About this Author
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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« Why You Don't Want to Make Death-Star-Sized Drugs | Main | Fat Rats Make Poor Test Subjects? »

March 2, 2010

AstraZeneca Makes Its Move

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Posted by Derek

OK, I think the company has made an official announcement on this. They're getting out of schizophrenia, bipolar disease, depression, anxiety, acid reflux, thrombosis, ovarian and bladder cancers, systemic scleroderma and hepatitis C. (So much for some of the company's current and recent big-selling areas. . .)

As for facilities, they're shutting down early R&D in Wilmington and in Lund (Sweden), and the Charnwood site in the UK is closing. I haven't heard if there are other cuts going on in the sites (or therapeutic areas) that are remaining, though. Details in the comments. . .

Comments (49) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


2. CRO Cowboy on March 2, 2010 11:27 AM writes...

All Closing

Avlon R&D
Wilmington R&D

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3. SteveM on March 2, 2010 11:34 AM writes...

Re: "...getting out of schizophrenia, bipolar disease, depression, anxiety, acid reflux..."

I'm not in the business anymore like you guys. But it seems like CNS is more trouble than it's worth. I.e., the side effects are a ball and chain that nobody can figure out. And the acid reflux problem has been solved 6 times over.

The other problems, don't know enough about.

P.S. tough about more scientists getting whacked though.

P.P.S. America is hosed...

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4. FMC on March 2, 2010 11:46 AM writes...

@ 3: Fret not, also Europe is hosed...

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5. PharmaHeretic on March 2, 2010 12:09 PM writes...

Why not just become an investment bank? They can fire almost everyone else, and still be very "profitable".

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6. SteveM on March 2, 2010 12:13 PM writes...

Re: "...also Europe is hosed"

Agree. Unfortunately, misery loving company does not pay the bills...

P.S. Somehow the U.S. Merchants of Death business (Military Industrial Complex) seems to always make out no matter what.

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7. Hap on March 2, 2010 12:19 PM writes...

Don't investment banks have to have something in which to invest? There's only so many pigs and cows to slaughter, and at some point if you liquidate the farmers, there won't be any more meat (or crops) to squander, either. Of course, given that they're "too big to fail", I guess they could just make something up and get bailed out when it is revealed to be as imaginary as intended. Unless the US runs out of money, which seems more and more possible.

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8. Ed on March 2, 2010 12:19 PM writes...

Can anyone help me find the joint Royal Society of Chemistry/GlaxoSmithKline/AstraZeneca press release/policy paper from maybe three years ago complaining of a shortage of chemists in the UK?

Here's all I could find:

Careers - Plugging the Gap (from March 2008)

"Can the UK's Sector skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing (Semta) solve the pharmaceutical industry's recruitment crisis?"


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9. Lu on March 2, 2010 12:36 PM writes...

>8. Ed

The only recruitment crisis I see is the shortage of low cost labor.
My friend graduated with MS in biochemistry and the only job she could find is a technician position at 30k. At the same time, a janitor's salary at nearby state university is 35k.

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10. James McRedmond on March 2, 2010 12:37 PM writes...

I agree with 3 about CNS and acid reflux. But thrombosis is definitely not yet 'solved', and AZ have the promising ticagrelor (with the grating name 'Brilinta') just about to hit the market (and likely go blockbuster). So they can make viable drugs in this area. Strange time to get out of that segment.

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11. bbooooooya on March 2, 2010 12:59 PM writes...

"Don't investment banks have to have something in which to invest?"

of course, and BRIC companies are popular for that currently.

Re "only so many pigs and cows to slaughter", you make it sound like PMs care what happens in a dozen years, some do, but most justcare what happens next quarter and (maybe) 3 or 4 Qs out.

This whole notion of a "middle class" in the US really just arose with unionization after WW2. This has not been the natural economic order of things and, in economics (as in chemistry) everything reverts to equilibrium.

Competition with cheap labor countires IS going to force wages back down: a $100K+/yr US bench chemist is not 20X more productive than a $5K PRC worker.

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12. hell to the chief on March 2, 2010 1:15 PM writes...

Sad News. Some very high quality research sites getting dropped.
AZ have been out of all GI research for a while now, though. They did have some things plodding along in development. Acid reflux may be "solved" but no one in big pharma is really working in other GI areas at the moment.
As for thrombosis. Outcome trials with your drug on top of the standard of care? That's a huge pot of money, likely down the drain.

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13. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on March 2, 2010 1:19 PM writes...

Sad to see the Charnwood site go, I visited that site many times in the 1990s and early 2000s when I worked in the CRO industry. Last time I was there (2006?), there were brand new laboratory facilities that had just recently come on line, at least they seem brand new in my memory. Lots of good people there, and the village of Loughborough is charming.

Sad, yes, but everyone needs to stop whining. These jobs are going to Asia, and that migration isn't going to stop. Evolve or whither, the times they are a changin'.

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14. hell to the chief on March 2, 2010 1:23 PM writes...

The closure of Lund and Charnwood suggests they are getting out of Respiratory/inflammation in a big way too.

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15. Hap on March 2, 2010 1:31 PM writes...

I'd like to see the relative productivity scales applied to management, as well. I think we'd hear about the unquatifiable aspects of managing so many people though, and not much about stock prices or productivity.

Why does this sound like part XXXVIII of "capitalism for the poor, socialism for the rich"?

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16. Petros on March 2, 2010 2:34 PM writes...

Is this a reflection on the lean sigma expounded by one of their med chem managers?

sorry to see Charnwood go, where Intal originated in its Fison's days. The old site head has not long retired which probably didn;t help its case

Lund is a nice. modern, site that always appeared under staffed.

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17. Skeptic on March 2, 2010 4:16 PM writes...

"Evolve or whither..."

Right, and here is the list:

"How Many US Jobs Might be Offshorable"

Most offshorable: Computer Programmer, Mathematician

Least offshorable: Postal Service Mail Sorter, Composer

There you go. According to Alan S. Blinder of Princeton University you guys need to become the next Mozart or sort mail.

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18. PharmaHeretic on March 2, 2010 4:28 PM writes...

Unless we have a new economic model, we are doomed.

The problem is that technology can make most jobs redundant, but without a high flow of money (currently requiring people to be employed) society itself will wither away.

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19. Skeptic on March 2, 2010 4:33 PM writes...

"I think we'd hear about the unquantifiable aspects of managing..."

Heh, they are way ahead of you. What part of "not subcontractible, and nonalgorithmic" don't you understand? lol


Copyright 2008 Oxford University Press

"We then articulated a vision for the high-value decision maker of the
future and called him or her an integrator, who can produce constructive
reconciliations of tensions among different models, theories, beliefs, and
ways of knowing, acting, and being—to the end of enabling successful
action in prototypically “postmodern” organizational environments. We
argued that:

(INT-V) The integrator’s production function is valuable,
not subcontractible, and nonalgorithmic.

We contrasted the integrator’s production function with the production
function of the optimizer, whose task is to push the operations of
the organization to the Pareto frontier of trade-offs among different
combinations of inputs. By contrast, we argued that the integrator pushes
outward that very Pareto frontier that the optimizer is trying to reach and we illustrated the integrator’s production function with examples
and with a phenomenological analysis of the tasks it comprises. These
tasks, we argued, embody tacit knowledge, know-how rather than knowwhat;
they are not reducible to an algorithmic representation; and they
instantiate the ability of managers and talented actors more generally to
resolve, dissolve, or cut through—in action as well as thinking—fundamental
problems that have sprouted at the very core of mainstream scientifi c
theorizing over the past hundred years. The integrator solves through action
what the narrow specialist can often not solve even in theory."

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20. SteveM on March 2, 2010 4:50 PM writes...

Re: 19 "...The integrator solves through action
what the narrow specialist can often not solve even in theory."

Hah! The author (Moldoveanu) himself is a narrow specialist who only has bullshit theories that can't solve real problems.

If "self-licking ice cream cone" were a job description, that guy would be employed for life.

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21. Cloud on March 2, 2010 4:57 PM writes...

Skeptic, just because a job IS offshoreable, it doesn't mean that it WILL be offshored.

I agree, computer programmer is a very offshoreable job. And yet my husband makes a pretty good living as one, and I consider his job more secure than my job. His company, by the way, recently brought a big project (and the programmer jobs that go with it) back to the US from India.

(I, by the way, am in middle management. Not very offshoreable, but very layoff-able.)

Anyway- if you are interested in a non-doomsday view of someone who has had a ringside seat to the offshoring craze in IT, here is what I think will happen: a bunch of chemist jobs will go overseas as management chases the latest craze. People in the field will wring their hands and say all sort of xenophobic things because it will seem like all of their jobs are going overseas and hey, they've got nothing against the Chinese or the Indians or whoever, but they have families to support. Some things sent overseas will fail, some will succeed. The industry will slowly learn what sorts of things can be sent overseas with the best chance of success. Those jobs will stay overseas. It will turn out that some things work best at "home". The jobs doing those things will slowly reappear back home. The chemist job market will never again reach the same levels as the "good old day", whenever those were, but there will still be chemist jobs in the US and the market will slowly settle back to a new steady-state.

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22. milkshake on March 2, 2010 5:40 PM writes...

Cloud - please don't feed the pompous troll, the previous commenter is not a chemist, he has a long-standing grudge about medicinal chemistry (I suppose he invested in a biotech in the past and got burned - and blames chemists for his misfortunes)and most of the time he does not know one bit about what he is writing about.

"Lets hire lots of cheap chemists in China and India" - this sounds great to uninformed - and this category includes the shareholders of big pharma - and there is lots of caveats about the pharma outsourcing which the current management is not talking about. I am afraid this scenario will have to play itself out before it realization sinks in, and there will be another lost decade before it becomes clear that this will not save Big Pharma just like combichem and genomics didn't before. The problem is with the management culture but the management controls the system and milks it to every bit of advantage for themselves, so they will be the last ones to go.

If anything can be safely predicted about the future, it is that large total synthesis projects will gradually wind down as the young orgchem faculty will move more and more into methodology and material science, that within the next few years as the current grad students graduate and postdocs leave there will be fewer people willing to go into 10+ year undergrad+grad+two postdoc path just to end up with a bednover low=paid job or be unemployed - which will cetrainly curtail the manpower for the mammoth total synthesis projects - the tightened funding under Obama notwithstanding.

Since US was the engine driving the tot synthesis and methodology research worldwide, it means there will be fewer chemists in the long run, in the meantime the desperate people who are too one-sided and old to start another career will keep competing for the shrinking job opportunities - which will depress the market even further.

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23. Hap on March 2, 2010 5:53 PM writes...

Jumping overseas with both feet will work sometimes for companies, and sometimes not, and eventually the labor market will equilibrate. But the people running the companies will still get paid, whether they fail, or not. Given that, how many people qualified to both manage and make drugs will choose to make drugs? Maybe the perturbation will equilibrate the modified labor market with the modified set of jobs available, but it seems that it would be harder to recruit people to science if there is not little certainty and less pay than competiting fields. At least based on graduate school admissions, that would seem to be the case, and it's hard to think the layoffs and restructuring will not accelerate that trend.

The lesson of outsourcing (and of recent economics, in general) has been that upper management will always be paid, whatever they do, and everyone else is expendable. I don't know that that lesson, however, lends itself to a beneficial remodeling of either the labor force or the labor market.

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24. Me on March 2, 2010 6:18 PM writes...

The professors at Ph.D. school will still get graduates or post docs from China and India with US funded for their research.

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25. weirdo on March 2, 2010 7:09 PM writes...

"The professors at Ph.D. school will still get graduates or post docs from China and India with US funded for their research"

I agree. The problem is, we are training future scientists in competing countries with our tax money.

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26. Anonymous on March 2, 2010 7:12 PM writes...

Remember - Brilinta (the future of AZ) was discovered at Charnwood!

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27. Skeptic on March 2, 2010 8:34 PM writes...

"...young orgchem faculty will move more and more into methodology and material science"

From the perspective of this investor, good riddance. The small molecule gold rush with the industrial chemist at its locus has run its course.

I'll let Page 616 of the Sept issue of Nature Chemical Biology be the epitaph of the med chem:

"However, the more we understand about the molecular mechanisms of even targeted drugs, the more we realize that tthey are generally promiscous with regard to their biological targets and effects. The simplified view of 'one drug, one target' clearly does no hold true"

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28. Old-Timey on March 2, 2010 10:31 PM writes...

Cloud, It sounds to me like you are describing the next great idea to hit pharma which will be called "on shoring". It will involve execs flying to DC in their company paid G5's with suitcases of cash to lobby congress for an increase in H-1B visas.

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29. cliffintokyo on March 3, 2010 12:28 AM writes...

Worked at 'Charnwood' over 20 years ago.
Miss the friendly people still, but not the place.
Best of luck guys.

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30. pharma phil on March 3, 2010 9:14 AM writes...

the Bitter pill
This is another lesson to us all involved in Phama "Science and production" ,the industry is being shipped out to Asia at an alarming rate now and you should totally disregard any promises that they make to you because you will all be redundant very soon so my advice to you all is start looking now to jump ship and jump to a new career ,you will find wages are eroded now to a dismally small recommence for your highly skilled talents if you decide to try and weather the storm ,
unfortunately the storm is a "perfect one" and it will consume your vocation much sooner than you think , Big pharma is all but at running speed to unload the UK ASAP and apparent investment in your facilities should not be read as any security ,MSD GSK and many more invested 10s 0f millions in sites very recently and before the paint was dry walked away from them .
Im afraid you have all been led a merry old dance by the corporations and government have been hood winked by these Crooks .
It really is time to do some very serious career re alignment , and jump very soon before they push you ,also consider if you are offered redundancy go in the first wave ,as that will be the best offer and history states that the hanger ons do considerably worse financially , don't hang around unless you get a good deal in writing . ( you have been warned ) good luck to all

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31. AR on March 3, 2010 9:28 AM writes...

At what point does executive management go overseas? Granted, today’s pharma executives will take the parachute but eventually they will be gone. The Chinese and Indians are not stupid. If the bulk of research and development is being done in China/India it follows the next round of pharma executives will come from there, too?

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32. SteveM on March 3, 2010 9:43 AM writes...

Re: 31 AR

China can't even produce drywall and cowpeas that don't kill people.

The last thing I would want is those guys doing end to end drug development.

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33. alig on March 3, 2010 9:47 AM writes...

At least the CEOs at the pharma companies are still getting raises:

Pfizer Inc. (PFE) has lifted a salary freeze for top executives, granting a 12.5% salary increase to Chairman and Chief Executive Jeffrey Kindler.

In a regulatory filing Tuesday, Pfizer said a committee of its board of directors last month increased Kindler's salary to $1.8 million from $1.6 million, effective April 1.

The company cited the "increased complexity of the organization and a corresponding increase in his salary grade" for Kindler's pay hike. Pfizer also boosted Kindler's incentive awards, citing Kindler's performance and his role in last year's $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth."

Notice that they didn't mention performance when justifying his raise. Pfizer has underperformed the Dow for the last 6 months, 1 year, 2 years. Nothing like pay for underperformance.

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34. MedChem on March 3, 2010 10:26 AM writes...

I posted this in another thread but felt compelled to post it here again. What's happening in our industry is an outrage.

Based on my own experience, I'm beginning to form some opinions on the reasons for our low productivity.

1)The industry tries too hard to turn something as intangible as innovation into a rigid flow chart process (so called "paradigms")where one box is supposed to lead to another (on a timeline no less) which eventually leads to a product. Scientists are not encouraged think outside the box. A lot of our scientific practices only sound creative but of little practical value. There's suprisingly very little creative thinking in an innovation-driven industry! Could this be why Genentech was so successful?

2) Non-experts dictate too much what we scientists do by implementing various "visions" and "paradigms" and forcing the scientists to conform to these paradigms. These people could be academician but more often than not senior scientific managements who by this time in their career are so far removed from the trenches of innovation and worry more whether they can look good at the end of the day than the project actually succeeding.

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35. Laid Off Chemist on March 3, 2010 10:31 AM writes...

12.5%? Kindler should be livid!

Andrew Witty took home more than £8 million in pay and share awards last year.

Mr Witty’s first full year as chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline was marked by a 76 per cent pay rise to £3.128 million, plus £5 million worth of shares in GSK — a package that could revive the controversy surrounding the pay of JP Garnier, his predecessor. Mr Garnier was paid $5.9 million last year, despite leaving the company in May 2008, because of a share option plan dating from the time that Glaxo Wellcome merged with SmithKlineBeecham.

In 2003, shareholders protested against a golden parachute deal that would have given Mr Garnier $18 million if he had been dismissed. GSK was forced to revoke the package after the shareholder dissent.

To avoid being placed in a similar position, Mr Witty has said that he would forego his annual bonus if he was sacked from the company.

Bonus? I don't need no @#/&^$ bonus! I get a yearly 76% salary increase.

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36. pharma phil on March 3, 2010 10:42 AM writes...

You missed my point Who really cares were the execs go , they have already feathered their collective nests and run off with their pots of gold . the point is UK pharma/Science is now in terminal decline and any future grads will have nowhere to ply their trade ,and current scientists will be unemployed and probably unemployable.
the big corporations have misled gullible Governments to hugely fund with extensive grants for Research sites such as MSD terlings park ,GSK frith , Harlow ,and of AZ Charnwood fooled into investing with these crooks.they act as a plague of locusts ,I will be interested to see how they get on in china if they try the same trick ,they dont suffer criminals in the same way as the west.
they could end up on the end of a bullet.

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37. Vader on March 3, 2010 10:50 AM writes...

"P.S. Somehow the U.S. Merchants of Death business (Military Industrial Complex) seems to always make out no matter what."

Not necessarily. The trend in defense spending as a fraction of GNP has been mostly downwards since at least 1970:

But if you are a committed pacifist, I suppose any level of defense spending is too much.

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38. SteveM on March 3, 2010 11:04 AM writes...

Re: #37 Vader

Actually I'm a committed rationalist. The US spends as much on "defense" as every other nation COMBINED. And we've dumped a couple of $trillion funding Wars to Nowhere.

But we're broke. The store's closed. American Exceptionalism is unaffordable. Defense should take a haircut like everybody else. But it won't.

Which is too bad...

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39. Lillywhite Chemist on March 3, 2010 11:52 AM writes...

To Milkshake (Post 22) and others, as one of the folks who (currently) is surviving this round of cuts at GSK, an interesting discussion took place with a senior chemist from our new Neuroscience Research site in China. After announcing all the old Neuroscience folks in Harlow and Verona are being made redundant, who could easily have taken on the load without needing to build and expensive new site in China, they are just realising they don't have more than a handful of chemists with good medchem knowledge in the far east and are struggling to make their targets. So he's here looking for compounds from other groups to fulfill their pipeline promises.

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40. Joerg Kurt Wegner on March 3, 2010 2:32 PM writes...

#17 Skeptic

You must be kidding me, I am sorting (e)mails every day, a lot of them. Does this mean I am now safe in Pharma? Besides, sorting (e)mails is a tangible thing to do and efficiency can be measured so easily, now I am feeling really safe, because I am in control.

On the other hand, maybe I should start taking some music courses and try fitting it in my objectives, too. Do not talk to your colleagues, but sing, loud and clear, and do not forget the background music ;-)

P.S.: Thanks for sharing ... a good one!

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41. Still a scientist on March 3, 2010 2:49 PM writes...

A few people on here seem to be revelling in the fact that China has cheap labour. This is only true while it's allowed to keep its exchange rate as low as possible - but that can't last forever.

Anyway, this is supposed to be a thread about the !()"&ers in AZ's senior management isn't it? (!*"&&*ers!

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42. RandDChemist on March 3, 2010 2:58 PM writes...

Thank goodness! Kindler got a raise. That will SURELY help them get new drugs to the market.

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43. Bob on March 3, 2010 4:45 PM writes...

R&D site closures have nothing to do with risk, etc. it's all about giving the major shareholders (i.e. those same bankers who went running to the government when they screwed up) their pieces of silver and financing the pay rises of the CEO and his cronies.

Lillywhite - I hope you told the guy over from China to bend over and take it like a man.

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44. Bacteriologist on March 4, 2010 3:56 AM writes...

Like it or not... Companies like AZ who are so committed to research, if are closing down the locations, then its time to carefully take a look at our own research areas if they overlap.

#24 & 25: Hard-luck complaining of losing our tax money for training students & Postdocs from 'competing' countries. We failed to compete well to get those positions ourselves. Time to buckle up than complain.

#37: Yup time for a close-hair-cut for our defense spend and start also worrying about the Global warming issues...

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45. processchemist on March 4, 2010 7:41 AM writes...


Maybe I'm wrong, but I remember something like "great advances in the neurodegenerative field by 2010" when GSK established the Shangai CEDD, and some delirious statements about "great products with the -invented in China - mark in few years".
It was a time when none of my friends at GSK was thinking about the chinese CEDD as a menace to their jobs....

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46. milkshake on March 4, 2010 7:54 AM writes...

wishful thinking is bad for business and science alike. The problem with big pharma management is that they can always sell the shareholders a brand new list of promises without being responsible to actually make good on it. The pharma research is bad because the orchestra has been for years constantly reorganized and directed by arrogant tone-deaf apparatchiks

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47. milkshake on March 4, 2010 8:02 AM writes...

Mission statement: We are one zombie team dedicated to our mission - finding the best brains, then eating them

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48. Anonymous on March 4, 2010 9:35 AM writes...

@ Milkshake (and Lillywhite):

"It was a time when none of my friends at GSK was thinking about the chinese CEDD as a menace to their jobs...."

As one of GSK's sacrificial lambs a couple years back, I am not sure I agree with you. We were all just hoping that the bean counters would wait a few years to see if they got anything out of them before dumping all of us. Unfortunately, they noted that tickets to the Special Olympics were cheaper than the Winter Olympics and couldn't tell the difference.

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49. Medchemphd2008 on March 4, 2010 12:33 PM writes...

Roche plans to layoff 500 NJ employees effective

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