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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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« New Cures! Faster! Faster! | Main | The Key Player in the Sanofi-Genzyme Deal Speaks Out »

February 15, 2011

Noted, Through Massive Self-Restraint, With Almost No Comment Whatsoever

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Posted by Derek

Update: call off the dogs! I've heard from a colleague of Dr. Pepys, who strongly believes that this was a tongue-in-cheek remark. He assures me that Pepys has been around the clinical development block a number of times in the field of amyloidosis, which is a hard enough area to give anyone a good idea of what discovering a useful therapy is really like.

This would not be unheard of - both for a newspaper story to quote a flippant remark out of context, and for the tone of such a remark to be completely lost once it appeared on paper. After looking the situation over, I think that's just what's happened here. It's a sad thing, though, that a remark like this is close enough to some real opinions that it could be taken as read. . .

From the Financial Times:

GlaxoSmithKline aims to sign up 10 academic “superstars” this year for long-term partnerships to help develop medicines more effectively and cheaply. . .

The move comes as the UK pharma group cuts back on costly but unproductive early-stage in-house research and attempts to shift from investment in fixed assets towards more flexible partnerships with external developers.

GSK has recently finalised its first such contract with Professor Mark Pepys, head of medicine at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London, designed to develop a treatment for a rare form of amyloidosis. (Glaxo senior VP Patrick) Vallance said he planned to sign 10 such deals this year. . .

“It’s a wonderful idea,” said Prof Pepys. “We all agree that big pharma is useless at discovering new drugs and has to get its ideas from somewhere else."

Were I working for GSK, I would be very, very excited. Finally, a clear statement of what the company thinks of its own employees. The Sirtris deal (and others) have hinted at the contempt under the surface, but it's good to get it out into the open. Isn't it?

Comments (118) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Press Coverage


1. wwjd on February 15, 2011 8:40 AM writes...

It's funny, what Pepys feels about big pharma is what GSK employees feel about Moncef & Patrick

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2. milkshake on February 15, 2011 8:47 AM writes...

"O wrangling schools that search what fire shall burn this world, had none the wit..."

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3. DrSnowboard on February 15, 2011 8:48 AM writes...

I love Prof. Pepys' smugness, especially considering the prototype molecule mentioned in the patents is licensed from Roche, from a Roche screening campaign...? Surely they didn't just sell one old drug onto someone else, with a bit of know-how added?

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4. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 8:59 AM writes...

Academics and Industry are just two of the same.

Industry loves to farm out work to underpaid and overworked grad students, in return the academic institutions get funding.

:Pats on the back all round:

Sometimes I seriously can not believe how mismanaged Pharma has become. I don't know whats worse, manage all MBA's or puppet scientists.

All these "silver bullet" desperate moves by GSK gives me the mental image of a very fat man drowning.

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5. Mark on February 15, 2011 9:01 AM writes...

Not to be cynical, but does anyone else think these academic collaborations are unlikely to pan out? From the time I spent at Pfizer, I realized there was no lack of scientific talent. Some of the most productive, creative scientists I've ever met worked in industry.

So if it's not a lack of talent, what is it? I would argue it's the corporate environment and culture at these big pharmas.

So if you take a top academic scientist and put him in this environment, what are you going to get in the end?


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6. Agilist on February 15, 2011 9:02 AM writes...

No need for cynicism or sarcasm here, Patrick & Moncef have made no secret of their collective desire to tap into the best talent when needed. Within GSK this is regarded in a very positive light and most definitely not regarded as a slight on the very excellent scientists within the company. Moncef gave a very robust defense of this strategy at a recent all-hands meeting where he won over an initially skeptical audience in some style. He fielded a lot of initially quite hostile questioning with brio and panache, so much so that by the end he received a rapturous ovation at the end. Most now realize that the industry is undergoing a period of unprecedented change and the status quo is not an option. This message has permeated all levels at GSK and I believe most of the hostile commentary in the blogosphere emanates from disgruntled former employees. It may come as a disappointment to these individuals, but a recent survey has shown that morale within has not been so high since 2002!

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7. Analytical Scientist on February 15, 2011 9:02 AM writes...

It's a constant theme in our business--if there's a problem that requires significant action, but you don't know what to do:

1) demonize the status quo
2) reorganize or otherwise significantly turn the business on its head
3) wait two years and then rinse and repeat (without any personal responsibility or acknowledgment of irony).

VPs get paid a lot of money to churn through this viscous cycle over and over.

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8. Ed on February 15, 2011 9:05 AM writes...

Is the same joyous, enlightened spirit of academic cooperation that sees GSK "employ" undergraduate chemistry students at the University of Nottingham to do bench work for them?

They sure are racing to the top!

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9. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 9:10 AM writes...

#6 Thanks Moncef for your thoughts.

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10. Analytical Scientist on February 15, 2011 9:15 AM writes...

I guess that exploiting grad student labor is still better than shipping discovery over seas. Anyway, all drugs are developed in academia and NIH, right?

Whether it works or not, though, Prof. Pepys is going to make a lot of money...

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11. AnonInCanada on February 15, 2011 9:22 AM writes...

Awesome! Big Academia and Pharma partnered in job creation!... for those of us willing to work 12 hour days 6 days a week for less than $30k per year and a degree of increasingly dubious value.

Some big-name professors will enlarge their salaries, reputations, and egos. Some MBA's and CEO's will (temporarily) continue to rake in the cash. And I'm sure Madeleine Jacobs and her cohort at the ACS will be telling us how wonderful all of this is for chemistry.

Ever feel like Boxer? the horse from Animal Farm?

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12. Ed on February 15, 2011 9:23 AM writes...

That horse had it lucky!

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13. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 9:28 AM writes...

Thanks for the Tuesday giggle #6! Anyone who uses the phrase "brio and panache" can work nowhere other than 1) GSK's HR department or 2) Moncef's office

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14. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 9:34 AM writes...


It's one thing to bring in outside help to energize drug discovery efforts, it's quite another to call your in-house researchers "worthless".

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15. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 9:51 AM writes...

Any GSK insiders want to confirm/deny the "rapturous ovation" that Moncef, I mean Agilist, is talking about?

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16. ppp on February 15, 2011 9:53 AM writes...

I'd like to know Pepys' track record in drug discovery, I mean marketed drugs.

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17. Will on February 15, 2011 9:55 AM writes...

"...he won over an initially skeptical audience in some style. He fielded a lot of initially quite hostile questioning with brio and panache, so much so that by the end he received a rapturous ovation at the end."

Not unlike the climax of Rocky IV in which Stallone defeats the Soviet Union with his inspirational "if I can change, you can change" speech

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18. anthony nicholls on February 15, 2011 10:02 AM writes...

I do wonder what "Agilist" is smoking. Having observed GSK and other pharma for almost two decades I can't think of a time when morale has been lower. This new insanity is, admittedly, one of the more stupid things GSK, or any other pharma, has done for a while, but to actually think this is a positive development requires a reality distortion of immense proportions. As such, I can only assume Agilist is in management at GSK.

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19. Will on February 15, 2011 10:02 AM writes...

For those that have Youtube and sparse knowledge of 80's movies

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20. watcher on February 15, 2011 10:11 AM writes...

Conceived by a former academic (PV) who is pretty clueless himself about how drugs come about.

SB/GW/GSK has tried this type of academic collaboration before, never to see any drugs emerge but always able to provide nice funding to well known academic labs who already have good funding. The academics have little incentive to deliver requirements of drug-discovering, drug-development. How does this work? Where do the actual patentable compounds come from in these collaborations, which are largely in biology based labs? Guess it provide more job security for people in areas to interface / and assigned to (nominally) manage the academic collaborations.....if they can be managed.

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21. rogi on February 15, 2011 10:11 AM writes...

A classic case od dis-pepsy-sia, that no amount of peptobismol will cure. Like a bad meal, repeating on you. We in pharma, need to get use to haggis like quality of Glaxo and other big pharma's

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22. MTK on February 15, 2011 10:19 AM writes...

OK, I didn't read the full article (didn't want to register), but with that caveat let me be a bit of the contrarian.

First, it was Pepys that made the most disparaging, and asinine, remark above, not GSK management. That statement is going to come back with a vengeance.

Second, I don't find anything wrong in the least with these types of agreements from an industrial standpoint. 10 in a year is really not large outlay of cash and if viewed as an adjunct to internal efforts I think its OK. If viewed as a replacement then that's different.

Third, the value/cost/effectiveness of such an agreement is really dependent on how its structured. It would be interesting to see the details.

Unfortunately, whatever value it may have just decreased due Pepys' statement. Good luck getting enthusiastic cooperation from GSK scientists.

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23. Hap on February 15, 2011 10:22 AM writes...

Prof. Pepys:

When people talk about drugs, they mean "compounds they can actually take that help palliate or cure illnesses", not "perturbagens" or "ligands". If academics have come up with any of the former (no, actually developed, not sold as a lottery ticket), it would actually be a very big surprise, unless JACS or Angewandte Chemie articles are actually found to cure illness by themselves.

I'm sure your ego will fit in well with GSK management, but your mouth is writing checks that your brains can't cash. At least you can cash the ones GSK gives you. That's something.

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24. Mike W on February 15, 2011 10:22 AM writes...

I thought this was brilliant, until I realized it wasn't April 1.

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25. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 10:23 AM writes...

#Agilist: Spare us the verbiage, it might cut the mustard @gsk but in the wider world people know horse s**t when they smell it! As a recently made "former employee" who is happy to be out, I can say that as of the period up to end of 2010, Slaoui was known as the invisible man in the UK. Word is that he's been sidelined and Vallance is now running the show.

An obvious question for Vallance & Slaoui: Both of those guys have been in place for 5 years now so what have they delivered apart from a shattered R&D organisation? Nada, Zilch, Nought, Rien! A cynic might say that Vallance is "pre-feathering" his nest in preparation for his own exit when he'll return to academia.

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26. JB on February 15, 2011 10:24 AM writes...

What a stupid, ignorant comment by the smug Pepys.

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27. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 10:31 AM writes...


If not a sarcastic joke, judging by the name I would bet he/she is a consultant.

Ask me how I know.

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28. A Nonny Mouse on February 15, 2011 10:45 AM writes...


Click on his name to get details! Underlined means that it is hyperlinked.

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29. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on February 15, 2011 10:48 AM writes...

If you read the entire article, there's another interesting tidbit of information revealed:

"Under the terms of the agreement, Prof Pepys’ company Pentraxin Therapeutics receives a small upfront fee allowing GSK to gain an exclusive licence on the patents he has filed on his experimental drug."

This guy's quotation about big pharma being useless at discovering new drugs is simply asinine. Pharma has its problems and challenges, but where does he think the majority of drugs have come from? Wow, what an ego.

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30. Malkavian on February 15, 2011 10:49 AM writes...

Well this seems to tie in nicely with your post from a few days ago about Outsourcing. Except that instead of paying real companies with experienced scientist doing the work, GSK will now employ students...
Also note the irony, since UK is trying to rise the cost of entry into its Universities: anyone wants to pay a few thousands UKpounds to be working for GSK?
On a totally different subject, I'd really like to hear your 2cents about the recent withdrawing of Sanofi-Aventis' Anzemet (Dolasetron)?

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31. Donough on February 15, 2011 10:51 AM writes...

"We all agree that big pharma is useless at discovering new drugs"

What arrogance.

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32. petros on February 15, 2011 10:53 AM writes...

Pentraxin Therapeutics Ltd, has acquired the full rights to (R)-1-[6-[(R)-2-Carboxy-pyrrolidin-1-yl]-6-oxo-hexanoyl]pyrrolidine-2-carboxylic acid (CPHPC), a small molecule drug which targets serum amyloid P component (SAP) for treatment of systemic amyloidosis and other diseases associated with local amyloid deposits, notably Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes. This approach was devised by Professor Mark Pepys FRS of UCL and he developed CPHPC in collaboration with Roche in Basel, Switzerland.

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33. Innovate on February 15, 2011 10:54 AM writes...

Glad to know it was a lack of ideas at GSK, was the problem with the company with this explaining all the failures. Rather than crap senior management, no interest in research and no funding to do the no research.

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34. RB Woodweird on February 15, 2011 10:57 AM writes...

It would be cheaper and just as effective to spend $20 on a Ouija Board and contact a consultant from beyond the grave. I mean, who would you rather have in your corner? Professor Pepless or the shade of Woodward?

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35. Hap on February 15, 2011 11:02 AM writes...

#22: It doesn't sound like a bad idea in theory (because someone always knows more than you do, or almost always, and the agreements might help GSK to get in on the ground floor of new tech), but the "attempts to shift from investment in fixed assets towards more flexible partnerships with external developers" strongly implies that the hiring of outside professors is a replacement for rather than an addition to internal research.

As an adjunct, the use of professors would be helpful, but as a replacement for internal research, the use of profs seems like a horrible idea (because academics don't generally study what makes drugs, and so their ability to find drugs is likely to be less than that of the employees you're running out the door). The only advantage is the cheapness of the labor, but the more jobs GSK runs out of the country, the harder it will be to get a pipeline of cannon fodder to work for peanuts and make their drugs. In addition, I was not the most clueful undergrad, and I wouldn't have wanted lots of money to be riding on my lab skills. I assume that I can't be the only one.

The question might be who GSK management doesn't have contempt for. Their own employees and investors are a good start, and I can't figure their customers are far behind. Who's left?

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36. dogbertd on February 15, 2011 11:02 AM writes...

Pepys' arrogance is pretty breathtaking and shows the usual academic lack of understanding of the business constraints on science within big pharma, but what is being suggested here is a variant on the "external innovation" concept. The notion being that you're more likely to get a drug by picking ideas from wherever they come - within or without your company. Don't know of an example where this has worked yet.

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37. luysii on February 15, 2011 11:04 AM writes...

Hopefully, this Pepys will keep a diary, during which time there will neither be a great fire in London nor a plague.

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38. Hap on February 15, 2011 11:07 AM writes...

Ideas are good, and no one knows everything, but who at GSK is going to be left to recognize good ideas and incorporate them into drugs? The same people that have helped put GSK where it is (their management) are the only ones in a position to recognize and incorporate academics and other information sources into GSK.

Swapping the backseat passengers doesn't help if the people in the driver's seat don't know how to drive and don't care.

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39. processchemist on February 15, 2011 11:13 AM writes...

Few years ago Moncef declared that the next generation of drugs would be invented in China (talking about the Shangai CEDD). Then the Sirtris deal was charged with the greatest expectations. Now the announcement of this new strategy.
The suspect is that some R&D executive has no idea about how to find a way out of the situation (after the destruction of some of the internal teams that really delivered drugs).

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40. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 11:14 AM writes...

if viewed as an adjunct to internal efforts I think its OK

Why would they need adjuncts? The internal R&D is useless at discovering new drugs. Might as well show them the door while academia ushers in the new golden age.

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41. MoMo on February 15, 2011 11:28 AM writes...

Take any stock you own in GSK and sell if off immediately. If Pepys is the first buy-in they are clearly not thinking straight. Read his publishing history and you will see few compounds to his name and many papers on biological paradigms that have long since dissipated.

Now if he was an academic who made newer and better compounds I would say it was a savvy move, but this should be followed.

This move beats the Sirtris deal and is way cheaper with the added bonus of letting all of us see what money and its pomposity can do to science.

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42. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 11:33 AM writes...

There is just no upside for the chemist anymore.

Big Pharma doesn't want to pay you. Outsourcing and in licensing red wine extracts.

Small start-ups are no better. High risk but no reward. Either they:

a) run out of money

b) sell the company and close the doors.

I'm leaving pharma and will watch it burn from the sidelines.

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43. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 12:14 PM writes...

Re: Startups.

What do entry level organic chemists make at a pharma startup in the Boston area?

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44. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 12:34 PM writes...

Bigshot academics (especially organic synthesis) and big pharma MBA's are almost always arrogant jerks, and they deserve each other!

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45. pete on February 15, 2011 12:41 PM writes...

I'm late to this affair but here goes my poetry for GSK's coming out party:
"If we've CEDD it once, we've CEDD it a hundred times: CEDD professors are going to be the greatest this since sliced CEDD !!"

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46. David on February 15, 2011 12:55 PM writes...

Oh, man, this is the funniest thing I have heard in a long time. Especially the "We all agree that big pharma is useless at discovering new drugs and has to get its ideas from somewhere else."

I'm an academic at the periphery of this area. So, you might expect me to agree with him, I suppose. But no. That's ridiculous. Who in their right mind would hire someone this arrogant? And how can someone this arrogant possibly be at all helpful?

I can't decide whether it is hilarious or sad.

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47. wwjd on February 15, 2011 12:58 PM writes...

#32 Nice structure Pepys has there for a brain targeted compound. Diacids are the key to getting through the blood-brain barrier, yes?

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48. DCRogers on February 15, 2011 1:18 PM writes...

Thanks are due to our business schools, that discovered you can increase "Return on Assets" by divesting yourself of said assets, esp. "costly but unproductive early-stage in-house research".

This is collateral damage caused by finance's exporting of costly executive pay-scales into other fields, causing complete shredding of any long-term investment in search of short-term "ROA".

To quote the commenter "EvilHenryPaulson" from Calculated Risk, "When a business has starved their product, equipment or workers of investment in other sectors, the response has been to import from someone more competent in another country with foresight."

Or just outsource the entire function, the real end-game (if one doesn't count ultimate liquidation). Sad.

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49. Ron on February 15, 2011 1:19 PM writes...

This announcement follows the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) model of using taxpayer dollars (or British pounds in this case) to subsidize corporate research.

Most are not aware that TSRI takes NIH grants then uses them to pay for research with private companies.

So looks like big Pharma will get to privatize all the profits from those new 'collaborations'.
They may even throw the grubby PIs enough money to hire hundreds and hundred of cheap grad students for which there are of course no jobs when they graduate.

I'm very happy about this!

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50. Wagonwheel on February 15, 2011 1:47 PM writes...

Some real lol moments today hey!
I wonder if things are just getting more absurd in pharma. We don't need to discuss the benefit of industry-academia collaborations, that's a given, but the rhetoric from both parties doesn't bode well.

I would agree that the best scientists I've ever seen are within industry. There are people with decades of experience and still doing science. Some of these big named top-profs are just out of touch and just live in a world of conference attendance and travel...Probably they share plenty in common with pharma management.

#47, I guess this di-acid it supposed to reduce serum levels of amyloid and so doesn't need to get in the brain. Seems a bit of a cop-out strategy to me, given the supposed difficulty of getting good brain penetrant bace inhibitors etc, they took a shortcut and hope to hit the peripheral levels. Whether that'll touch brain plaques which have built up over 20-30 years is anyones guess...I'll guess not...let's see if Roche keep progressing this compound

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51. chris on February 15, 2011 1:47 PM writes...

I've known Prof Pepys for a long time and I suspect that sadly a tongue in cheek comment has been taken out of context. Don't let a newspaper "soundbite' cloud some very exciting science.
Prof Pepys is the head of the National Centre for Amyloidosis and has seen many, many, many patients die from these dreadful incurable diseases. This group are very much on the leading edge of amyloidosis research and have pioneered much of the treatments now used throughout the world. Prof Pepys focus has always been on the patients.
The GSK collaboration is to treat systemic amyloidosis and uses a small molecule/antibody combination and is certainly bleeding edge biomedical research, but this is a fatal incurable disease. The published results (doi:10.1038/nature09494) suggest this is certainly worth testing in the clinic, and realistically it is the only chance the existing patients have.

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52. PR on February 15, 2011 2:00 PM writes...

Anyone else find it ironic that GSK is firing people that were trained/got degrees from the same institutions they are now partnering with?

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53. partial agonist on February 15, 2011 2:11 PM writes...

I'd be very wary of how they pick the 10 so-called top academics. They might end up with the 10 best salesmen, the 10 biggest egos, or the 10 most published, but any of that doesn't necessarily help at all. what's the track record of companies founded by acedemic big shots such as Schreiber? Seems like more struggles than obvious successes.

Lots of academics have tremendous respect for the drug discovery process and some (myself included) worked in big & medium pharma for over a decade, which is getting to be somewhat common.

Pepys' commnet puts the whole strategy in an awful light, but it is just another example of a somewhat desperate company trying to validate some future high risk potential targets using relatively cheap manpower. In theory the strategy has value, but the language indicates an already botched execution.

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54. DCRogers on February 15, 2011 2:12 PM writes...

#51: "The GSK collaboration is to treat systemic amyloidosis [...] and realistically it is the only chance the existing patients have."

This approach may or may not turn out to be useful science, but the breathless "only chance" stuff is a straw man, only true if you ignore all the other clinical trials in this area.

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55. Hap on February 15, 2011 2:14 PM writes...

Yeah, but "out of context" is what media do, generally. You probably shouldn't say anything that (in a reasonably) could be taken so badly out of context.

Finding interesting targets is the point of academia. Finding interesting drugs is what drug companies should be doing. If what Prof. Pepys meant was that GSK could help him find drugs for his targets, I'm sorry for my previous slam, but he said it really really badly. Also, if GSK is getting rid of people who find drugs for people who find targets, Prof. Pepys (or anyone else, other than GSK management) isn't going to get what he wants.

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56. Jc dobbs on February 15, 2011 2:17 PM writes...

With enthusiastic collaborators like this is it any wonder why big pharma is pulling out of the UK?

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57. Hap on February 15, 2011 2:31 PM writes...

#48: No, liquidation might actually compensate stockholders and allow them to use their money to start businesses run by competents. It doesn't allow management to bleed the company dry and then abandon the shell for the stockholders. Hence, liquidation is not an appropriate end for unsuccessful companies run by larcenous management.

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58. Wagonwheel on February 15, 2011 2:43 PM writes...

#55 the drugs come straight from HTS, everyone knows that, just look at the long list of PNAS and JPET 'drugs' being published on an annual basis... ;-)

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59. JasonP on February 15, 2011 2:46 PM writes...

Well this is good news for my company. While GSK and Phizer act like fools, we remain comfortably diversified and successful. I predict good times ahead for me.

By the way Derek: WHAT ABOUT NATVIS?!

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60. Hap on February 15, 2011 2:48 PM writes...

Prof. Pepys,

Sorry for comment 23. I thought you were serious.

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61. barry on February 15, 2011 2:53 PM writes...

lost in all this are the grad-students who will do all the work, and they learn that they're not free to talk about any of it when it comes time to look for a job.

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62. Hap on February 15, 2011 3:17 PM writes...

It probably doesn't matter - there won't be any jobs for them to look for anyway.

Once again, the Demotivators slogan (roughly) "It's amazing what you can accomplish with an endless supply of cheap expendable labor" comes back to mind again.

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63. CMCguy on February 15, 2011 3:37 PM writes...

Is what GSK is planning that different than what has been going on for years and years with Pharma/Biotech who have always sought out high powered academics as consultants or to do sponsored research? The thing that may be different is that GSK and many other Pharmas no longer have the internal expertises to judge usefulness or follow-up on interactions as only want to have drugs to sell without any dedication to R&D.

Sounds like PR mumbo-jumbo to claim a specific number of superstars to help development drugs faster and more cheap rather than acknowledge that by collaboration together stands a greater chance of achieving a success. Perhaps that really is what NIH needs to found if they want to impact new drugs- a institute that brings together high level experts of divergent areas to focus on particular problems in a cooperative manner that bridges all the competitive interferences. It would be hard to get past all the huge egos involved however I have frequently observed a correlation between over abundance of pride and the drive to be successful so if such could be harnesses might achieve progress.

Thanks for the revised tongue-in-check context as I was going to group Pepys in the disdainful Angell devotees so took as utter nonsense.

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64. Chuck on February 15, 2011 5:01 PM writes...

What a beautiful scam by International Capital:

1) Get the Stupid Taxpayer and Stupid Grad Student with Loans that can't be forgiven (aka Academia) to fund all the costs/work for nothing for the multinational corps while any nuggets of gold are hustled away to the benefit of senior bond holders.

2) Meanwhile pull the rug from under the same grad students by setting up shop in China.

Some people would call this looting.

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65. Chuck on February 15, 2011 5:27 PM writes...

With jobs going to China, so goes the resources (aka oil). The common man in the US/UK won't care much about curing Alzheimers when his gas tank is empty. Therefore, Academia is doomed to fail.

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66. startup on February 15, 2011 5:30 PM writes...

#61: What job?

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67. Pete on February 15, 2011 7:23 PM writes...

Priceless comments from The Professor. Talk about biting the hand that feeds...

In response to #37 luysii, I think it's more probable that the diary will contain entries on The Great Pfire of Sandwich.

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68. HK on February 15, 2011 7:52 PM writes...

This might be easy to say in retrospect, but no self-respecting chemist would ever say that on record. "Useless" is not a word in our vocabulary regarding our main industrial employer, as unsettling an option as it is these days. Surely, that comment was dripping in sarcasm.

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69. Mark Pepys on February 15, 2011 8:53 PM writes...

I greatly regret that my comment, misquoted and out of context, should have been offensive and provoked such energetic outpouring.

I am well aware of the turmoil in big pharma and the many different views about optimal ways to increase the flow of new drugs. I have no desire to malign anybody in or out of the industry. I have a high regard and respect for most of the individuals with whom I have worked in pharma over the past 30 years, including particularly those in GSK with whom we have outstandingly effective relationships.

Now, as a scientist & physician for whom facts are important, here is some information to counter the abusive blogs which have traduced me and my work. I have either myself invented, by writing down on paper de novo the compound structures, or played a pivotal intellectual and practical role in design and development of each of the 4 families of compounds of which I am the named inventor and which are currently being developed for clinical testing. My invention of these potential drug molecules has been based in all cases on my own original elucidation of aspects of the pathobiology of important diseases, identifying and validating new targets. Most drugs in development fail to make it to market and this may well be the fate of mine but I have been very determined that they should get their chance and have engaged with pharma continuously for 30 years to this end. I warmly appreciate the fact that GSK is giving a couple of them such a chance. If any of them do make it, the many patients who now are dying of hideous incurable diseases will also be grateful.

My contributions to medicine include invention and implementation of new diagnostic modalities, to the considerable benfit of patients, and the creation of the world's leading centre for diagnosis and management of systemic amyloidosis. In the UK NHS National Amyloidosis Centre, almost 3000 patients are seen annually, funded centrally by the Dept of Health. Thanks to the dedicated work of the 50 or so staff the survival of these patients is the best in the world for this disease.

Big pharma is where almost all current drugs were discovered and developed and remains the only entity capable of developing and making them available to patients. New medicines continue to be badly needed, whether they originate in the companies or elsewhere. The concept of synergy between selected individuals in universities, and the essential skills and resources of big pharma is surely worth trying.

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70. cliffintokyo on February 15, 2011 9:22 PM writes...

"Innovate or die"
Are we now in the pharma dying phase?
What a total waste of the plentitude of talent that has been vouched for as existing in pharma R&D, in some of the comments above.
No collaboration with academia is ever likely to succeed because academia has no accountability (For so long now that its taken for granted? As a *natural right* to freedom to *speculate*, without consequences?)
*Academics* might just produce something useful if they had "some skin in the game" (i.e. take some responsibility for the end results)
This is your moment in time/destiny, chem sci profs. Time to grow up?

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71. HK on February 15, 2011 9:35 PM writes...

@Prof. Pepys, can you clarify your statement? Was it a sarcastic comment, or did it come out wrong, or...?

@cliffintokyo: Sometimes absence of accountability allows for greater flexibility. I don't understand what you mean - because academics aren't accountable, they'll, what, squander the money? Work purposely on dead-ends? Develop chemical weapons instead of cures? What do you think they'll do? Am I missing something, or are you being needlessly vindictive against academics?

I thought the idea of collaboration with academia was that with less funds, you could develop something that would be considered higher risk in a high stakes situation but acceptable in an academic setting. It wouldn't be a surefire solution, so you're betting on something more hit-or-miss than would be pursued in industry but, since you don't pour in as many funds, the losses wouldn't be as great if it doesn't work out. Then from that, industry would develop a practical solution to a problem. Academia as development, industry as practice. Am I being naive? I feel as if I'm pretending like I know anything about this topic, when I really don't.

I think the sentiment is correct with respect to GSK - if you just finish with a whole slew of cuts to your established scientists only to hire a series of academics, it really looks like you've lost faith in your own people. But, as people have already pointed out, this kind of collaboration isn't new. And as Prof. Pepys has suggested, sometimes it can be fruitful.

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72. Anonymous on February 15, 2011 10:12 PM writes...

Dear Mark,

Sarcastic or not, you'll find you will regret those comments.

A little advice:

Check your ego at the door and do a reality check.

1) You haven't single handily brought a drug to market have you? After all the hype and noise fades that’s what's really important to patients and investors.

2) Real world rules, no government funding to fall back on, or papers to publish. Compound dies, programs dies, jobs and money are lost.

3) Drug development is a huge team effort, acknowledge that and take some time to learn from those people at the bench. They have good ideas.

4) Also, give credit where credit is due… ahem to the hard working people at Roche, and maybe to the people who kindly synthesized your compounds.

Also try to apologize a bit, I know it is hard to do, but your comment #69 doesn’t really score you any points. We work in this world and understand it, so don’t feed me that BS about single handily inventing this therapy. Also don’t paste snippets of your C.V. in an attempt to legitimize yourself.

And don’t forget those lowly incompetent chemists can read your patents, and go into the lab next morning and mostly likely crack it in within a couple months.

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73. cliffintokyo on February 16, 2011 12:06 AM writes...

@71 HK:

I was being provocative/devil's advocate rather than vindictive, in the same way that you are:
"Work purposely on dead-ends? Develop chemical weapons instead of cures?"

I am a PhD chemist (albeit some years on from working in a lab); give me credit for a modicum of intelligence!

In the real world, people make products to sell for money.....
I am suggesting that some real-world principles should be applied to collaborations with academia.
So I am in tune with #72, who also quite rightly evokes real-world principles (to emphasize some important points), about which most academics (including HK?) seem to be in denial....
I believe that you are a sentient being and understand our arguments, but you might be blinded to or have no awareness of their significance.
e.g. Most Scientists in academia (not to mention the Econ, Hist, Pol Sci, etc. majors) have never ventured into the real world, even as far as the 'Valley of Death', which the US NCATS initiative is intended to address.

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74. Ricardo Rodrigo on February 16, 2011 3:19 AM writes...

The problem I have with this concept is its lack of future projection. So let's imagine:

- First iteration, they get a drug candidate from one of these groups.
- The PhDs/postdocs making all the work will be employed by whom?
- The academic groups offer no future prospect to their students/works. How are they going to attract new and bright students?

The approach is flawed from the start, I would like to see the senior vicepresidents of these big pharmas trying to identify a piece of good science.

I do hope that is Merck's approach the one that wins this battle.

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75. Anonymous on February 16, 2011 3:45 AM writes...

I would like to add that the academic model of research has also many flaws and is unsustainable because it relies too heavily on "seasonal workers" a.k.a as postdocs and PhD students on short term contracts. Research expertise and experience is therefore difficult to keep in a long term basis inside a lab and PIs and professors are often too far and for too long away from the benches. Similarly to industry where short term profits are the driving force, in academia the driving force is the amount of publications per unit of time and most of the time this situation only conduces to carry out “street lamp” research*

*from the joke that a man looks for his keys below the light of the lamp in the street and not at home where he actually lost them

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76. FormerLabRat on February 16, 2011 4:12 AM writes...

I think Professor Pepys has been treated unfairly: A comment taken out of context where the tone is not conveyed should not have been printed. Uncharacteristically bad journalism from the FT and I think they owe the professor an apology. However, since the professor is now collaborating with GSK, he might wish to understand the strength of feelings evinced here and the sensitivities involved. A lot of very good, committed, people in both the US and the UK with years of experience in pharmaceutical R&D have seen their departments trashed, their careers ended, their expertise discounted, and their projects terminated by Vallance and Slaoui. This has occurred on a massive scale, and what what makes it especially galling is that these people have witnessed the same Slaoui and Vallance embark on some new and expensive ventures of very dubious quality. Contrary to what the moronic #6 stated above, the best reception Slaoui and Vallance get these days is either sullen silence or craven sycophancy. Many good people remain at GSK and are trying to do their best in a very inimical environment, they're just hoping they can survive until better times and better management arrive. Meanwhile, for those who want to keep a job, they know they better toe the line and keep their counsel. Finally good luck to professor Pepys, I sincerely hope that you're successful in your endeavours and that patients benefit.

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77. Fact checking on February 16, 2011 4:27 AM writes...

Interesting to update this item by condeming a newspaper for taking a quote out of context. In the original 'self-restrained' comment that follows the FT excerpt, the implication is that GSK made this comment about its employees. In fact, reading the story it is clear that the 'useless' quote came from the academic - tongue in cheek or otherwise. Is fact checking out of fashion these days?

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78. Ricardo Rodrigo on February 16, 2011 5:06 AM writes...

Only the poor souls which have been brain washed, and are so scared for their careers that they do not dare to face reality or challenge their managers can get enthusiastic with one more change in direction.

The "leaders" in charge of these monsters do not care about science, scientists or patients, they care about drugs that make a lot of money. And their lack of a long term strategy proves it (let's see if this working with academics lasts for more than 2 years).

The thing that strikes me as odd, is where do these guys think that all their scientists come from? And what is what makes big pharma scientists unable to generate new ideas (in their opinion)? This shift to academia just does sound as pure desperation.

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79. Anonymous on February 16, 2011 5:17 AM writes...

Can we outsource upper management at big Pharma? Imagine the cost-savings. I would happily take the job at one-third the current VP salary (I'd be getting a raise).

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80. Simon on February 16, 2011 5:23 AM writes...

Fascinating reading this thread as I am one of the post-docs who has worked with Prof Pepys for the last ten years or so.

OK so I'm not paid a lot and have never had a permanent contract, however by sticking with the projects I have had continuous employment and seen projects develop from an idea on paper to something that is discussed in the FT. I'm not a clinician myself, however by working in a hospital we are in close contact with people and their relatives who are dying from these diseases. This is why I work on the project - not for money or profit, but to develop something that might actually help someone. Yes I am idealistic and probably naive, but I can't stand the idea of wearing a suit and viewing profit or money as the main definition of success (and btw I do have a family, a mortgage and no independent wealth).

If it were possible to develop a drug and get it to market without industry input we probably would do it. But this route is not possible. We need industry scientists to take the basic research and turn it into something that works. I don't think any of us would say we are "better" at anything than people in industry. Some of the best scientists I have met work in industry. Instead we have here a situation where some academics have had an idea, and now we need help to take it forward - and thanks to GSK we have found help.

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81. Anonymous on February 16, 2011 5:29 AM writes...

Hey "Fact checking" - I think most of us can 1) read and 2) recognise the quote originated from the academic. However, if you would like to take another look, you'll see the quote attributed to the Prof (out of context it would seem) includes the phrase "We all agree". Now, what does that suggest to you?

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82. DD on February 16, 2011 6:58 AM writes...

Not much new here. If you recall, another large pharma tried something very similar to what GSK is proposing with academic "superstars" back in 2006. This large pharma embarked with upfront payments of 3 to 4 M. Built up new lab spaces and funded a bunch load of FTE's for these academic superstar PIs at an Institute out in CA. The actual cost (internal & external) to the pharma ran up in the multiples of that upfront payment. Even with a very milestone driven agreement any one want to take a guess what the ROI for that large pharma was on this long term aggreement. Unfortunately, in all likelihood it will not be the patient, or the large pharma, but the academic "superstar" that benefits from such agreements. I don't see the remark as being out of context but on contrary quite typical and in line with the behaviors of such academic “superstars”.

There is a reason GSK needs 10 such aggrements. They are banking on one of the 10 panning out. Best of luck to them. If there are no qualified internal GSK R&D scientists/managers with the balls to put the academic “superstars” feet to the fire when needed this is all money down the toilet.

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83. oldtimer on February 16, 2011 7:52 AM writes...

Vallance is an academic who has never discovered or developed a drug. Sounds like jobs for the boys. It is the old story of belittling the intellect, drug seeking culture and experience of the internal scientists and parachuting in academics. Glaxo did it in the 70's/80's, two of the three academics brought in crashed and burned causing considerable collateral damage. There may be some GSK people from the "other side" left that remember the glorious rule of Crooke and Poste. Remember that managing academics outside your organisation is like herding cats.

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84. Ed on February 16, 2011 8:12 AM writes...

Cats can be readily herded using the Smith and Wesson method.

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85. Anonymous on February 16, 2011 8:24 AM writes...

hey 81

Wake up and realize, that this isn't working with academics as the PR dept spins it.

This is just cheaply hiring students for legitimate work, and tapping new ideas. This is not a bad thing to do, pro bono, good training, good PR, access to future talent. To be honest, nothing really comes out of it. I hope it's not GSK's plan to win, otherwise its almost a joke how bad there management within R&D is.

Everyone one industry came from academia, a lot from people at least top 2-5%.

So ultimately it hurts the employed scientists. If you are happy making post-doc salary all your life then fine, but some people would like to make a decent wage, maybe 1/3 of the doctor who prescribes the drugs we develop, or at least as much as the people who sell them.

I've seen a greater concentration of passion within industry then I ever did in academia.

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86. Will on February 16, 2011 8:30 AM writes...

I think FormerLabRat (76) hits the nail on the head; the real issue for the anger here is not that someone made a flippant comment about pharma, but rather the business model that GSK is following - firing individuals who were giving 100% of their intellectual effort towards R&D and replacing them with collaborative academics who (assuming they still have university obligations) can give less than 100% of their attention to the project.

Dr. Pepys made a comment above that is also available on a transcript of a Nature podcast he gave a few years ago regarding "writing down on paper de novo the stuctures of compounds" that are in clinical trials. Is Dr. Pepys suggesting that he pulled a discreet structure of a single api out of his head, and that specific compound made it into clinical trials (and did so for multiple drugs)? If so, wow. Perhaps a part-time Dr. Pepys might be worth it to GSK

Or, did he take a crystal structure and design a genus (eg, lewis base site, linked to second lewis base via linker of 4-9 atoms) etc...and leave the development of the actual structure to more tradition drug development techniques. To me, this is an exercise you can expect a decent grad student to execute.

Perhaps the process is somewhere in the middle. I can't imagine Dr. Pepys would deign to elaborate on an "abusive blog", but I perhaps someone else can comment

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87. Anonymous on February 16, 2011 9:12 AM writes...

Will or should I say Mark or one of his students.

Yes but it will take them 4 years to complete in a under equipped lab and 80% of the compounds will be garbage or unrealistic.

Don't forget we used to be grad students too.

We've done this before, and to be honest, it's never worked.

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88. Anonymous on February 16, 2011 9:14 AM writes...

This is a development project, most of the research has been done. GSK are buying compound, diagnostics, biomarker expertise, clinical knowledge and perhaps most importantly a well characterised patient population. No matter how the GSK PR machine tries to spin it this is no different to licensing from another company.
This is not a new research paradigm, they are using an ongoing collaboration to try and sell a new initiative to investors.

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89. MIMD on February 16, 2011 10:11 AM writes...


Putting stupid people in charge and expecting good results is itself stupid.

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90. MIMD on February 16, 2011 10:19 AM writes...

#78 Ricardo Rodrigo wrote:

Only the poor souls which have been brain washed, and are so scared for their careers that they do not dare to face reality or challenge their managers can get enthusiastic with one more change in direction.

See this post where I wrote:

... Further, employees who read [pharma] rhetoric fall into one of two groups: those who believe it or are comforted by it, and thus are deluded, and those who don’t believe it, but cannot speak up due to fear of retaliation or layoff, and thus may easily become demoralized and cynical ... Environments of the deluded, demoralized and cynical are not the best for leading-edge drug R&D.

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91. AlChemist on February 16, 2011 11:12 AM writes...

problem: pharma not 'producing' drugs

solution: fund academics (profs, students and postdocs) on revolving basis

unintended consequence- no jobs for those leaving academic labs

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92. Hap on February 16, 2011 11:23 AM writes...

Labor surpluses work great for employers. Are you sure that that's an unintended consequence?

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93. Anonymous on February 16, 2011 2:16 PM writes...

#88 (Anonymous)

Hoorah ... nail on the head Sir/Madam, nail on the head.

Spot on. That is what this is all about. Getting 'serious expertise' in a particular area ... but also getting it seriously cheaply.

Most Pharma individuals don't know their true worth, University inhabitants even less so. GSK are just trying to get compounds / technologies / platforms etc on the cheap.

Think about it everybody ... in terms of acquisitions / buyouts / deals etc (call 'em what you want) ... Big Pharma wants the 'exclusivity' but without any of the risk. Sometimes they acquire merely to stop the competition from doing so.

Why take the risk of serious potential 'egg on face' style mess ups (the Sirtris acquisition comes to mind for some reason) when you can do pretty much the same on the cheap ??? After all, if it all goes terribly wrong, you can still declare that you're 'serious about fundamental R&D'.

Easy money for the suits if you ask me ... pass the champagne, oysters, lobsters, fois gras, Cuban cigars and cognac/whisky. Well done chaps, well done ... 150% increase in salary and 100% bonus all round.

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94. Anonymous on February 16, 2011 2:33 PM writes...

Dear Dr. Pegys,

First, let me apologize for all those dimissive remarks above. I have surveyed your patents and I have to admit that I am completely in awe. Who would have thought that you could couple adipic acid with proline? The genius of such a compound speaks for itself. No more multistep synthesis for me, I'll tell you. From now on, if I can't make the compound in two steps, it's just not worth it.

However, while I know that I'm pretty worthless in the whole drug discovery thingy because GSK threw my butt out on the street a couple years ago in order to aquire all of that raw talent at Sirtris and to invest in real scientists like yourself, but have you considered esterifing your drug with resveratrol so that you could cure alzheimers and old age in one fell swoop?

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95. CR on February 16, 2011 3:11 PM writes...

Well, I for one (a former pharma medicinal chemist) has to agree with Dr. Pepys has to say. But probably for a different reason than him. I truly do not believe Big Pharma is capable of discovering new drugs and they do have to get ideas from somewhere else. Why? Because management is so incompetent. The "getting ideas somewhere else" in my mind would mean actually listening to YOUR OWN scientists, but since management will not do that anymore, they need to see the grass is greener and go there.

But, I do have to ask Dr. Pepys, does he truly believe that by collaborating with GSK - does he think that same management is going to be successful with him? It's not the scientist actually discovering the drugs that can't bring them to market, it's the idiotic management that cannot be successful. He's going to be yet another discovery scientist that gets cut out of the equation and has to watch from the sidelines as their project is screwed up.

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96. Classic! on February 16, 2011 3:21 PM writes...

Dear Agilist #6,

Brio? That's cheese-o from France-o, am I right?

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97. MoMo on February 16, 2011 3:28 PM writes...

Anyone who has been interviewed by the the press or TV should know the rules that once you agree and sign away media rights (TV) thay can cut and paste any way they want.

Next time keep your mouth shut Dr. Pepys, and you won't have that problem, but it's too late!

Just getting the money not enough?

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98. Hap on February 16, 2011 3:43 PM writes...

#77: We knew who said what - it wasn't like GSK needed to say it aloud, because their strategy more than adequately expressed their contempt. Prof. Pepys was lambasted for his words (wrongly, it turned out), but the actions are still there and still speak plenty loud.

Maybe you and #6 need to get together to discuss how to avoid looking like you hate your customers as much as you do your employees and investors.

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99. slimy on February 16, 2011 3:48 PM writes...

One GSK exec is asking the right questions, problem is she has no answers, check this out:

The comments are in a similar vein to those above with lots of references to that Vallance-Slaoui comedy duo!

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100. HK on February 16, 2011 4:38 PM writes...

@ cliffintokyo

A thousand apologies for not catching your tone.

I'm not an academic or an industrial chemist, I still haven't completed my PhD (hence my "Am I missing something? Am I being naive?"-like comments). And it's entirely likely that I'm still in my "things can't be that bad" phase of social and emotional development.

Things are a bit unclear for me still. Industry DOES have a lot on the line - each path they follow has to turn a profit or else jobs are lost, investors are angry and lives don't get saved. Doesn't it make sense to collaborate with academics to pursue ideas that are less reliable but potentially fruitful and interesting? Best for both worlds - Academics get publications and industrial partner, industry gets low-cost exploration into high-risk pathways?

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101. Hap on February 16, 2011 5:02 PM writes...

The problem is that, depending on circumstances, academics and companies have different ends.

Professors want papers, the ability to get grants and money and to do the science they want. Companies want drugs that they can sell - meaning targets that are useful and molecules that can hit those targets. The kinds of interesting things that lead to publications may not lead to useful drugs, and if GSK is replacing the people who can (theoretically) make drugs with professors, the probability that interesting leads become drugs does not improve. The development of interesting science may also require time and patience, something not shown lately by pharma. Finally, training graduate students in pharma careers that exist in diminished form at GSK (and will likely further diminish, in part due to their labors) may not give students publications for graduation, and may not help them get a job at GSK (since they aren't looking to hire). It looks at this moment like a dead end for the grad students and postdocs involved.

This could work out for everyone, but it most likely to work out for GSK management and Prof. Pepys (and the other recruited profs). Everyone else stands a good chance of getting hosed.

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102. cliffintokyo on February 16, 2011 7:48 PM writes...

@100 and 101
Agree with most of what you both have to say.
In the US, the NCATS initiative is intended to bridge the *gap* (aka 'valley of death') between good basic research and producing a useful molecule that hits the target [only talking about what I know, i.e. medicines, here], which academia is not geared up to do, not least because of their own seemingly intractable version of 'short-termism'; see #75.
Academics will need to be more cautious about which projects they 'sell' to NIH for NCATS translation, because they will probably be held more 'accountable' (hint: a word with strong financial connotations) for *duds* than in the past.
Academia and/or NIH will take care of creating a strong patent position.
NCATS will 'sell' promising leads + IP to pharmas with big Development Engines.
Big pharma will of course gobble up good leads from NIH, because they have so few (now and in the future).
My view of job prospects for (good) medicinal chemists is that *brains* will be concentrated in academia, and to some extent NIH, and related institutes (including of non-medical chem-based R&D), while *brawn* is concentrated in big pharma.
Take your pick, and/or Find your niche/level

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103. livin the dream on February 16, 2011 9:37 PM writes...

Simon @80

You've been institutionalized and now you're afraid to leave your Profs lab. Its like the old man 'Brooks Hatlen' in the movie Shawshank Redemption who'd rather stay incarcerated than be released from jail. In your PIs lab you're important. Sure you're underpaid, on a yearly contract, with no vacation time or bonuses.... but you're better than the new postdocs, and your way better than some new gradstudent who can barely rotovap. You're like the prison inmate who gets special privledges. On in the inside you're a big man while on the outside your not. Ask yourself this, if one of Pepy's drugs makes it onto the market, will he benefit economically? Will you? If he will, and you won't, then you're getting royally screwed and you should go get a job somewhere that both risk and reward is shared! You're comments about suits is odd? Who wears a suit?

Regarding Pepy's response here on this thread. Its was so wierd it makes me wonder if it was really written by him? First, why go on and on about how awesome he is? People aren't accusing him of being a loser, they are accusing him of being a blowhard tool, which going on and on about your own awesomeness doesn't help. The other thing is why both he and his postdoc keep talking about patients? What in the world does preclinical drug discovery have to do with patients? That 10 year postdoc will be collecting the british equivalent of social security before anything he works on hits the market. Oh, and the chance of anything he works on getting to the market is about 1%. I find it really odd that they keep going on and on about patients. However, GSK HR loves to tell all thier people to say the phrase "helping patients". Which makes sense when you work with patients. It doesn't make any sense when you work with flasks in a lab and never ever ever see a patient, because you don't do clinical work. I vote that people doing pre-clinical work never ever say things like "its about helping the patients" and should instead stick to statements like "I believe in doing good science".

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104. cliffintokyo on February 16, 2011 11:01 PM writes...

I also believe in doing good science...and being paid a salary that recognizes the value of that work.
Otherwise, we should just quit and become chemical engineers (recognized, I believe) or even banksters....(If I could tolerate the stress of being a parasite and receiving million dollar insults - how would I spend all that money, given my frugal, eco-friendly lifestyle? Perhaps I could give it impoverished scientists?)

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105. Anonymous on February 17, 2011 2:01 AM writes...

#103 How sad and bitter you sound.
Did you bother to check out the group he is working in? It is a clinical research group working in a hospital, I'm certain he comes face to face with patients everyday. Ever thought that it is because of the proximity of patients he actually feels good about the work he is doing?

I work in a pharma company, I chose it as a career because I felt the end products would be of benefit to others, I still feel that way.

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106. DrSnowboard on February 17, 2011 3:35 AM writes...

I apologise for referring to Prof. Pepys as Dr. The rest of my original comment was my view of the publicly available information, both the FT and TPharma entries for the patents.

I think the other quote that is telling is "Mr Vallance criticised as excessively restrictive university technology transfer offices that typically seek to license academics’ ideas with high initial fees. "

SO you can see the GSK plan. Hook up with target champions even earlier, establish a 'working' relationship and exclusivity before the academic has anything tangible and rely on that goodwill to smooth your techtransfer negotiations when the time comes, if it comes.

I hope the small molecule augmented by an optimised antibody works, and that Prof. Pepys has his IP sufficiently protected.

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107. likeitis on February 17, 2011 3:46 AM writes...

You would not feel nearly so altruistic if you were one of the thousands booted out in the most recent cuts and needed to find a job in the 'real mean world' in order to *feed your family*.....
or if you suspected that pharma is spinning a web of fear among the sheep who remain in the fold, in order to create a pool of compliant young healthy volunteers, willing to show their loyalty by 'doing their duty' because there are not enough subjects for phase 1 clinical testing in the world....(the Chinese are not nearly as dumb as big pharma execs seem to think)

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108. Anonymous on February 17, 2011 7:39 AM writes...

Another point regarding GSK's hopes for collaboration with industry from someone who once worked there and who now works for a public body: Their standing is very low in academic circles. Word gets around and there's a price to pay for hosing so many people. Sure, public bodies are on the lookout for funding and will happily take GSK's dollars/pounds , especially now that money is tight, but that does not disguise the low regard many have for the company. Furthermore, GSK should perhaps give more attention to the types they routinely send around to deal with public body partners. Empty suit corporate types who talk loud don't go down very well outside their native habitat of middle management at GSK and other companies of the same ilk. I know there are still a lot of good scientists there who do have street cred, perhaps these people should be given greater visibility and could help to rehabilitate the company's image. As for Vallance, whatever scientific reputation he once enjoyed is now no more, he took the money, now he's taking the consequences!

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109. Anonymous on February 17, 2011 9:06 AM writes...

academic institutions and profs want the money- see the case of Roche vs Stanford, look at Myriad etc

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110. CMCguy on February 17, 2011 10:50 AM writes...

As far as #103 questions to #80: The other thing is why both he and his postdoc keep talking about patients? What in the world does preclinical drug discovery have to do with patients? I would hope drug discovery focus, even in preclinical, is largely on the patients. I work in industry and have the basic motivation largely similar to Simon's although he is apparently much closer to be able to observe first hand actual patient suffering and potential offered by new treatments. At the core if industry continues to be more and more business/profit centric and not fundamentally driven by science/R&D that is aimed to help patients then it not worth supporting.

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111. DrSnowboard on February 17, 2011 1:15 PM writes...

In Professor Pepys own words

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112. Anonymous on February 17, 2011 1:20 PM writes...

Genius move by big pharma! The worst they can do to their employees is lay them off - now the work will be done by grad students who will be Coreyed into submission!

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113. exGSK on February 17, 2011 5:29 PM writes...

#76, former lab rat speaks the truth, the reason so much vitriol flows over GSK is b/c current R&D management has systematically fired just about every inventor of their current drugs and pursued opportunities that are often embarrassing when the science comes to light. Arrogance and ignorance are a bad combination and Moncef and Patrick have buckets of both. It's not that collaborations with academia are a bad idea.... it's that the relative value placed on external science versus internal is so out of step with reality. I sincerely hope that some of the larger Pharma companies continue to place some bets on their internal expertise and treat their own employees with a fraction of the compassion they express toward patients in their annual reports. While academia can (and should) play a bigger role in drug discovery (and many ex-Pharma scientists like me are trying to help), some aspects of the science and many of the practical accomplishments (candidates!) can still be done better in Pharma. Intentionally destroying productive, internal expertise while throwing money at deals like Sirtris or 'ten superstars' or whatever comes next (another $750M fine?) seems to be the GSK approach, but there are other options.....

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114. Anonymous on February 18, 2011 6:15 AM writes...

exGSK #113. Perfect precis of what has happened there. Indeed, ignorance+arrogance=hubris=disaster!

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115. Ricardo Rodrigo on February 18, 2011 6:40 AM writes...

It is all over the place, I swear, someone told me about Pfizer's new model, and I had clear on my mind whether to cry or laugh. And oh boy, I been laughing for hours.

They do not even want to pay the academics, they expect to get it all for free - "just by being close to academic centers, my scientist will become more like them and will get ideas from them ... this has to be the best by far (legal reps from Universities, get ready, lots of work coming).

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116. Waiting for a package on February 20, 2011 9:07 AM writes...

I am at GSK and have seen Witty/Moncef/Baldoni hail the small company dynamic and now, academics. I honestly do not think GSK R&D can sustain any more of their leadership in 2011-their directives are a braindrain on internal R&D innovation and science. But who is to say that is not their intention? I am neck deep in Sirtris and the GSK newly aligned DPU model of development-I am not going to comment on the assets of Sirtris, but their people seem committed-they are just as miserable as the GSK benchfolk. The DPU model (small company) organizational holy grail now engulfs all team leader's time obscessing over costs to conduct outsourced science, spending almost no team time actually discussing drug development. Moncef/Baldoni have elaborately set DPU's up to fail by a blizzard of organizational modifications, development oversight removal, costcuttings, internal rule changes and unrealistic benchmarking timelines. But at least now that they are organized in tidy little packages, they can be readily dropped like little corporate rabbit turds. Of course, to do that, someone is going to have to buck up and actually make a decision, which is and has been the single biggest unaddressed problem with GSK R&D leadership, accounting for a good chunck of internal development failures since merging. R&D is now poising to become 100% outsourced or 100% in-house, with 2012 being the internal research apocolypse. Leadership is sitting on the sidelines waiting for the date to arrive so they can pull the trigger either way and start heaving the the rabbit pellets. Meanwhile they are failing on both sides of that fence and they are so disengaged from science that when the date comes, they will again be in true form with decision paralysis. What happens will be Witty's decisive action based on kneejerk response based on "competetive landscape" meaning "whatever Pfizer is doing". It has to be that way, he is a buisness guy. That is what buisness hacks do and all they have in their toolbox besides strategic noodle company purchases. Until R&D can have realistic time horizons, confident and capable leadership, and make decisions based on clinical data rather than earnings reports, Pharma is doomed to the course of the auto industry.

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117. Wow, it hasn't changed on March 14, 2011 1:42 PM writes...

#116, sorry to hear things haven't gotten better. Haven't checked on the Derek in a while and then I found that I missed this, with 116 comment over 4 days. Wow! I've been free of GSK for 2 years (think Sirtris reorg) and much happier for it. Hoping the same for @Waiting for a package.

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118. ÿþµþüþÓþ on December 15, 2011 4:49 PM writes...

It is hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you are talking about! Thanks

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