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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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« Scientific Retractions: A Growth Industry? | Main | In Which We Learn Lots About Wine Swirling »

August 11, 2011

Lundbeck Cutting R&D

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Posted by Derek

Danish CNS specialists Lundbeck reported good financial numbers for the quarter, but they also announced how they're hoping to keep them up: by cutting R&D jobs across the company. This is affecting their US site in Paramus, NJ, as well as the main operation in Denmark.

I've heard that it's affecting both particular disease areas as well as cross-project groups like PK and the like. The company says that it's going to outsource more of this work, and use some of the money to hire. . .more sales staff. The state of the current industry, right there.

Comments (31) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. PharmaHeretic on August 11, 2011 9:06 AM writes...

They are taking their ideas from the "best and brightest".. no?

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2. Rick on August 11, 2011 9:10 AM writes...

It's just good business practice. If productivity = drugs/headcount, then reducing headcount boosts productivity and the larger the headcount cut, the greater the productivity gain. However, for as-yet unexplained reasons, managers fail to cut headcount to zero, which would increase productivity to infinity. Anyone know why?

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3. RB Woodweird on August 11, 2011 9:15 AM writes...

What's happening? M'kay, I'm going to need you to move your desk and bench to Xiamen, okay? If you could just go ahead and train your replacement, that'd be great.

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4. bamh1d on August 11, 2011 10:00 AM writes...

It's getting to be kind of hard reading this blog on a daily basis, what with relentless job cutting in R&D, scientific fraud, pump-and-dump investor fraud, etc. I realize Derek is just reporting and commenting current events, but on a daily basis it has me looking for the razor blades. I would be much more interested in hearing what people are doing about, say, the pharma industry's apparent intent to, as suggested above, reduce their cost basis to nothing except sales and marketing. Interesting that while there have been a few, I don't see a wave of start-ups following this purge of scientific talent, and academia can only absorb so many people. Is everyone going to CROs? Learning to speak Mandarin? What is happening to all of this talent?

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5. SteveM on August 11, 2011 10:27 AM writes...

Re: #4 bamh1d "What is happening to all of this talent?"

Here's an interesting exercise. Go to LinkedIn and search on chemists you have known to see what they are doing now.

I did, and most of them are not doing R&D anymore. One Pfizer guy (PhD) is now a yoga instructor in Connecticut. I imagine he just threw up his hands and walked away. Abandoning has got a be a painful decision though...

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6. Anonymous on August 11, 2011 11:14 AM writes...

#4...Most of the drug discovery colleagues of mine (chemist or biologist) are working in the development side of the business now - the part that is harder to outsource like regulatory, program managment, commercial etc. We have seen the light and moved out of "science" to make a living.............................

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7. Rick on August 11, 2011 1:29 PM writes...

bamh1d, #4, I won't call myself "talent", otherwise I'd have to ask myself "if you're so effing talented, how come you can't find a effing job?", but I have taken my sorry ass into teaching high school chemistry. I don't intend to produce more budding chemists, clearly there are too many of those already. I'm aiming for something harder: scientifically literacy in the generation-after-next who will think and vote smarter.

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8. Chemjobber on August 11, 2011 2:32 PM writes...

Rick, if you're interested, I'd love to do an e-mail interview with you. Confidentiality/anonymity guaranteed.

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9. Nick K on August 11, 2011 2:49 PM writes...

#7 Rick: You will have your work cut out for you if you want to raise the scientific literacy of the population. Just take a look at the nonsensical pseudoscientific wibble in the post above on wine swirling. Incidentally, in the UK a substantial number of refugee chemists from the closures (AZ, Pfizer, GSK etc) have gone into teaching, and are enjoying it. Certainly, it's far more secure employment than Pharma.

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10. Chemjobber on August 11, 2011 3:13 PM writes...

Rick: Ooops. I forgot to add my e-mail address chemjobber -at- gmaildotcom.

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11. newnickname on August 11, 2011 4:34 PM writes...

@4: If all of this is giving you heartburn and headaches, just take an Axanum (In the Pipeline, Aug 4, 2011).

Merck announced a profitable quarter and a layoff of 13,000. Lundbeck announced a profitable quarter and a layoff of ~175 R&D staff.

I don't think we can many more of these profitable quarters!!

(Derek: Please get Corante to add some sort of search function so we can more easily dig out old posts and comments.)

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12. Terry on August 11, 2011 6:21 PM writes...

merck and pfizer all started to set up new r&d center in china, they destroyed the job market in NA. but nowdays smart guys already know there is no good future to work for these international pharmas from the tragedy of chemists in NA.

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13. Handles on August 11, 2011 6:24 PM writes...

@newnickname There is a useful trick for getting Google to search a specific site; for example type " newnickname" without the quotes into Google's search box.

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14. Anonymous on August 11, 2011 7:28 PM writes...

Nick K, #9
Thanks for the promising news from the other side of the pond, Nick. It's probably not what any of us ever thought we'd be doing in the autumn of our lives, but there is some satisfaction in the thought of engaging in another worthy profession where the need is so great.

To your comment about the size of the job ahead, I would only add that WE ALL have our work cut out for us. I urge EVERY scientist to try to find a way to correct the gross, and growing, misperceptions society has about what we do and how we do it. I've lost all patience with seeing our work misrepresented, however unintentionally, in the media, in government, in the classroom and elsewhere and then seeing attempts to set the record straight characterized as "trying to make it too complicated" or "politically motivated". David DiSalvo recently had a blog over at the Forbes web site entitled "Why Scientists and Journalists Don't Always Play Well Together" that's worth a look in this regard.

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15. SteveM on August 11, 2011 8:12 PM writes...

Re: #15 Rick

On the marketing and clinical transparency ends, Big Pharma is guilty of all kinds of oily shenanigans. (The MBA's again?) Pharma is objectively a life saving but paradoxically also a dirty business.

Unfortunately, Pharma scientists are guilty by association for what happens downstream. But the industry indictments are accurate. And I'm not sure how the scientists could even fix that.

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16. Rick on August 11, 2011 8:57 PM writes...

SteveM, #16
To your comment "I'm not sure how the scientists could even fix that" I would say two things. There really isn't anything we can do to fix the situation totally on our own. We must try to educate those non-scientists around us and then work with them to fix things.

The second thing is a suggestion, albeit a dangerous, potentially career-limiting one, that those of us who have gotten ourselves into management positions, especially at small companies, have faced. One of the jobs research managers are frequently asked to do is represent their company's R&D to VCs, investment firm analysts, "key opinion leaders", journalists and other entities for the purpose of getting some recognition or, more importantly, money. If you've done this, you have undoubtedly been asked to craft or support material presented in a way that can be "understood" (i.e. bought) by the audience, often at the expense of important qualifying scientific information. It's not exactly lying, which has allowed many of us to sit there with s*** eating grins and nod approvingly while some c-level executive totally butchers our work for some credulous audience, but it is a kind of misrepresentation by omission. My suggestion: tell the talking head to stop doing that, preferably before getting in front of the important audience, but if that fails, then during. If YOU are the talking head, it's a little easier, stop editing out important information in a way that you know in your heart compromises your scientific integrity. What're they gonna do, fire you? Guess what, you're a hair's breadth away from that anyway. I regret that I didn't speak out more often than I did, but I am proud of the times I did.

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17. newnickname on August 12, 2011 12:13 AM writes...

@13 Handles: Thanks for the suggestion. I knew that many years but haven't used it in so long that I forgot.

And, just in case it wasn't obvious, to correct my post above:

"Merck announced a profitable quarter and a layoff of 13,000. Lundbeck announced a profitable quarter and a layoff of ~175 R&D staff.

I don't think we can TAKE many more of these profitable quarters!!" :-)

I also added a smiley. :-)

@17 Rick: It's very hard for most others to speak out about or against such stuff (been there, done that) and maintain a career or employment in their chosen field. One of my fave Dilbert's is about "Mixed messages!" Search the archive for May-31-1997.

But worse than deceptive and defective business promotions that affect investments and lives in the long term, it is also difficult to speak out about management decisions that will have an immediate impact on LIVES. Like when engineers said "Don't launch!" the Challenger. Oops! In biotech / pharma, some have warned when they felt something was not ready for the clinic but, after so many bold promises (lies), management needed SOMETHING in the clinic to save their hides or to raise more money. I heard of one such ill-advised trial whereat the high level person who spoke out against the trial was "encouraged to resign" so there would be no record of dissent on the next vote to go forward. That trial (conducted overseas; no FDA) led to several deaths (rather quickly, too). Oops!

What has happened to us?? !Que lio!

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18. jackgg on August 12, 2011 9:15 AM writes...

Rick, you are right. Generate some minds who will think and vote wisely. This country is just doing stupid things. Wars overseas, outsourcing its economic engine overseas. They bite overseas, and will lose overseas.

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19. bamh1d on August 12, 2011 10:34 AM writes...

Since teaching seems to be where several ex-pharma people have found themselves, let me ask this: did you have to take additional training to become qualified (certified) to get a teaching job? Did industry experience help or hinder your efforts to pursue a teaching job? Is volunteering a useful step to get experience to transition into a teaching job?

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20. Nick K on August 12, 2011 1:17 PM writes...

#19: I don't know what how teachers are trained Stateside, but in the UK to become a secondary teacher one must complete a one-year academic course at a recognised institution leading to a PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate of Education). Then comes a probationary year as an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher). At that point you are considered to be fully fledged. I should add that to get on a PGCE course it is essential to have done some classroom observation beforehand.

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21. Mr. Perceptive on August 12, 2011 2:04 PM writes...

Re: #19 bamh1d, because this blog does not like web links, do a Google search on "alternative teaching certification".

That will pop up sites that explain the various state models.

Also, I'm not sure, but I think private and parochial schools may not have the same requirements. (Because they are not bound by the twisted logic of union contracts.) But of course the pay is usually lower.

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22. Anonymous on August 12, 2011 6:20 PM writes...

Does anyone have stats on the average salary loss suffered by former pharma scientists who do manage to find alternative employment after they are discarded by big pharma like used toilet paper? ACS? After 20+ years of salary gains, most potential employers, assuming you make it past the "0-5 years experience preferred" typically launch into the "what are your salary expectations", "you are overqualified", "we were looking for someone with less experience" game. Then there are the ubiquitous temp agencies with the "exclusive clients" in undisclosed locations with tons of $25/hr, no benefits contractor jobs requiring bizarrely precise but often convoluted technical experience.

I can't believe that there are enough teaching jobs to even begin to absorb the wave after wave of pharma refugees.

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23. Rick on August 12, 2011 7:31 PM writes...

bahhid, #19,
Requirements for public school teacher's qualifications vary from state to state, but in general there's a requirment for a bachelor's degree, completion of certain courses, sometimes passage of an exam and a certain number of hours of supervised in-class teaching. Just google "teacher certification" for your state and then go the the site specified for your state's department of education. Those sites also often have information on "alternative" ways to get your certification. Check it out.

As Mr. Perceptive noted (#21), private schools often have less regimented requirements. However, experience is still a big plus. That's the route I went. My experience/"training" came as a result of a friend needing to take long-term medical leave on 24 hours notice and I was at the right place at the right time. Somehow, it worked and I got one year's-worth of valuable experience that enabled me to be there when an opening came up at the same school.

As far as salary is concerned, I don't know what the average is, but, as Mr. Perceptive also noted, the salaries are also lower at private schools (I'd guess 10-20%) than at public schools. Given the disgracefully low salaries of public school teachers (you can find fairly reliable info by going to the salary info section), I would not recommend this for people who were critically dependent on their pharma/biotech salary; you're going to get a 50-80% haircut on your prior salary.

Although it sounds nice to be able to say you can share your real world knowledge with your students, industry experience really doesn't prepare you for teaching high school (in fact, many of my industry instincts were completely wrong for the high school classroom!) and from what I've seen thus far I don't think it confers any advantage in the recruiting/hiring process. Therefore, as you said some kind of volunteering or very low-pay assistance work is a good way to: a, determine whether you'll like the work and b, accumulate the knowledge and contacts to help you decide if you want to make this kind of career change.

To Anonymous' (#22) point, although I don't have the statistics, I suspect the number of openings for biology, chemistry and physics teachers is indeed vastly smaller than the number of people being cast off by the industry downsizing.

Having said all this, if you take a good, critical look at yourself and think you have the temperament and the desire to teach and wouldn't mind being ridiculously underpaid for working 60+ hour weeks for very little appreciation, then check it out. In my brief experience, I can tell you it does have its profoundly rewarding moments just often enough to make it worthwhile, which is kind of like doing research.

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24. Terry on August 13, 2011 6:24 PM writes...

Pharma refugees, the hope is in china! my experience, one day in beijing is similar as one month's life experience in US, busy but active! Bejing welcome you!

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25. jackgg on August 15, 2011 12:50 PM writes...

Re 24: Thanks Terry, I think so as well. I actually visited Beijing in early 2010, and find it is really a lot more "alive" than the United States of America. People there are dreaming, planning, communicating, working and earning, instead of waiting like here.

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26. Innovorich on August 16, 2011 8:27 AM writes...

It would be really good to have good research on the destination of laid off R&D staff. Other pharma, biotech, university, teaching, something else? Maybe there's a way to write a script to drag this out of linkedin.

What's the average salary of a senior medicinal chemist (maybe with 20 years experience) in the US? How does this compare to the average teacher or university professor salary?

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27. RandDChemist on August 16, 2011 12:25 PM writes...


Chemistry cuts will do 'irreparable' damage, top scientists warn

Over 100 of world's top scientists write to PM warning of impact to range of industries of proposed cuts in research funding

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28. Innovorich on August 17, 2011 5:34 AM writes...

@27 - yeah but that's about changes to EPSRC academic fundung policy - i.e. trying to fund more "economically beneficial research".

It is though another example of making all the assessments of what funding decisions are worth making based on short term goals, with the likely detriment to long term performance/benefit.

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30. Anonymous on August 19, 2011 9:17 PM writes...

@29 Ya...they're hiring development people in Canada. Canada is more progressive than the US. They took development out of Nutley NJ. Yes, Roche is hiring and canada may be a good option for dev. people. Stay away from Nutley though. You'll see in 1-2 yrs max the place will shut down. They used to have the headquarters, development, operations etc there. Now it's only research!! All research does (especially at Nutley) is use money, a draw on finances. How can one sustain a site of that size with only research?? They are selling off property and parking lots, cleaning and monitoring ground water and renting out space to universities in the area. First time we've seen this ever. Won't be long before the announcement comes!!! Be prepared

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31. RandDChemist on August 24, 2011 9:05 AM writes...

Actions have consequences, often unintended. Short term thinking is going to damage pharma significantly.

"As Big Pharma downsizes, a major loss of brain power"

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