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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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December 9, 2011

Pharma Overview

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Posted by Derek

Here's a report from Science Careers on "A Pharma Industry in Crisis". Readers here will find much of what's said to be familiar - partly because they interviewed people like me and Chemjobber for the piece (!) But it's worth a look as a where-we-are-now perspective.

Comments (27) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Drug Industry History


1. milkshake on December 9, 2011 4:54 PM writes...

I am annoyed that articles discussing the factors that contributed to pharma downturn avoid naming the biggest and most deeply-rooted problem - widespread dishonesty, red tape and bad management of large pharma companies driven by short term stock-price oriented objectives, magical thinking and collective irresponsibility.

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2. NoDrugsNoJobs on December 9, 2011 5:23 PM writes...

Its annoying that very little is explained to be the result of increasing regulation and red tape in western countries. As we see the pharma industry massively expanding in India and china and simultaneously shrinking here, how can we not compare the regulatory environment that they operate in? If I were starting a pharma company today in the US and looking to build a lab, I wouldn't know where to begin and how I could possibly fulfill all the regulatory and legal requirements that exist on so many levels that it would take a much bigger team of lawyers than chemists to operate. Beyond that, look what it takes to develop a drug and run studies. Try to market a drug without getting in some kind of trouble. I find it ironic that almost everyday we read about one company or another settling with the US government for fines in the hundreds of millions if not even greater than a billion over one alleged sin or another. A billion dollar fine can go to fund the US government for a couple of hours or could run the research and support thousands of scientists but hey, the government knows how to use the money better anyway (Solyndra, Fast and Furious, foreign wars, etc) Is it the case that all the companies are run by bafoons and idiots and all our laws and regulations make sense....if we blame the people that run the companies, wouldn't we blame those that are running the countries that control what the companies do? I don't even get into all the patent law suits clogging the courts with generic companies looking to bust innovator patents that represent the hard earned gold of countless researchers because Hatch-Waxman encourages it, nor the incredible landscape of tort lawsuits for everything from prozac killed my dog to my contraceptive gave me breast cancer. No, it must be all of us dumbasses here in private industry who simply cannot propsper in our highly efficient and perfectly governed countries.

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3. Excalibur on December 9, 2011 5:36 PM writes...

AAAS amd C&E news should merge.

They start out by understating a serious problem many years too late. The article states-

"Drug discovery jobs have disappeared by the thousands in the United States"

No, hundreds of thousands of drug discovery jobs in the United States have vanished forever. I guess quantitative analysis is not a part of AAAS Journalistic training.

I find it despicable that this chemjobber person is quoted as an authority. He or she is anonymous and thus should not be quoted as an authority on anything. That web site is perhaps well meaning but a joke comprised of re-postings and shallow observation that anyone with eyes and a pulse could have made. The comments concerning industry restructuring are preposterous.

The era of 'pull it out of your ass journalism' is here and its fitting that AAAS is leading the way.

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4. Chemjobber on December 9, 2011 7:04 PM writes...

I'll try harder to be shallower, Ex. Enjoy!

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5. Chemjobber on December 9, 2011 7:20 PM writes...

"That web site is perhaps well meaning but a joke comprised of ACS Careers re-postings and shallow observation that anyone with eyes and a pulse could have made."

Fixed that for you. :-)

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6. deadfella on December 9, 2011 7:42 PM writes...

More layoffs today for med chem @ AMRI today.
Close to 20 more layoffs this year.

It must be close to 100 for the year.

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7. anon on December 9, 2011 8:16 PM writes...

I want to defend chemjobber. I read his blog everyday, and I believe he is well informed about the miserable job market for chemists. Excalibur is just being a dick.

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8. bbooooooya on December 9, 2011 8:28 PM writes...

"I find it despicable that this chemjobber person is quoted as an authority."

You're completely wrong. No problem being angry about current state of employment (which you cearly are), but no need to spout off at a guy who puts up a decent website.

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9. Terry malloy on December 9, 2011 10:51 PM writes...

Jobs in medicinal chemistry......."a one way ticket to palukaville".

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10. See Arr Oh on December 9, 2011 11:42 PM writes...

@Excalibur - As another blogger who also is "anonymous and therefore should not authority on anything," I heartily encourage you to dig through the last 4 years' worth of CJ posts, and fact-check / cross-reference them for accuracy.

I also recommend, if you have time in your own day as a full-time working chemist (which CJ is, I might add), to post daily on time-sensitive employment matters, and try to inform the general scientific and job-finding public. Please use relevant gov't and private-sector charts and graphs, as applicable (as CJ might).

Have at it.

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11. newnickname on December 10, 2011 1:51 AM writes...

From the photos in the article, Ed Silverman looks a little bit grim, but the others are all smiley and happy.

CJ's linked webpage on Boss Speak Bingo didn't include the NEW boss who comes in and says, "We bought this company because we think you're great the way you are. We aren't going to change a thing." and then 6-months there's nothing left UNchanged.

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12. You're Pfizered on December 10, 2011 11:41 AM writes...

Isn't it ironic that the article was authored by someone with the last name 'pain'...

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13. Nick K on December 10, 2011 2:40 PM writes...

Strange that the article failed to point out the essential absurdity of companies short of drug candidates sacking the very people who discover and develop drugs.

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14. Just sayin' on December 10, 2011 7:25 PM writes...

@Excalibur: Dude/dudette, you really need some zoloft or paxil.

@Chemjobber: Without compromising your mystique, perhaps you can submit an avatar image or altered photo (like Banksy) the next time you're interviewed. Maybe doing so would lend you more "street cred" in the eyes of crabby folks like Excalibur! :P

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15. MoMo on December 10, 2011 9:08 PM writes...

Truly a shortsighted article forgetting the fact that we allowed Communists and Third World countries to take over the Pharma industry staffing them with equivalent of low-cost Oompa Loompas, while our Willy Wonka CEO's here in the US come out once a year from behind the gates.

There still should be Senate hearings on this, just so the Senators can see who is sending them the big checks.

And leave the Bloggers alone. At least they are illuminating the problems in this Industry of the Walking Dead, at risk of sleepless nights, lawsuits, their personal time, and perhaps their own employment at the firms they work at.

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16. Chemjobber on December 10, 2011 11:07 PM writes...

@14: Heh -- I don't think they'd take a picture of a ceramic yellow duck (my Twitter pic).

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17. Fred on December 11, 2011 12:52 PM writes...

@MoMo: CEO's get multi-million dollar bonuses every year regardless of company performance. I don't know how these "job creators" get by on such measly compensation, especially when, at worst, they are paying the same tax rate (35%) that I am. Of course, most of them don't pay even that and neither do their companies.

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18. KW's Haridresser on December 11, 2011 3:57 PM writes...

I am very heartened to hear a lot of folks coming to CJ's defense. I have always found his blog to be quite informative and well intentioned. He, in fact, has sent me job postings that would be a good fit. And I never have even met the guy! In this day and age it is indeed wonderful to see such professional courtesy and compassion. When I was laid off as a medicinal chemist I never even received so much as an email from former supervisors. Too busy sitting in their offices plotting career moves and filling in tables I guess!

So to CJ and Derek, I salute you.

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19. MoMo on December 11, 2011 8:49 PM writes...

You know people, it's not the CEO's that are really in charge-it's the Board of Directors. Most CEO's get by telling them what they want to hear, repeatedly, which leaves the Board plenty of time for their worldly pursuits, like incest and art collecting, which go hand in hand.

I encountered board members that would quibble about whether the quality of their meeting lunches would decrease following layoffs. And they laughed!

We should be directing our pointed words at them AND the CEO's. Then we can round them all up, put them in cages, and poke them with sharp-pointed sticks.

I've got plenty of darts left. And bear-tagging season in VT is over until spring, unless I want to go digging them out.

Right Mr. Chairman, Mr. CEO?

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20. Susurrus on December 11, 2011 9:26 PM writes...

As of last Friday, I am no longer a medicinal chemist. It took four years, and a couple of programming languages to get out. Let's see if scientific informatics is more stable. I doubt it, but I'll sleep better in the short term.

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21. exCHEM on December 12, 2011 7:27 AM writes...

I left chemistry earlier this year (after a 3 year, enjoyable, post doc stint in Med Chem) and am now a pharma/healthcare industry analyst. I recommend all PhD's, post-docs etc to look outside of the typical careers...unless you really, really, really, love synthesis/med chem (become an academic in this case. )

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22. You're Pfizered on December 12, 2011 9:10 AM writes...

ChemJobber is really Jeff Kindler. Don't be fooled!

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23. Happy Dog on December 12, 2011 9:15 AM writes...


Good move. My industry postdoc was in an informatics group and I wish that I had stayed put, but stupid me wanted to get into drug discovery.

Scientific informatics is alive and well. The big need right now is a way to manage large amounts of data in real time. Not only in pharma, but in other industries as well. Try to pick up skills in statistical programming if you haven't already, and learn about data mining and machine learning algorithms. These skills are in high demand outside of the pharma industry.

Good luck.

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24. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on December 12, 2011 10:38 AM writes...

Re #3:

"I find it despicable that this chemjobber person is quoted as an authority. He or she is anonymous and thus should not be quoted as an authority on anything. That web site is perhaps well meaning but a joke comprised of re-postings and shallow observation that anyone with eyes and a pulse could have made. The comments concerning industry restructuring are preposterous."

And we should assume that your birth certificate shows your name as "Excalibur", Mr. anti-anonymity?

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25. Hap on December 12, 2011 1:32 PM writes...

#3: Where, O Highness, can mortals like I read your priceless thoughts on the chemistry job market? Just curious.

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26. Curious Wavefunction on December 12, 2011 3:19 PM writes...

#3: I find it despicable that this chemjobber person is quoted as an authority. He or she is anonymous and thus should not be quoted as an authority on anything.

Anyone else see the irony in here? "Excalibur", you would be lucky if you end up doing a hundredth of the public service that Chemjobber has done over the last few years.

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27. Susurrus on December 12, 2011 6:57 PM writes...

#3: Thanks, Happy Dog!

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