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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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September 28, 2012

Pfizer's New Leaf

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Posted by Derek

Here's a piece by an industry consultant who's interacted with Pfizer a lot over the years. He says that they're really, truly going to change:

But buying companies, partners, and products never added up to a net gain in R&D productivity because the resulting behemoth lacked the key ingredient: integration. Like the industry in general, Pfizer’s acquisitions bought it little else but time. When its enormous R&D engine broke down after failing to produce an adequate pipeline, the company reflexively slashed research spending and staff. But something else happened along the way — a sea change for the company not only in organization but also in philosophy. Like China or the former Soviet Union renouncing past Maoist or Stalinist practices, Pfizer has now declared an end to its legendary imperialism in favor of a new, open and collaborative research model.

Let's just say, that as with many large companies, "open" and "collaborative" have not necessarily been the first words one associates with Pfizer's research strategy. My initial impulse is to discount this stuff as they-have-to-say-that pronouncements from the executive suite. But I'm a cynical person sometimes. If Pfizer really is going to change, theway to convince people (such as their potential collaborators) will be through deeds rather than words. We'll see.

Comments (34) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Drug Industry History


1. ScientistSailor on September 28, 2012 10:48 AM writes...

I can change, really... it will be different this time, I swear...

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2. Anonymous on September 28, 2012 11:19 AM writes...

I seem to recall Pfizer saying the same thing a few months before they bought Wyeth but I'm sure it will be different this time.

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3. Anchor on September 28, 2012 11:24 AM writes...

Pfizer giving up on its "predatory" practice is like pimp giving up on his profession. No chance, I say!

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4. Quintus on September 28, 2012 11:25 AM writes...

What did you expect a Pfizer consultant to say?
The leaf will go brown and crumble to dust before they change.

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5. Anchor on September 28, 2012 11:25 AM writes...

Pfizer giving up on its "predatory" practice is like pimp giving up on his profession. No chance, I say!

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6. terri on September 28, 2012 11:47 AM writes...

...never, again, will I trust doctor, Pfizer, pharmacist, and especially, FDA. My extremely negative experience w/Chantix 4 1/2 years ago...cured me of "trust."

Two, long, PAINFUL hospital stays...PLUS psyche unit...was enough to FORCE me to look behind big pharma's closed doors...and see EXACTLY what goes on when bringing a new drug to market!! all I can say. We are just a number, folks. Lawsuits are budgeted in from the very BEGINNING when bringing a new drug to market. It really is all about $$$$$....feel like such a fool....

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7. anon the II on September 28, 2012 12:00 PM writes...

Does this mean I can have my job back?

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8. Henry's cat on September 28, 2012 12:02 PM writes...

All pigs pfuelled and ready pfor take off...

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9. Am I Lloyd peptide on September 28, 2012 12:35 PM writes...

It's ok, it's election season, people are allowed to say things they don't mean.

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10. Hap on September 28, 2012 12:47 PM writes...

Didn't they just get done firing, I mean integrating, the people from their last big merger? There's been an awful lot of drug development experience that's been integrated out of a job (or out of the field) by Pfizer, and it's hard to believe that they can unring that particular bell choir.

I can hear the strains of Rollins Band's "Liar" running through my head now. "Sucker! Sucker!"

9: Just because they can say things they don't mean does not require me to actually believe them.

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11. Helical_Investor on September 28, 2012 1:06 PM writes...

This may run off topic, but this post is reminiscent of the Clay Shirky TED Talk that posted just a couple days back. He speaks on communication and "open" and "collaborative" environments. His angle is government and democracy, but along the way he makes the point that scientific interaction (as we know it here) is perhaps a couple of communication cycles behind. Good talk and worth a listen.

Open source styled environments are difficult for hierarchical corporate structures to embrace, often for good reasons (capital restrictions for example). The opines on what this might mean in a drug discovery context.

It seems that "open" and "collaborative" may be little more than code for just more outsourcing.


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12. RememberJC on September 28, 2012 2:11 PM writes...

I find it hard to take anything with the name Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos in it. He was known as JC, no irony intended, while at GSK Stevenage. He didn't stay long but still managed to leave a mess in his wake before he departed for The Big Blue and big bucks! All this "open" and "collaborative" claptrap @Pfizer smells of desperation!

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13. Am I Lloyd peptide on September 28, 2012 2:17 PM writes...

10: That's what I was implying. They lie, we report, we move on.

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14. Anonymous BMS Researcher on September 28, 2012 10:10 PM writes...

I know I've made some mistakes, Dave...

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15. Former Wyeth Screener on September 29, 2012 1:36 AM writes...

I don't believe it. Of course I may be influenced by my memory of Martin Mackay warmly and personally welcoming our medicinal chemistry and screening groups to the Pfizer team. Within a month we had an "all hands" 9am Monday meeting where we were all fired. The human and financial capital wasted by Pfizer was stupendous.

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16. Ricardo Ros on September 29, 2012 2:53 AM writes...

And in the process of change made tens of thousands of scientists redundant. destroyed fully working research units and groups and obliterated innovation wherever it went. Pfizer senior management and board should be tried for crimes against Science.

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17. Anonymous on September 29, 2012 9:39 AM writes...

What is ironic is that a lot of these former Pfizer managers who have become "available" are out spreading their "open and collaborative research model" around, much like a cancer they were supposely trying to cure. Along the way, they just metastasize and kill off other's scientific career.

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18. Trellis on September 29, 2012 10:43 AM writes...

Sorry but the model that needs challenging is our continuing willingness to 'in-source' our skills, hard-work and ambition into companies like Pfizer. Hasn't anyone learned, that once a staff-beater always a staff-beater?
Surely we can come up with some better options to make the difference that we're all capable and hopeful of?

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19. Oh please on September 29, 2012 1:05 PM writes...

Pharma wouldn't be the same without the "veni, vidi, vici" tactics of Pfizer! I do agree with the cited consultant that Big Pharma M&A seldom ever result in seemless integration. If only Pfizer were less like the Mongol Horde and more like the Borg...

"We are Pfizer. Your pipelines and IP will be assimilated. Your biological and technological attributes will be assimilated to service the Collective. Resistance is futile!"

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20. Anonymous on September 29, 2012 2:16 PM writes...

Open and collaborative? Wasn't the Scripps collaboration like that - we just gave them $100MM and got nothing back. I see a queue of academics at the 'Centres for Therapeutic Innovation' filling their wallets with Pfizer $$ but I don't see anyone making any medicines.

This is where Pfizer has and is failing - none of the current senior leaders have any successful drug discovery experience and couldn't find a medicine in a drugstore. It doesn't matter what 'model' they move to, the same faces will yield the same results. This will just be another chapter in the book 'Pfizer:how it screwed up'

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21. Dr. Manhattan on September 29, 2012 5:14 PM writes...

"Martin Mackay warmly and personally welcoming our medicinal chemistry and screening groups to the Pfizer team. "

I'm eennnorrmmouusssly pleased to have you as part of Pfizer!"

He has changed his tune: "I'm eennnorrmmouusssly pleased to have you as part of AstraZeneca!" The outcome was the same for thousands of scientists there as well.

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22. Dr. Manhattan on September 29, 2012 5:19 PM writes...

"What is ironic is that a lot of these former Pfizer managers who have become "available" are out spreading their "open and collaborative research model" around."

See AstraZeneca R&D for details. Now almost totally Pfizer Management, hired by David Brennan. Of course, the new CEO, Pascal Soriot, starts this Monday. He may want his own team...

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23. what's in a name on October 1, 2012 3:36 AM writes...

@22 Let's hope so, Man!
Pascal Soriot sounds French, which means all things are 'posseebl', including selling AZ to Sanofi, or China.
Would be more inclined to believe in his cred if his name did not sound so much like Hercule Poirot....and we all know what Ms Marple did to him!

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24. JAB on October 1, 2012 10:03 AM writes...

@19: Please don't disparage the memory of Genghis Khan! He actually was quite good at integrating the skills and cultures of many he conquered, however ruthlessly he pursued his campaigns.

cf. Conn Iggulden's recent historical novels

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25. emjeff on October 1, 2012 10:06 AM writes...

I just talked with a Pfizer colleague who said that his discipline within Pfizer is so walled-off that he has NO contact with his counterparts in other therapeutic areas. They can not even share resources - so one area may be crazy busy and the other may be idle, but there is no way to off-load projects to the idle workers. Sounds like a plan...

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26. Anonymous on October 1, 2012 10:10 AM writes...

Would anyone in the future ever accept a job with these guys?

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27. anon the II on October 1, 2012 11:14 AM writes...

@ #26. Anonymous

If you have a wife and two kids and a mortgage and other debts and twenty+ years experience and no job, of course you'd take a job with these guys.

There are probably lots of people who have been fired by Pfizer multiple times who would take a job with them. It's not personal. The people who were around to let you go the first time aren't there anymore. Maybe you could get a few more years out of them. Maybe you might catch them doing something nasty and get in on one of those whistle-blower suits. We're all just Machiavellian sociopaths. Pfizer has taught us well.

Just kidding, I think.

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28. jgault on October 1, 2012 6:19 PM writes...

I had to share a recent experience with a Harvard MBA consultant and this is the best place I could find to post. Speaking to a large group of drug discovery scientists the consultant proceed to show us an indonesian village with people fabricating plastic parts in front of thier grass huts, and suggesting that drug discovery outsourcing would be close behind. When questioned in numerous ways about the expertise and training needed to conduct drug discovery research he suggested that we were just not creative enough, and that we could find a way to get unskilled cheap workers to do many parts of our jobs. With a smirk on my face I asked "Can strategic business plans be created in a similar way". Only stunned silence. I guess I wasn't supposed to be quite that creative.

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29. what's in a name on October 1, 2012 7:07 PM writes...

You da man, jg!

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30. Morten G on October 2, 2012 6:38 AM writes...

To be honest Apixaban looks like a home run for Pfizer and BMS though, right?

What I don't understand is why Pfizer even buys companies. It's not like they are Google. Why not just buy the IP?

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31. Hap on October 2, 2012 3:00 PM writes...

I'm not sure how IP contracts go, but maybe they're afraid that the company will compete against them later? If they buy the rights to a therapeutic area, that could work, but if they buy a single compound or class, the company might have others in the pipeline behind it that would be competition with the IP-derived drug should any of them get to market.

I don't understand why they just don't leave the company alone - they were making money for someone before Pfizer bought them, since Pfizer obviously thought they had something useful. With more effective and deeper resources, why couldn't they have been more effective at finding drugs? Pfizer would still have had monopoly opportunities, but the likelihood of having more products to actually do useful things and make money.

We don't believe puppets here, anyway. Unless they run for the Senate.

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32. CR on October 3, 2012 7:28 AM writes...

@22 and 23:

Dr. Soriot was part of Roussel, Hoechst Marion Roussel and then Aventis (in Bridgewater). I believe he left at the Sanofi takeover.

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33. Anonymous on October 15, 2012 10:16 AM writes...

In fact they have little interest in the IP. Almost everything at Wyeth has been abandoned.

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34. Vladimir on November 12, 2012 12:50 AM writes...

China or the former Soviet Union renouncing past Maoist or Stalinist practices...

Oh, my god, US and EU people still living in a cold war? Too much of antiRussian stupidity nowadays...

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