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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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August 2, 2011

Merck Moving Research From Rahway?

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Posted by Derek

I've heard from more than one person that Merck has decided to move most discovery research out of Rahway (in favor of the former Schering-Plough site in Kenilworth). Details are welcome in the comments from those with better information. That news does bring on end-of-an-era feelings, since they've been doing medicinal chemistry in Rahway for a long, long time. Kenilworth - well, I joined Schering-Plough when it was still in Bloomfield, and I remember the Kenilworth building site when it was a huge hole in the ground. We migrated into it (the building, not the hole) at the end of 1992, in a massive moving job that involved several convoys of 18-wheel trucks going down a partially-closed-off Garden State Parkway in the middle of the night.

The move had to be done; Bloomfield was at the limits of its capacity. And while it was nice to move into a completely new facility, I realized as time went on that Bloomfied had had charms of its own that I hadn't recognized at the time. But I left Kenilworth in 1997, when the building was comparatively new, so no doubt it's acquired some character by now. Do they still have the stark white socialist-realist statue of Sir Derek Barton down in the lobby?

Comments (23) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Industry History | Drug Industry History


1. PharmaHeretic on August 2, 2011 9:06 AM writes...

Merck still does research? How quaint.

Maybe they should just become a hedge fund and abandon all pretense of doing boring work..

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2. Anonymous on August 2, 2011 9:38 AM writes...

Perhaps they should move the "research" from the Boston site to Kenilworth as well. The Merck Boston site is pathetic.

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3. anchor on August 2, 2011 9:52 AM writes...

Agree with you in total. But, why this whole charade by Merck ? I would go an additional mile. Merck, might as well move the whole operation to China-lock, stock and barrel, instead of doing in bits and pieces. By doing just that, they will forever remove the anxiousness of the workers who are very hard at work both at Rahway and Boston site. Problem solved!

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4. Ex Merck Chemist on August 2, 2011 10:45 AM writes...

Sad news if true. However, when i visited Rahway (before being laid-off)I remember being struck by how many people I saw sitting in offices on their own and the number of "support" staff with no obvious role. To me the most telling sign was the cafeteria - a huge place where most of the tables were occupied by single diners. This to me suggested a bad working atmosphere.

What was even more sad was how vibrant the atmosphere at the Oss site in the Netherlands and the Newhouse site in the UK was in comparison. Did any senior Merck people actually think about productivity and communication before they closed these places down? Or was is purely based on geography and headcount arithmetic?

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5. interested observer on August 2, 2011 11:06 AM writes...

Ex Merck Chemist
Not sure if what you saw in Rahway was restricted to Merck. In my limited comparison between pharma in europe and the US, in europe more research staff are hands-on in the lab whereas in the US there were more folks in offices telling the support staff what to do....

could just be my experience

Your comments about the organon sites are interesting regarding vibrant atmospheres - just read the Pfizer story from a few days ago about how far removed the decision makers are from the actual staff doing the science. All they care about is stocks and pensions

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6. HeyDerek on August 2, 2011 12:42 PM writes...

When I interviewed at Kenilworth back in 2007, I didn't see a statue of DHRB in the lobby. Maybe I was in a different building, or perhaps the statue was obscured by the massive Christmas tree. The labs seemed no better than those at my graduate school, although I was somewhat dismayed by how cluttered/messy they were. I presented my research in a depressing subterranean conference room. Anyway, I didn't get an offer from SP, but fortunately got a job somewhere else.

How will research redundancies between the legacy Merck and SP staff be handled? Hopefully it won't involve Thunderdome (two chemists enter, one chemist leaves) or "We must now kung-fu fight". Although it would be nice to think that lab results can stand on their own, I suspect that there will be much scheming for self-preservation.

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7. Annette Bak on August 2, 2011 6:09 PM writes...

I have also heard that these rumors are true. However, we live in an industry undergoing change. Itis a fact of life so please stop complaining and put some more trust in management for once.

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8. @7 on August 2, 2011 6:26 PM writes...

"However, we live in an industry undergoing change. It is a fact of life so please stop complaining and put some more trust in management for once."

Have some sympathy for your colleagues/underlings. It's not like your position is in jeopardy!

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9. Anonymous on August 2, 2011 8:33 PM writes...

I guess it's about time something is done post SP and MRL merger. Seems like everyone was waiting and waiting for the other shoe to drop! Makes sense to consolidate but how about the ramifications for the NJ and tristate pharma sector? What a mess...

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10. Cytirps on August 2, 2011 8:49 PM writes...

This is a clever trick to get rid of people without legal consequence. Combine equivalent groups from two sites and put it in a building with limited capacity means that there are more scientists than lab space. Sorry you are a talented scientist but there is no room for you.

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11. @7 on August 2, 2011 9:11 PM writes...

I will continue to complain. And by the way, management sucks!

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12. Voice of reason on August 2, 2011 9:23 PM writes...

And let's not forget where the pressure to cut jobs comes from people - the corporate shareholders (aka the banks!). Yup the same banks that caused all this mess are now looking for more short term benefits.
Let's not forget also who want us all to start spending to help get us out of this depression. They can't have it both ways. We either have people in work, spending moneyand generating wealth, or we have people out of work and trying to get by on fresh air.

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13. Another@7 on August 2, 2011 9:47 PM writes...

However, we live in an industry undergoing change. Itis (sic) a fact of life so please stop complaining and put some more trust in management for once.

Spoken like a true pharma manager...can you spare some change? I'm about out of ideas to "reinvent" myself. Anyway, kudos for posting on this blog using your real(?) name.

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14. Anonymous on August 2, 2011 10:54 PM writes...

Annette, the director @ Merck on linkedin?

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15. Anonymous on August 3, 2011 5:07 AM writes...

@12 This is the point that a lot of the economic prognosticators and Wall Street sages are missing. They applaud "globalization", "outsourcing", "downsizing", "share-holder friendly management decisions", "emerging markets-oriented growth strategies"etc. They demand tax cuts for the wealthy....I mean "job creators" and an end to "job-killing healthcare, environmental and generally all forms of regulation and oversight".

They want US workers to compete with third world wage scales for mostly contract-only, no benefits type jobs. They pump up stocks of companies who announce massive layoffs. Then they wring their hands about the lack of demand for their goods and services and the resulting economic slowdown.

With 14 million people unemployed and more being added to the rolls every day, what did they expect? Contrary to political self-serving hype, the unemployed aren't living high on the hog and spending like drunken sailors. Neither are those who are worried about possibly joining them. Everyone on this blog knows the profile of the 10, 15, 20, 25 year pharma middle class scientist who gets tossed aside like used toilet paper at an age when finding comparable employment to even remotely replicate former earnings potential is next to impossible. Extend that to the American middle class in general and there shouldn't be any shock that the economic slowdown is showing no real signs of slowing down.

The banksters and "job creators" need to realize that even though they escaped this ongoing carnage and have in fact done quite well, the same cannot be said for the victims of the economic debacle that has transpired these past years.

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16. David Kroll on August 3, 2011 5:56 AM writes...

Indeed, I share the dismay of the other commenters. It was the presence of all of this pharma research in northern New Jersey that led me to pursue a career in pharmacology and hope to join the industry (I grew up within view of the then-Hoffmann-La Roche tower in Nutley).

Interestingly, the same Merck story was covered down here in RTP with a small bit of good news: plans are still on to expand the vaccine manufacturing facility in north Durham and a packaging plant in Wilson.

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17. Anonymous on August 3, 2011 6:32 AM writes...

Merck has got most drugs approved of all companies
But I guess that was long time ago....

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18. Anon on August 3, 2011 8:38 PM writes...

As I understand it, all chemistry is moving to Rahway and all biology is moving to Kenilworth.

With Merck pledging to outsource target validation and lead opt, that does beg the question -- how long before Merck closes Rahway entirely?

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19. anonymous on August 3, 2011 9:11 PM writes...

@18 Anon:
Where did you hear that Merck is pledging to outsource Target Validation - that's news to me!

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20. Anonymous on August 5, 2011 6:38 PM writes...

that started many years ago with some indian companies

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21. anonymous on August 19, 2011 11:45 AM writes...

Indeed, Merck is moving biology to Kenilworth that will be adapted and enlarged. No site closure ... yet. Research will just get slower during that 6th layoff phase and transition. The Merck of the last century is definitely dead.

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22. Wiener Pills saves the day on September 1, 2011 11:02 PM writes...

Well they have the Vioxx lawyer as a leader, what do you expect?

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23. Jack on November 5, 2012 9:31 AM writes...

(Current Merck Scientist)

I'm kinda surprised you guys are so far out of the know on this. I think many of the posters assumptions about Merck & their commitment to research are significantly off the mark.

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