move toward massive selling into the Chinese market place is seriously flawed. Only a leader whose career was built by asking, "Would you like fries with that?" would further his company's downward spiral in this manner. China doesn't honor patent laws, so the logical next step is that China will manufacture and sell drugs for use in China (and elsewhere) without regard to proprietary trade secrets, copyrights, or patents. Pfizer is teaching the Chinese how to make its next blockbuster drugs, with no hope of ever selling any of those drugs in China.

The kicker is that all this outsourcing doesn't actually save money in the long run. It is, however, killing morale and innovation.

Permalink to Comment

8. Calvin on November 11, 2009 10:28 AM writes...

I'm sarcastically entertained by the stupidity on show at Wyizer. It strikes me that there are two things going on with this announcement.

1. Biologics/Vaccines are the future so we don't need no stinking chemists. It's absolutely incredible that higher management have such short memories or lack of insight. While biologics have their not inconsiderable place in pharma it is absolutely certain that there will be a move back towards small molecules at some point when somebody realises the con and biologics doesn't deliver on what it's promising. I seem to remember this same situation occurring in the late 80s.

2. Outsourcing will continue again until it is understood that med chem is not a process. You can't just make massive libraries of compounds of dubious quality at Wuxi and expect drug products to appear. Eventually, it will become obvious that in order to develop drugs your going to need people with considerable creativity and drive to discover drugs.

I really do feel for the people at Pfizer/Wyeth who have been shafted. The sad part is that this is going to happen in other big companies until the cycle turns and who knows how long that will be.

Permalink to Comment

9. Hey! on November 11, 2009 10:29 AM writes...

@6 As a Big Pharma chemist who's group is still actively doing natural product SAR and working with "nasty" academic looking compunds to try and find new targets/ideas I resent the assumption that all pharma chemists do are suzukis and the like. And even so getting a stubborn buchwald or peptide coupling to go is no walk in the park. Thanks.

Permalink to Comment

10. MedChem on November 11, 2009 10:37 AM writes...

Did or does Pfizer really have 900 chemists? That's a mind boggling number even for a huge company like Pfizer, which absolutely dwarfs other big pharmas. I'm starting to see what might be going through their upper management's mind...

Permalink to Comment

11. Sili on November 11, 2009 10:40 AM writes...

Sheesh.

As it happened I just vented against this kind of thinking in an application I typed up last night. Though, in my case I commending the company for not being involved in headless mergers like this.

Of course, it wasn't a synthetic position, and even then I have no chance in Belgium for landing it.

Permalink to Comment

12. Hap on November 11, 2009 10:52 AM writes...

The cycle of stupidity goes on. I would figure that competition may not be a bad thing, but I don't know if the people running pharma realize they're training their competition and making it easier for them to get hosed ten years down the line when Congress realizes it isn't costing any American jobs to collectively bargain for gov't drug prices or to actively restrict drug prices. The ability of drug companies to sell products depends on having good products and their trustedness in their target populations, both of which haven't been helped lately, and which cutting research or sending it elsewhere won't help. Their resultant ability to sell other people's drugs probably won't be much better than that of either the companies with the drugs they want or the eventually formed foreign drug firms. Not much preferential sales ability and few products does not bode well for the future survival of (large) drug companies.

Meanwhile, fewer people are likely to want to be chemists because, though our unemployment is likely better than the bulk population, our sunk costs are far greater. In addition, the jobs in pharma are likely to migrate to smaller firms with less job security and benefits and (maybe) decreased pay. Grad schools will (already do) bring in more foreign students (because grant work can't get done with no chemists), driving down wages and job security further once they graduate (or providing highly trained assistance to companies abroad). (This could be altered either by staff chemists through NIH/NSF funding to replace postdocs, perhaps, or by shifts of schools to provide more industrial experience to fill nonpharma jobs, but those options really don't help current professors - they might help to fix a "structural disequilibrium" that is beneficial to them.) Either drug research will leave the US because there aren't enough people to do it or because the jobs (and pay) are elsewhere.

Permalink to Comment

13. T on November 11, 2009 11:07 AM writes...

Does '900 chemists' refer to just discovery chemists? If so I'm with #11, that seems like a huge number (for so little return in recent years)!?

Permalink to Comment

14. Ed on November 11, 2009 11:14 AM writes...

Strikes me that there is a huge, once-in-your-lifetime opportunity here for entrepreneurial people (chemists and biologists) who are currently working on teams/projects that are going to get canned wholesale.

Was it only last week that Derek posted on the rise of micropharma?

Take your inventions (drug target +/- lead compounds) find a willing partner (or two) who complements your med chem skillz (biologist/pharmacologist) and go on a funding hunt.

Permalink to Comment

15. pc on November 11, 2009 11:35 AM writes...

If you still use lack of IP protection as a main argument against outsourcing/partnering with Chinese folks in mainland, you'll likely find that fixation of mindset to be a costly mistake down the road. Though it's often said that WX and the like treats their low level chemist staff in a you-know-what-I-mean way (well let's just say that they can and should do better in this regard), they at least to some extent have trained a good portion of their staff in terms of respect of IP/trade secrets. We have interviewed some folks trying to leave these companies, and I was surprised to see that many of them insisted not to reveal detailed information regarding their previous projects, citing the confidential agreement with their employer. You don't see that kind of mindset just a few years ago.

Permalink to Comment

16. not a chemist on November 11, 2009 11:42 AM writes...

I mean no disrespect, but it appears these
companies are seemingly oblivious WRT
China's record on IP law?

Outsourcing certain IT functions is one
thing - not that China is a big player
in that market - but outsourcing pharma
development might be akin to handing
over the keys to the kingdom.

Permalink to Comment

17. Lawrence on November 11, 2009 12:36 PM writes...

Hap said-

"but I don't know if the people running pharma realize they're training their competition and making it easier for them to get hosed ten years down the line"

"IBGYBG" was a common phrase used by executives who engaged in practices which produced short term profits but resulted in the long term destruction of their companies.

There is no one at the helm.

IBGYBG- "I'll be gone, you'll be gone."

Permalink to Comment

18. Hap on November 11, 2009 12:56 PM writes...

I think funding issues have eased some for small companies, but funding probably isn't very good right now. (A previous post also cited shifts in VC funding of small companies - probably the post on micropharma). Some companies (for example Pharmacia in Kalamazoo?) helped use their ex-resources to start companies, but I don't know if that's general. The legal constraints cited in "Do I Own This Or What? Answer: What" also might make starting a company with your company's rejected IP a bad deal for chemists, but perhaps that's better than nothing, or maybe it can work out.

I don't know how good IP protection is in India and China. The recent patent prosecutions in India (and the uncertainty in the population whether drug patents are in India's best interest or not) might make me hesitant, though its domestic companies are starting to venture into discovery (and so must be hopeful that their IP will be OK). China will probably do what it has the leverage to do - in the short term, that might be good or bad for IP, though in the long term it probably will want to assure itself the money from the drugs its companies will develop, and so might work to protect patents once they have a good position. Of course, the "money at all costs" industrial underground might present a lot of problems for companies now outsourcing (while executing the worst probably discourages some, the fact that a lot of companies won't be around to reap what they sow and the Chinese gov't's need for money mean that quality and IP might be the victims - if you're willing to sell diethylene glycol as a toothpaste component, regulation and conscience can't be factors).

Permalink to Comment

19. not a chemist on November 11, 2009 1:24 PM writes...

I mean no disrespect, but it appears these
companies are seemingly oblivious WRT
China's record on IP law?

Outsourcing certain IT functions is one
thing - not that China is a big player
in that market - but outsourcing pharma
development might be akin to handing
over the keys to the kingdom.

Permalink to Comment

20. Hap on November 11, 2009 1:46 PM writes...

patent prosecutions = Roche's issues over their cancer drugs in India

Permalink to Comment

21. Global Equilibration on November 11, 2009 2:02 PM writes...

Is it possible that Pfizer realises that there may be a middle ground between very well paid big pharma, higher quality work in the US and lower quality cheaper work in the East? Namely outsourcing to the the UK for less pay.

This would kill two birds with one stone.
Same high quality at a lower cost.

Permalink to Comment

22. David P on November 11, 2009 2:23 PM writes...

Looks to me that the companies (not just Pfizer here) are looking to streamline themselves and will use outsourcing to make up gaps when project loads get higher - using the right kind of researchers depending on where they are in the drug development process. Having streamlined, it seems unlikely they would just rehire a bunch of people again, even if times and budgets get better. I think this is how it will be. It is up to U.S. small CROs to try and make a case for their piece of the pie.

Permalink to Comment

23. Mark on November 11, 2009 2:40 PM writes...

#13

No, 900 chemists would include discovery, analytical, process, formulation, and separation chemists, among others.

If I remember correctly, the Groton site had about 160 Discovery chemists as of early 2009. Add in all the other sites and it's under 500, probably not quite 400.

Mark

Permalink to Comment

24. NJBiologist on November 11, 2009 6:28 PM writes...

@23, 13 et al.:

Under 1,000 chemists in a drug company with >75,000 employees? Somehow, that just doesn't sound right. Are the numbers similar at other big pharmas?

Permalink to Comment

25. Anonymous on November 11, 2009 7:00 PM writes...

I also resent #6, "Building heterocycles using Suzuki couplings and similar stuff is not exactly challenging stuff."

There are a lot of these seemingly simple looking heterocyclic compounds that are very synthetically challenging, where you have to be creative, solve problems, and develop new chemistry. Sure, there is a lot of routine chemistry, but there is a lot that is challenging, and that requires highly skilled synthetic chemists. Different kinds of problems than academic natural product synthesis, but still real problems.

Permalink to Comment

26. Charlie on November 11, 2009 8:34 PM writes...

"Strikes me that there is a huge, once-in-your-lifetime opportunity here for entrepreneurial people (chemists and biologists) who are currently working on teams/projects that are going to get canned wholesale."

I couldn't agree more. Follow the lead of the folks in Kzoo and AA. The time is now. Think honestly but creatively. For those who can relocate or find another big pharma job, great! For the other 99%, let's make something happen in St. Louis.

Permalink to Comment

27. Mark on November 12, 2009 1:34 PM writes...

I'll just add, before I left Pfizer, the project I was working on had more headcount in China (in terms of synthetic chemists) then we did at our US site.

Permalink to Comment

28. MTK on November 12, 2009 1:51 PM writes...

at #24:

Yeah, 900 research chemists out of 70K employees is probably about right. Remember that R&D is but a fraction of the total employees. There's manufacturing and distribution, sales and marketing, IT, legal, HR, etc. As of about a year ago GSK, for example, had 17K R&D employees out of 103K total.

Then remember that chemistry is just a fraction of R&D. There's biologists, toxicologists, formulations folks, doctors of all types, lab technicians, clinicians, etc.

In other words, we're not as important as you think.

Permalink to Comment

29. David P on November 12, 2009 4:52 PM writes...

"In other words, we're not as important as you think."

No, no, quality over quantity! Small but mighty!

But the companies don't need as many of us to run a drug discovery program. Less and less as time goes on, apparently.

Permalink to Comment

30. XFZ on November 12, 2009 6:18 PM writes...

How many medicinal chemists left at J&J after this round of downsizing?

Permalink to Comment

31. milkshake on November 12, 2009 7:01 PM writes...

#28 in fact we are not important at all. Early discovery projects can be re-aligned, razed, buried and paved over and the saved resources turned into dividends and management bonuses. Commies used the same re-investment strategy with a resounding success in the Eastern Bloc.

Permalink to Comment

32. Anonymous on November 12, 2009 8:52 PM writes...

The last remaining Celebrex inventors were Pfired this week.
Talley, John J. ;Penning, Thomas D. ;Collins, Paul W. ;Rogier, Jr., Donald J. ;Malecha, James W. ;Miyashiro, Julie M. ;Bertenshaw, Stephen R. ;Khanna, Ish K. ;Graneto, Matthew J. ;Rogers, Roland S. ;Carter, Jeffery S. ;Docter, Stephen H. ;Yu, Stella S., Substituted pyrazolyl benzenesulfonamides for the treatment of inflammation, US5760068, Issued 19980602

Permalink to Comment

33. Anonymous on November 12, 2009 11:01 PM writes...

If ypu are a chemist in big pharma prepare to get pfucked.

Permalink to Comment

34. Anonymous on November 13, 2009 11:36 AM writes...

Well working for a company, as I do, with 350 employees, 120 of which are chemists, and half of the rest are biologists, I can suddenly why Pfizer can't afford to do it's own R&D! Their overheads must be HUGE!!

I agree that outsourcing to US/european CROs and the rise of micropharma (to hark back to a previous thread) is the intermediate solution that has a chance of saving the industry.

Permalink to Comment

35. goodtimes on November 14, 2009 9:46 AM writes...

All this rhetoric about "training the competition"? Come on - big pharma companies can barely find drugs - what sacred knowledge are they passing along to the evil Chinese and indians? You find drugs by making a lot of compounds and hoping one has the right combination of safety and efficacy - and making a lot of compounds is exactly the sort of activity that you can do anywhere in the world. Pharma has just come to realize they dont need to pay a Harvard PhD 150k a year to sit on his/her ass and say "gee, lets make the methyl, ethyl and isopropyl analog..."

Permalink to Comment

36. Hap on November 14, 2009 12:38 PM writes...

...except weren't those same people discovering drugs twenty years ago? Did they all get dementia simultaneously?

If your rationale is along the lines of "we finished last with you, we can finish last without you", then it makes sense. But Pfizer didn't get big because it finished last - it got big because it finished first, and parlayed that into a good financial position. If other people can discover drugs, let alone better and faster (or at least cheaper), then they should be given the resources to do so, but that experiment doesn't appear to have borne fruit, yet, and so placing your industry's future on it (or at least your company's) might be...optimistic. Kind of like putting all of the Republican Party's eggs in the "Palin for President '12" basket.

Permalink to Comment

37. goodtimes on November 14, 2009 5:00 PM writes...

Actually, there we never "those people" there were a very few few people who discovered something that made what are now the big pharma companies fantastically wealthy - 99% of the people at these companies come and go without any impact on the business other than to draw a paycheck. And even that 1% has a little serendipity. As I said - you find drug by producing compounds (and hopefully having a some mechanistic insight) and we all know what the fate of production jobs are in the US (textiles, auto, and so on).

The world doesn't belong to the big pharma chemists in the US anymore (and won't ever again), and wishing it were different or talking about the good old days will just make the inevitable that much more difficult to accept.

Remember - offshore CMOs didnt steal your business - your senior management gave it away.

Permalink to Comment

38. milkshake on November 14, 2009 9:51 PM writes...

This new round of mega-merger and layoffs must be the result of all the breakthroughs and hundreds of new targets in cancer and diabetes that LaMattina was raving about three years ago. The industry outlook has never been rosier.

Permalink to Comment

39. Anonymous on November 15, 2009 10:47 AM writes...

Go to China or India or other industries (if you hate those countries) to find a job before it is too late. It is a capitalist trend that no one can reverse. Capitalist is to blame.

Permalink to Comment

40. Dr Doom on November 15, 2009 10:49 AM writes...

Actually you find a drug by finding an appropriate target, then throwing a bunch of compounds at it. The most distressing feature of being part of big pharma over the last ten years is that we have become very smart at understanding the parameters for successful drug optimisation, but have been spectacularly bad at identifying targets to work on. Not all of this has been science-driven. Anyone who has worked at Pfizer could regale you with tales of compounds nominated for development that met the grade but which marketing and commercial just lost interest in. And not every group has taken these lessons on board. The Wyeth small-molecule folks are gone, not just because they were deemed unnecessary but also because they hadn't learnt the lessons of history. While some may choose to mock Lipinski's rules, when you look at the Wyeth small molecule patents, they are the company with the most patented compounds outside of Ro5 space (stats that Leeson et al have published), and there is indeed a direct correlation between compound attrition and non-compliance with Ro5.

Please don't tell me that small biotechs do it so much better either. Most are a bunch of charlatans, snake-oil salesmen and no-hopers with no clue who couldn't find a drug in a pharmacy. They just cling to a tiny piece of intellectual property and hope to be bought out by large pharm suckers. Most go under, taking the VC funds with them.

So the future state of our industry will be more outsourcing of the wet chemistry and screening, with (for the time being) design remaining in the West. And it is hard to blame companies for using CROs who do on the whole deliver what is needed at lower cost. But unless target selection is addressed this model will ultimately fail too.

But we all have to understand that globalisation means a transfer of wealth from the first world to the developing world (and the pockets of our CEOs). By fixing their exchange rates these countries are ensuring the playing field will remain uneven until all of our means of production are destroyed. Ironically this will also destroy the market for the products that they produce, but by then maybe their home markets will be large enough to compensate. But we in the US and Europe are going to get very, very poor along the way.

Permalink to Comment

41. Anonymous on November 15, 2009 1:30 PM writes...

To the folks who didnt like #6, not everyone does challenging chemistry all the times. Maybe 10-20% is somewhat challenging but the rest is mundane, especially once the routes are some what established and there is only analog bashing to be done.

So, I would estimate that at least 70% of the routine chemistry can be outsourced with minimum impact on productivity in discovery. In any case, not everyone working in a med chem department is super motivated to make a difference. I would say that more than half the people are there to do some work and collect a paycheck. Their contributions will not be missed!

Get real folks, the golden era is over, the road ahead is going to be more difficult with more challenges and lesser rewards.

Permalink to Comment

42. milkshake on November 15, 2009 1:43 PM writes...

most middle management at companies like Pfizer do the cover-my-ass first, hence the insistance on Lipinski and microsomal stability.

Ro5 is a very helpful guidance shorthand to teach the new recruits (especially in CNS projects where it is more like Ro3) but there are whole areas where Ro5 breaks down, such as antibiotics. One should really start by looking at the approved and successful orally-administered drugs within the therapeutic area, to get a feel on whats permissible and reasonable in terms of the design.
(Most of the time one finds that Ro5 points in the right direction.)

The failure of companies like Pfizer in developing new drugs is not related to the qualification of their chemists and biologists (which I bet is on average better than in startup - with the corresponding difference in salary) but in the management. The red tape, micromanagement, sluggishness and baloney tends to scale with the size of the corporation. Once you got your project (to which you put several years of your best effort and hope into) killed for no good reason, and this happened several times over the course of your career - and you even never got to meet the idiots who did this to you but you know their names and the background which is usually either law and business - and you know that they are lying through their teeth and collect seven figure bonuses for it - you get the attitude "why the fuck should I care anymore about the fate of my project" and "this was the last weekend I will ever give to this imbecile company - no working for free in the lab for me anymore".

Startups are not as professional, and they tend to be less carefull about putting their compounds in the clinic, but at least they still have the drive.

Permalink to Comment

43. Anonymous on November 15, 2009 2:48 PM writes...

I used to think that medicinal chemists are the most admired positions in pharmaceutical companies because they tend to be paid better than their biologist peers and more arrogant. No more.

Permalink to Comment

44. milkshake on November 15, 2009 3:34 PM writes...

Once the medchem project/target is established and assays developed and validated, the actual inventive step shifts to chemistry - the biology needs to be reliable but the chemists are in the drivers seat from then on.

As a chemist I always preferred biology - heavy projects. That way, a chemist gets more support and insight and attention in such a project - and besides, as the biologists cannot make the compounds themselves they are lot less snotty about what they get from you (as opposed the situation where you have three chemistry labs competing for the same piece of the prestige project pie and its the back-stabbing chemistry lab bosses jostling for promotion that are commenting on your choice of compounds). Too much chemistry with little biology makes no sense.

I always tried to cultivate the relationship with biologists and I kept them motivated by explaining what I am trying to do and why - in this way they feel less like a pair of hands (running the same screens for you over and over again) and they get kick from the developments in our project because they get the understanding about where the series are headed and why.

Also, I should mention that the most productive projects and companies do not suffer from over-abundance of egomaniacs. One thing you do not want to have is a bunch of arrogant insecure young PhD from Ivy League assholes who all want to become the boss of the chemistry department.

I was lucky to work with a bunch of Chinese chemists. They were rater modest and civil. Not all of them were superstars chemistry-wise but by working together they made an excellent progress. There couple of ambitious group leaders but the rivalry was mostly kept under control by the wise and generous management and most people were fairly content with their role. See, you cannot have a project and the lab where everybody wants to become the boss.

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45. Dr Doom on November 15, 2009 5:05 PM writes...

My comments about Ro5 are very much empirical. Anytime anyone tells you they have more leeway than Ro5 just point them in the direction of Leeson et al papers/talks. You can see all those compounds that exceed the parameters just disappear as you move through Phase I, II and III. And yes there are exceptions such as CNS drugs (need to be a lot smaller on the whole) and compounds which can hide their size and h-bonding such as macrocycles. But groups that have ignored Ro5 deserve everything they get when their compounds fail (and the patent lit suggests that includes the majority of med chemists in the industry). Repeating the mistakes of the past is the definition of stupidity.

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46. LNT on November 16, 2009 6:50 AM writes...

Dr Doom is a stereotypical Pfizer chemist:
1) We are the best
2) We did everything right
3) Everyoneone else sucks
4) We got screwed by management/marketing

I'm sick of the excuses Dr. Doom. Get a life and stop blaming everyone ELSE for your problems. Your discovery stage research track record SUCKS and its high time that the Pfizer chemists open thier eyes and take some responsibility!

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47. Dr Doom on November 16, 2009 12:57 PM writes...

LNT

Didn't say I still worked at Pfizer.

Show me any company with a reasonable track record of internal drug discovery over the last ten years.
The point I made above was that we have largely been working on poor targets, and yes I'm afraid biology, marketing and management all share some of the blame for that. The failure rate from CAN to Phase 1 in most companies has improved significantly over the last ten years and that has been down to medicinal chemists. We all now suck at Phase II and Phase III attrition.

I'm ready any time you want to compare personal success rates. I think you'll find yourself a little outmatched.

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48. Anonymous on November 17, 2009 1:50 PM writes...

My Chemistry molecule is BIGGER than your chemistry molecule......lol Chemists.........

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49. SAHER on January 26, 2010 1:30 PM writes...

Dear Sir,
I want to know if you provide projects to post graduate students,if yes how to apply for it.
I have been a pfizerite for few months,and now i am pursuing mpharm in pharma chemistry.

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50. Morkizga on February 8, 2010 10:15 AM writes...

Dr. Doom, if you would like a look at the future chemistry to be used in Pifzer, email me! I'll send you a technical disclosure. This chemistry allows the synthesis of almost every macrocycle. The chemistry exploits the difference between linear oligomers and cyclic compounds physical properties to create a driving force for their formation while controlling the desired oligomeric lenth of the desired oligomer, so that the Gaussian dsitribution centers on the desired oligomer ring size.

That is why we are going with Ensemble discovery!

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51. Morkizga on February 8, 2010 10:19 AM writes...

Cyclic technology that allows for synthesis of every macrocycle: www.ODINindustries.com

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