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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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November 19, 2010

Novartis and the Labs of the Future

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Posted by Derek

Here's a look (PDF) at the Novartis "Labs of the Future". This looks like another one of these "open lab" concepts, and it appears that Basel has really bought into the idea. The interview with the two biologists helping to head the project is. . .well, it's very Swiss, that's the best description. When asked "What indicators would you select to measure improvement?" after people move in, the answer is:

Bouwmeester: That depends on the monitoring period. I am assuming that one or two months after we move into the building, the employees will already be experiencing a new dynamic. If they report a positive difference, that will be a first measure of success. It is important that the people in the LOTF develop some
kind of ownership regarding their role in the building. It will be a more active role than usual. The LOTF is basically an open space where you can observe your peers across the hierarchies. This is a different type of social architecture compared to 10 years ago, or even today still. Everybody will be more under observation and observing more than before. The dynamism of the interaction between people will increase. The employees themselves will have to decide what is common practice on their floor. Of course the concept will need to be adapted over time; I would be surprised
if all concepts materialize exactly as anticipated.

I would be, too. In fact, I'd like to propose that last sentence be printed up on T-shirts, coffee mugs, and posters, but that's probably not going to happen. More on what this is actually going to look like:

Korthäuer: (There will be) big screens, placed where people typically pass by. There will be video cameras installed on each laptop, allowing easy and informal contacts. The information technology concept is an important part of it. We have also designed special furniture that serves the same goal. We want to get rid of functional cells such as coffee rooms, writing rooms, lab rooms etc. Our aim is to bring the walls down. But of course we still need differentiation. In the LOTF
there are still compartmentalized areas with particular qualities, constructed according to people’s needs and workflow requirements. . .

Korthäuer: On the information technology side, we are trying to implement a few applications which really support the concept. There will be videoconferences, ‘smart’ whiteboards that allow notes to be captured electronically. We focus on proven technologies. Gradually, we will bring new technologies into the building such as haptic interfaces. Removing the walls in a building can bring about big changes. There will be much less storage room. Therefore, a little robot operating in an elevator shaft will transport materials ordered by laptop up from the basement to the floors. . .

Bouwmeester: We have already implemented Virtual Reality Rooms with ultra-high-resolution video screens, so that the quality is as though you were in a real-life meeting; the effect is quite spectacular. As with any global project, it will all require a certain attitude, a set of skills that people will have to develop. Much energy and time will be needed to communicate efficiently between places as different as Basel, Cambridge and Shanghai. . .

Allow me to note a few difficulties. For one, those high-res video conference venues still have to deal with switching and transmission delays, especially across the distances that the Novartis guys are talking about. So if you try to have a spirited real-time discussion, you'll mostly be getting very clear, sharp, high-fidelity views of people interrupting each other and pausing awkwardly. (Update: see the comments section - some users are reporting more successful experience.) I have a more macro-scale worry about this sort of thing, too, having to do with my suspicion of plans that depend on people finally shaping up and acting the way that they're supposed to. As with any global project, y'know.

I think that I'll let Tom Wolfe have the last word here, since what he wrote in From Bauhaus to Our House is still applicable, over thirty years later:

I once saw the owners of such a place driven to the edge of sensory deprivation by the whiteness & lightness & leanness & cleanness & bareness & spareness of it all. They became desperate for an antidote, such as coziness & color. They tried to bury the obligatory white sofas under Thai-silk throw pillows of every rebellious, iridescent shade of magenta, pink, and tropical green imaginable. But the architect returned, as he always does, like the conscience of a Calvinist, and he lectured them and hectored them and chucked the shimmering little sweet things out.

Every great law firm in New York moves without a sputter of protest into a glass-box office building with concrete slab floors and seven-foot-ten-inch-high concrete slab ceilings and plasterboard walls and pygmy corridors. . .Without a peep they move in!—even though the glass box appalls them all. . .

I find the relation of the architect to the client in America today wonderfully eccentric, bordering on the perverse. . .after 1945 our plutocrats, bureaucrats, board chairmen, CEO's, commissioners, and college presidents undergo an inexplicable change. They become diffident and reticent. All at once they are willing to accept that glass of ice water in the face, that bracing slap across the mouth, that reprimand for the fat on one's bourgeois soul, known as modern architecture.

And why? They can't tell you. They look up at the barefaced buildings they have bought, those great hulking structures they hate so thoroughly, and they can't figure it out themselves. It makes their heads hurt.

Comments (75) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. CR on November 19, 2010 9:08 AM writes...

Are those oval rooms with curtains safety showers? Or places for conjugal visits?

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2. K on November 19, 2010 9:12 AM writes...

"Removing the walls in a building can bring about big changes"

I agree. The roof collapses

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3. Ed on November 19, 2010 9:19 AM writes...

I I was to have a nightmare about a lab that looks a lot like how I imagine it would be - a sterile soulless dystopian panopticon.

Where's the colour and joy and quirkiness? Epic fail.

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4. milkshake on November 19, 2010 9:23 AM writes...

one problem with giant open-space labs is that it takes one messy person splashing around with thiophenol or methyl acrylate or running a sonicator bath all the time, to spoil the day for everyone else.

Giant warehouse-like open space office area: This used to be normal in US in 50s, before the cubicle era. Only the boss had a door. How can one read and think in peace in such a hive I don't know.

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5. Aditya K on November 19, 2010 9:25 AM writes...

Isn't all this stuff going to cost a lot more?? all the electronics will require more power. Just a plain old fashioned lab should work fine.. it will help a long way in saving costs...
And if this turns out to be too costly they can always outsource..

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6. anchor on November 19, 2010 9:31 AM writes...

Milkshake-right on the spot! I am more worried about the biological contaminants. I mean you have to quarantine the whole lab, if some spill were to take place.

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7. Mike on November 19, 2010 9:38 AM writes...

One minor nit-- I've used the Teleris teleconferencing on a transatlantic link and found it to be remarkably good. I was stunned how much it felt like you were really in the same room as the others in the meeting.

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8. Chemjobber on November 19, 2010 9:38 AM writes...

Does that first quote make anyone else reach for their pistol?

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9. Greg Hlatky on November 19, 2010 10:00 AM writes...

From the industry trends, it sounds like the US/European lab of the future will consist of a telephone to call Chindia.

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10. quintus on November 19, 2010 10:31 AM writes...

@Chemjobber, I've got mine ready and aimed.
This is all bullshit, company propaganda that in the long term won't work. Everyone observing and commenting on each other, smacks to me of STASI times in East germany.

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11. student on November 19, 2010 10:47 AM writes...

No one's commented on the fact that the space is unbelievably ugly. Ten bucks the robot breaks down and people just try to make do with what chemicals they have on hand. Some a-wipe (there's always one) will constantly creating a big noise and spilling smelly thiols everywhere, disrupting everyone. This whole project screams of a disaster. Could not be worse.

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12. Pizza Novartis on November 19, 2010 10:52 AM writes...

Oh..those sweet four walls blocking Sam´s peeps into me...and no wonder your kidneys function too fast in this environment. I see where science if finally going to.

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13. anana-mouse on November 19, 2010 10:53 AM writes...

Sounds like George Orwell's view of architectural design. Ah, the Swiss.... should stick with chocolates and watches.

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14. Nick K on November 19, 2010 11:06 AM writes...

@K, second comment: Wonderful! Made my day!

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15. quintus on November 19, 2010 11:12 AM writes...

@anana-mouse, they are not "Swiss", Novartis is a company with "American ideals and morals" (no insult to Americans intended, but I believe you know what I mean)
Just look at the Pharma bosses they have had, that says it all. And as for the Novartis Campus, what a cock-up.

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16. stumped on November 19, 2010 11:27 AM writes...

#13, how about Swiss army Knife too !

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17. Curt F. on November 19, 2010 11:44 AM writes...

Cheap skepticism at its finest.

What exactly are the design improvements that Derek and the bulk of commentariat here would like to see in labs? I'm pouring a fresh pot of coffee into my I would be surprised
if all concepts materialize exactly as anticipated
mug right now; I'll be here all day. So please do drop by and let me know the "right" way to design pharamceutical research labs.

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18. Anonymous on November 19, 2010 11:47 AM writes...

My current lab isn't quite as open as Novartis', but it is one big open lab and I must say I like it quite a bit. For some reason I just tried to stay in my own space in grad school (could be because my PI didn't like a lot of the other PIs and took offense to us talking to/going to their labs for any reason, even if it was just to borrow a chemical). Now I find I'm more open/willing to talk to people (and yes, even borrow chemicals) and it's great.

My only complaint is the loud female grad student in the lab next to mine who doesn't mind having personal cell phone conversations (overheard "Was it urine?" in the course of this morning's conversation). Then again, plenty of people in my grad student lab were annoying and I was trapped with them too, so I guess that isn't a huge change.

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19. Al on November 19, 2010 11:59 AM writes...

#17 Dear Curt F.

Okay for starters how about you recognise that scientists generally have a personality type that favours a small number of close colleagues/friends, and design an office space and working environment that doesn't broadcast everything we say across the entire planet/unit/company? I mean thats not too hard to understand is it? How about designing offices that foster close collaboration with close colleagues (say unit of 6 persons perhaps). Maybe put the other folks that I have to work with either side of me in offices of 6 persons too. Or maybe down the hall a bit, or even downstairs. That way I am close to those that I need to be close to. You could even put the labs across the corridor.

And quit with the goldfish bowls.

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20. Hap on November 19, 2010 12:01 PM writes...

I love observing my workmates. It's so much better than actual work.

Um, wait a second. You mean that's not what you're paying me for? Sorry.

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21. Jake Ryan on November 19, 2010 12:11 PM writes...

J&J has these same virtual reality rooms. I was skeptical but completely blown away that we had a seemless teleconference between Asia, and both US coasts. You really feel like they are sitting across from you.

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22. Jose on November 19, 2010 12:14 PM writes...

Re: "I love observing my workmates. It's so much better than actual work."

No, but Big Brother can now, oh so easily, watch you...

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23. Hap on November 19, 2010 12:14 PM writes...

1) I think the general problem with design like this is that it assumes that you can force people to be not what they are, whereas the beneficial aspects of capitalism and other effective systems use what people are for everyone's benefit (sometimes).

Making small group-centric design is nice, but difficult to reconfigure when circumstances change (when we reorganize, which is often), and making small labs also lacks flexibility and doesn't use your people the way you want (collaboratively) - hence you get big pretty labs.

2) Architects seem to be good at making things that look neat and make management happy but don't actually work for what they're supposed to do. It's happened so often that it seems lots of skepticism is warranted, particularly if the people paying the bills don't care if the design does what it's supposed to or not. If people were held responsible when the design makes people ineffective or miserable, well, they might actually make the architects care, but they aren't and so...

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24. CR on November 19, 2010 12:15 PM writes...

How about instead of trying to make some innovative lab space, managers just get out of the way and let scientists do, I don't know, science?

The new lab space will not produce any new drugs if the upper management is still the same. The labs don't stifle innovation - management decisions do.

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25. Hap on November 19, 2010 12:19 PM writes...

Big Brother's going to be very busy, then. Maybe he can make some drug candidates.

It's a win-win!

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26. anana-mouse on November 19, 2010 12:24 PM writes...

Uh.., #10,... Who said that the robot picking up and delivering samples was mechanical..... With the Swiss, they are all robots.

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27. MedChem on November 19, 2010 12:36 PM writes...

#17 Curt F

"I'll be here all day. So please do drop by and let me know the "right" way to design pharamceutical research labs."

What does lab design got to do with the researchers' ability to innovate in the first place? You and the Novartis' management are barking up the wrong tree. It's not the shape of the physical office that affects the innovation culture, it's the management! In bigpharma where politics (or "personal influence" in one of the two interviewees' word) rules, there's no place for innovative little people to thrive. innovation

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28. AlchemistOrganique on November 19, 2010 12:44 PM writes...


@Chemjobber: Agreed, first quote sounds like some MBA/HR/Six-Sigma malarkey attempting to justify wastesful expenditure.

"It is important that the people in the LOTF develop some kind of ownership regarding their role in the building."

Um, how can you have ownership when there's no privacy?

"The LOTF is basically an open space where you can observe your peers across the hierarchies."

Even the Chinese abandoned the commune setup!

LOTF = "Land of the Forsaken" (for all you WOW buffs out there)

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29. anonalso on November 19, 2010 12:58 PM writes...

Maybe they are moving ID out of Cambridge and cutting positions there so they can start building the LOTF in the newly vacated space.

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30. Kevin on November 19, 2010 1:15 PM writes...

"There will be video cameras installed on each laptop, allowing easy and informal contacts"

The cameras will never be turned off, every move of the employee monitored for optimum efficiency.

Any failure to maintain optimal work habits will result in instant termination.

This is what happens when you have a glut of potential employees and no union.

-How's that free market treating you guys?

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31. Hap on November 19, 2010 1:27 PM writes...

Yeah, but it's not Detroit, or Flint. I don't think the union really improved those environments.

Ask the UAW new hires what the union did for (to, more accurately) them.

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32. Ken Bob on November 19, 2010 1:29 PM writes...

I was told by some former colleagues at a large pharma that I have left that they went to a "virtual office" approach. Employees in this working group were provided a laptop and access to a large room with many desks, which were first come-first served. These two particular colleagues routinely came to work early and camped out at the desks that gave them the most privacy and least disruption so that they could get their work done. After doing this for a couple months, the management nazis gave them a verbal dressing down for always taking the same place every day since the intent of the layout was to have everyone interact, and they weren't "participating".

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33. Chemjobber on November 19, 2010 1:40 PM writes...

This is my plain English translation of Herr Bouwmeester:

It depends on how long you measure. I think it’ll take 1 or 2 months to get things settled, and then we’ll see. If they like it, that’s great.

The LOTF is different, in that we want people to participate in deciding how things get settled in the building. That’s going to be harder than normal.

It’s an open space, where you can see everyone in the organization. It’s certainly different than the ‘closed-door, boss-in-the-corner-office’ sort of building. We hope that people will interact more and better. No plan survives contact with reality; the scientists themselves will ultimately decide how things work.

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34. tedthechemist on November 19, 2010 2:07 PM writes...

It's very much like the Pharmaceutical Development dump AZ have built in Macclesfield for the poor sods left who have not been paid off.
Those Swiss guys look a bit creepy -would not let them mind my kids!

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35. milkshake on November 19, 2010 2:37 PM writes...

@34: forget about your kids - you don't want these creepos molesting your projects!

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36. Anonymous on November 19, 2010 2:40 PM writes...

I really want those freezers and rough pumps behind some doors. Who wants to listen to equipment running?

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37. CMCguy on November 19, 2010 3:11 PM writes...

The "increased interaction of people" is a smokescreen as is really more about lowering building costs (assume so could spend on electronic "toys") as having walls are much expensive because of more complex configuration of utilities, particularly for labs. It also levels "those with offices vs lower ranks" to promote idea of flat organizational structure (usual also a smokescreen).

Such environments may work for certain departments but as have been pointed out with a bit stereotypical most science types are more comfortable in small group/room setting (with exception for occasional chatty ones that like to walk around and gossip all day that would really go over the top in one room). Having working in such a labs besides the issues of accidents and smells impacting everyone which created antagonism between different chemistry and/or biology functions the sheer noise level was greatly magnified with all the vac pumps, rot vap, stirrers, centrifuges, shakers and other equipment located in one space to sound and echo together.

#17 Divide labs for 6-10 workers with attached separate offices but then provide open space break rooms and have accessible whiteboards and/or meeting rooms (even setting aside some that can not be fully booked) so can deal with spontaneous interactions.

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38. @13. anana-mouse on November 19, 2010 4:02 PM writes...

Indeed, the design reminds me of the Recdep/Minirec from Airstrip 1 of Oceania. At the risk of dating myself, are those ogazmatrons (Woody Allen's "Sleeper") in the middle of the office space?

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39. DerekF on November 19, 2010 4:07 PM writes...

A cynical, but I think realistic, translation of Dr. Bouwmeester: "We hope the rats like their new maze." There seems to have been no thought given to the importance of peace and quiet on the ability to think creatively, or even enjoy the workday a little.

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40. Once a CMC Guy on November 19, 2010 5:28 PM writes...

One final ditto regarding the "telepresence" videoconferencing -- it really works.

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41. LabRat on November 19, 2010 6:39 PM writes...

Although blasting gangsta rap, death metal, or Phish probably wouldn't be a problem in the LOTH, god help those who have to endure loud talkers and nosy coworkers.

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42. Anonymous on November 19, 2010 6:43 PM writes...

It'll be tough to rub one out in the middle of the day.

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43. Joker on November 19, 2010 6:47 PM writes...

Same LOTF sh&t has spread to other pharma companies for a while. I am surprised Novartis is taking it seriously. CEOs should fire those idiots who bring in those stupid ideas (LOTF, open space, end year review etc.) immediately to improve productivity 100% right away.

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44. Anonymous BMS Researcher on November 19, 2010 9:40 PM writes...

While my work keeps changing as projects come and go, my office doesn't change: I've been in it for over 10 years. It's arranged how I personally work best: piles of paper that look cluttered but there actually is an underlying order. And I am its only inhabitant, so I can actually hear myself think.

My wife works in an open-plan office about three days in the average week, and telecommutes the other two days; she gets a lot more work done on telecommute days because there are fewer interruptions at home (aside from a cat who loves to add her own random keystrokes).

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45. @44 on November 19, 2010 9:59 PM writes...

Congrats for lasting over 10 years in Big Pharma, especially during these troubled times.

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46. Curt F. on November 20, 2010 1:44 AM writes...

#19 Al, #24 CR, #27 MedChem.

Thanks to each of you for the replies.

It is interesting to me that Al in comment #19 had quite a different view from CR in #24 and MedChem in #27. Those latter two comments seemed to say that lab design wasn't important, and that management's focus on physical lab design was misplaced.

In contrast, comment #19 seemed to say that open lab designs were bad, and that more compartmented designs would better suit scientists' personalities. My inference is that at least for some people, lab design is an important issue, and it is just the architectural particulars that merit cristicism. For others, any discussion of particulars at all seems misplaced, other topics are more important.

One one hand, it illustrates the difficulties management is facing. Even if they avoid wasting time on jingoistic bureaucratic feel-good initiatives, they still have to contend with the fact that the scientists they manage have diverse viewpoints. All scientists cannot be pleased all the time, it seems.

On the other hand, despite disagreement as to the reasons why, everyone here seems to agree that the management is still wrong.

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47. Anonymous BMS Researcher on November 20, 2010 8:17 AM writes...

@45: Well, it's partly luck of course, and I have watched many colleagues get laid off over the years. But flexibility has also been very important: I may be in the same office as I was in 1999, but I am not doing the same things as I was at that time.

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48. Tx Raven on November 20, 2010 8:57 AM writes...

Perhaps the scientists should be given a chance to design the managers' offices?

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49. Pig Farmer on November 20, 2010 11:10 AM writes...

When someone uses a term like "haptic interface" my baloney detector goes off the scale.
Is it just me, or do those two clowns look a bit like Gilbert and George?
I remember open plan schools from the 60s. They were a disaster. This is a crap idea, and it isn't even new.

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50. quintus on November 20, 2010 12:52 PM writes...

@ Pig Farmer,
Agree totally, they are more like Bevis and Butthead.
Of course it is a crappy idea, but the Novartis managers love it because they are assholes.
I pity my poor friends that must work in this environment.

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51. Max Johnson on November 20, 2010 12:59 PM writes...

Speaking as an engineer that earned his degree working in the same labs as the archetecture students, I can provide an inside view: Archetects are art students that can do a little math.

And as per most artists, the amount of self importance and idealism they harbor is stunning: Ask an engineer to design a lab, and a good one will go undercover as a chemist and study what the hell actually goes on under the hood so to speak.

But none of this Top down, you'll do as you're told business. Perhaps archetects enjoy Martinis and lines of coke in a new age fishbowl. It's probably a great setting for drawing pretty little pictures, but those that wrestle with the raw stuff of the universe could use something a bit more shrapnel proof.

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52. in a better mood than you on November 20, 2010 1:54 PM writes...

I think it seems kind of cool. My current work environment is open plan, and I love it. Very easy to talk to everyone and make progress more quickly.

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53. befuddled on November 20, 2010 7:22 PM writes...

A couple of thoughts:

1. Open-plan labs are fairly common in biology. Many people like them. Personally, I think they're a good idea when not applied to *all* the lab space. And it's always a good idea to have a more quiet and private office space available for reading and writing.

2. Any plan which sacrifices local storage with some kind of automated requisition system seems silly. I find that few things impede my work more than poor logistics.

3. @Curt F: Yes, the physical environment matters. But I (and apparently, others) think that during a period of declining budgets and rampant outsourcing, building the Lab of The Future in pharma looks like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. There are other things which could be done which would yield much greater dividends, but they wouldn't be as buzzword-intensive, and wouldn't offer the false promise of dramatic results.

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54. Adrian McCluskey on November 21, 2010 12:27 AM writes...

It definitely wouldn't be my work space of choice but once the lab rats have had a chance to get used to the new surroundings, they might actually learn to like it - doubt it but, you never know.

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55. HK on November 21, 2010 11:57 AM writes...

I'm still a grad student, and all that entails, but when comparing the lab design from my alma mater to the lab design here at my current institution, the open(ish) concept makes me enjoy working here a lot more. I can see all my labmates at any given moment, I can ask questions, look for chemicals, etc etc. Chalkboards and whiteboards galore for discussions, and you're only remotely private when you're at your desk. I like that design, and these Novartis labs sound enticing in that sense.

Then again, someone made the comment "scientists tend to have the personality that prefers a small group of close colleagues," and that certainly doesn't apply to me. I actually really like people, as opposed to other scientists, I guess? I thoroughly disagree with this statement - I like to believe that most scientists aren't self-absorbed misanthropes (I'm obviously exaggerating, but it's a stigma I'd like dispelled).

If people are clumsy and make things smelly, they will get axed (figuratively/literally). Open concepts make culpability easier to assign.

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56. cynical on November 21, 2010 2:11 PM writes...

@42: Creepy...does it always smell like pyrrolidine in your office?

Why the hell is Novartis trying to turn research labs into telemarketing farms? Will the LOTF also have Ally McBeal-esque unisex bathrooms? Why not remove all barriers to innovation and have bathrooms without stalls so that group leaders and associates can have meaningful SAR discussions while taking dumps in the open?

I don't believe that scientists are by default misanthropic/antisocial. However, the completely open floorplan deprives workers of essential privacy. How many researchers do you know are paper packracks yet are productive and innovative? Their stacks of books and printouts would be considered eyesores in public and consequently incur criticism from management. Forcing everyone to work in the super-politically correct environment of the open lab may in fact deter creativity. And don't anybody give me that nonsense of electronic archiving/literature. According to some advocates, we were supposed to become a paperless, bidet-using society by 2010.

@55 HK: So Mr/Ms/Mrs Perfect, you've NEVER spilled anything smelly or had a clumsy moment in lab? Awesome, you can just quit grad school and spam companies your résumé. Who cares if you don't have an MS or'll NEVER make any mistakes in lab.

"Open concepts make culpability easier to assign." = It's easier to tattle in an open space. Big Brother is always watching.

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57. HK on November 21, 2010 2:32 PM writes...

My bad, I forgot the word "consistently." Yes, I've made mistakes, but I think the context was someone that makes mistakes consistently and makes life difficult for others on a daily basis. Apologies for not being specific.

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58. anon on November 21, 2010 6:18 PM writes...

"If people are clumsy and make things smelly, they will get axed (figuratively/literally)."

Are you a chemist? Seriously!

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59. cynical1 (not #56) on November 21, 2010 8:21 PM writes...

I like this acronym better: Research of the Future Labs..............ROTFL

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60. BlueBaron on November 22, 2010 1:32 AM writes...

In lab design, the devil is in the details. I work in an open academic lab, and it's nice to have space and see people, but there are many essentials that go with a good lab.

1) Storage space. Walls tend to have cabinets where you can store things. Storage is great so you can keep equipment on hand and you can quickly determine if you have it.

2) Resources. If you have an idea, you want to be able to try it immediately. So a good infrastructure is essential and good delivery system.

3) Toilets. Make sure they are cleaned all the time and have big seats. Make the place feel better than home. The break room should also be configured well so you can choose to work around people if you want. And then it's not a break room (which implies slacking) but an "interaction room."

4) Social events get people to talk more than fishbowls. Beer is one of the first chemical products, and still one of the best 'catalysts' for discussing new research. Coffee and tea works too if you aren't ethanolically inclined. My girlfriend worked at a place in Australia that had a well attended tea-break every day.

None of these require glass (except beer glasses), robots, concrete, or exposed steel.

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61. Principal Scientist on November 22, 2010 6:53 AM writes...

Yet another live example of bloody highly paid dumb-head managers (and their yes-men) having absolutely nothing else to do.

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62. Professional on November 22, 2010 6:55 AM writes...

Derek wrote
"The interview with the two biologists helping to head the project is. . .well, it's very Swiss, that's the best description."

Heh - one guy is Dutch the other is German...!

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63. Nick K on November 22, 2010 9:48 AM writes...

I find it strange that empty suits like these guys who populate upper management in Pharma think they can generate creativity and interaction by decree.

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64. RB Woodweird on November 22, 2010 9:51 AM writes...

You want scientists to interact? Just put free donuts in the common area in the morning and free pizza in the afternoon.

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65. alig on November 22, 2010 9:52 AM writes...

I'm fine with an open lab design, but give me a semi-private office so I can think and concentrate. The labs I have worked in seemed to always have two inter-related issues: noise & temperature control. Most of those issues were from the air-handling devices (sometimes the vacuum pumps caused the noise). It seems to me that the open design would make those issues worse, but maybe they installed noise-dampening tiles everywhere and they just failed to mention it.

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66. Cellbio on November 22, 2010 12:01 PM writes...

Only a couple of points to add.

Have met Bouwmeester. He is a scientist and good guy, probably caught in the middle and trying to make the best of it.

CMCguy nailed it re true driver being cost. Everything else is a smokescreen. I've been part of a team "designing" new labs. When every user desire is fully explored, reduce noise, meet my bench needs, quiet place to analyze data etc. the only reply that comes back is those changes compromise the flexible work space that allows for future low cost reconfiguration of the space, either for internal use, or for a different tenant if the site is closed.

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67. Cellbio2 on November 22, 2010 3:33 PM writes...

Have met Bouwmeester, too.
Used to be an academic working on frogs. Then started a biotech company, right away started to wear suits, and speaking in a form of manager newspeak. It fits.

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68. Anonymous on November 22, 2010 9:23 PM writes...

lol #64

I always say you can take the chemist out of grad school, but never the grad school out of the chemist.

I think everyone should have a little quiet corner to themselves, most scientists need to talk to one or two people simultaneously outside a meeting.

How is teamwork rewarded? That is one question that I never get a straight answer to.

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69. CEO's Arse on November 23, 2010 7:19 AM writes...

I think what they need to put in these ultra-cool labs of the future is a zero gravity airspace.

Okay stop laughing, as I am as serious as a middle manager with a vision.

Imagine how cool it will be to float gently and touch upon other colleagues and everything will just merge and mix and fly....that will UNLEASH true innovation and creativity....

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70. Also@42 on November 23, 2010 8:42 AM writes...

What do you think those "inspiration booths" are for?

Too bad his name is Bouwmeester and not Brewmeister!

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71. Director of Clulessness on November 24, 2010 6:55 AM writes...

I would like to know where the managers will sit. Will they be visible also or they will hide in their private holes?

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72. Annette Bak on November 25, 2010 7:35 AM writes...

Poor aqueous solubility of drugs is mainly caused by high lipophilicity and/or high crystallinity. Lipophilicity is an intrinsic molecule property which has to be designed through structure alternation or pro-drug approach. However, the poor solubility due to high crystallinity could be improved through changing the crystal packing by form selection. Screening and selection of a more soluble polymorph, salt form, or co-crystal with acceptable physical and chemical stability is part of the systematic approach towards enhancing solubility.

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73. Chinabonding on November 29, 2010 12:15 AM writes...

I've had a meeting in those curtained rooms.

It's very very difficult to focus on the meeting when it's so much more interesting to watch people outside the bubble.

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74. Xiaojun Gong on December 7, 2010 8:26 PM writes...

LOTF is a good idea, but it will meet some probles at phase of project installation. for example HVAC part.

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75. Anonymous on August 6, 2013 5:02 PM writes...

When every user desire is fully explored, reduce noise, meet my bench needs, quiet place to analyze data etc. the only reply that comes back is those changes compromise the flexible work space that allows for future low cost reconfiguration of the space, either for internal use, or for a different tenant if the site is closed.

Perhaps if management is conceding failure already, they either should 1) be replaced for people who haven't given up already or 2) not be spending money developing expensive lab space when what they ought to be doing is liquidating so that someone who either is competent can actually use the money to do something useful. Instead, they'll putter about, spending someone else's money for themselves and their friends, and in the end fire everyone because obviously noone else is competent.

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