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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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« Exiting Two Therapeutic Areas | Main | The Past Twenty Years of Drug Development, Via the Literature »

November 8, 2013

The Other Shoe Drops at Ariad

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Posted by Derek

Ever since Iclusig (ponatinib) (note: fixed that name as an update) ran into trouble with blood-cloting side effects, Ariad has had a huge uncertain cloud blocking out its sunlight. Now that the FDA has told them to take the drug off the market completely, it was clear what was going to happen. Happen it has: the company is laying off a large part of its workforce.

It's very much in doubt whether Iclusig will ever come back. Update: in Europe, the EMA has now said that Iclusig can remain on the market "with increased caution").And if it doesn't, it's very much in doubt whether Ariad will, or how long that might take. There's a large, mostly-completed building around the corner from me covered in blue-green glass that was going to be the home of a larger, more solvent Ariad, and no one knows what's going to happen to that, either. It's a rough business.

Update: turns out the blue-green glass one was going to be Aveo, which cratered earlier this year. Who's going to occupy that, one wonders? Ariad's is the less-complete large framework going up across from the (incongruous) Mormon church. That's a pretty large building, or will be, and you wonder who will end up in there. There are so many biopharma construction sites in this town that you need a guidebook.

Comments (23) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Cancer | Regulatory Affairs


1. Anonymous on November 8, 2013 8:31 AM writes...

The name is Iclusig (not Inclusig)

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2. bluchem on November 8, 2013 8:42 AM writes...

Derrick, Ariad's buildings are nowhere complete, they are the one's around the corner from you that are nothing more than steel beams and a big red crane. That blu-green glass building was so supposed to house Aveo, well we know what happened to them also.

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3. AndrewD on November 8, 2013 10:34 AM writes...

Two companies that were building shiny new buildings collapse:- does this suggest a trend or a cause?

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4. qetzal on November 8, 2013 10:53 AM writes...

There's still an "Inclusig" left in the first sentence of paragraph 2.

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5. Org Lett Reader on November 8, 2013 11:06 AM writes...

The name is Derek (not Derrick).

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6. RB Woodweird on November 8, 2013 11:19 AM writes...

Let's recap, shall we?

Job postings at Ariad.
Boston Globe: Cratering.

Job postings for Vertex.
Boston Globe: Sudden amputation.

Job posting for Immunogen.
Boston Globe: Gloom and doom.

New money-making scheme hatched.
Send me money and I won't send a resume to your company.

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7. Anonymous on November 8, 2013 11:37 AM writes...

The trick is to work in HR: They are always busy writing job ads and screening CVs for positions they don't, or won't need.

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8. Anon on November 8, 2013 11:48 AM writes...

@RB Woodweird - a second money-making scheme would be to rent out your services to short-sellers.

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9. Anonymous on November 8, 2013 12:06 PM writes...

How this is executed is very interesting. The FDA require removal from the US market and 40% of US-based staff are laid off, likely to claim unemployment benefits once severance expires. The EU requires only a black box warning and not a single EU staffer is laid off.

On the surface this seems vengeful, but I am not aware of the internal workings over at Ariad (maybe EU operations have some unique value).

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10. Anonymous on November 8, 2013 12:18 PM writes...

@9: How is it vengeful? There is now no need for a US sales force, but still a need for an EU one...

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11. Anonymous on November 8, 2013 12:53 PM writes...

@10: This would make sense, were it not for US layoffs to include staff in all major departments, including R&D. See link below and the Ariad press release.

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12. watcher on November 8, 2013 1:00 PM writes...

Dl: not to many shoes left.....

Perhaps, biotechs should wait for money to flow into the bank instead of planning big new labs, infrastuctures when there is still only the hope of the waterfall of income.

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13. Anonymous on November 8, 2013 1:10 PM writes...

@11: R&D usually has to be cut in the same place where sales are cut to benefit from an R&D tax shield.

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14. Canageek on November 8, 2013 2:08 PM writes...

6. RB Woodweird:

Did Coop position at Merck Montreal. Merck Montreal closed that summer.

Did summer job at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
AECL privatized with massive layoffs the following year.

Since then I've stuck with Academic positions; half the pay, but at least if I can find a job I won't lose it the second I get comfortable!

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15. Anonymous on November 8, 2013 2:49 PM writes...

@14: I hope that's not a cause-effect relationship, otherwise stay away from my company!

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16. The Fat Layer on November 8, 2013 3:01 PM writes...

Ariad is axing 40% of the workforce in the US.


Tough, tough, tough all way around...

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17. Ted on November 8, 2013 3:02 PM writes...

Started at U - 1 year later --> became PU. I left for D(my only voluntary leave of a job). PU became Ph became Pf --> Closed.

Joined D. Immediately became DD, a subsidiary of Ch. Ch became Ct. Chemistry laid off. Site closed.

Joined Cy. Chemistry laid off. Site closed.

Joined I. Everyone laid off. Site closed.

Joined S-R. Everyone laid off. Site closed.

Now I work for a company many people hate. I tell them I'm working on their behalf...


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18. The Fat Layer on November 8, 2013 3:07 PM writes...

@9: "likely to claim unemployment benefits once severance expires"

I don't know how things work in MA, but in some states if you are laid off and receive a severance package you don't get benefits for some time or at all.

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19. anomalous on November 8, 2013 3:19 PM writes...

@9 and @18: I can tell you from experience that in MA and IL you can start taking unemployment benefits as soon as you're layed (laid?) off, whether or not you get a severance package. For other states, I can't say.

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20. Lu on November 8, 2013 4:27 PM writes...

'this the season...
Sorry to everyone affected.

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21. Just askin' on November 8, 2013 7:14 PM writes...

So, contrary to what the Boston Globe has published recently, will there be an end in sight for the Boston Biotech Bubble?

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22. R. H. B. on November 8, 2013 7:48 PM writes...

Grim week (Novartis Horsham and Emeryville, BMS, Shire, Ariad). Although only two of these are in the traditional chemistry-led drug discovery heartlands of New Jersey and provincial Old England, the dismantling of the heartlands is now almost done. Farewell to the quietish places the named inventors of successful drugs called home.

Anyone out there come across a drug discovery Mercator projection, with pins showing where approved drugs were first synthesised? Time consuming to compile, but should be relatively straightforward to get to by looking up geographical locations of assignees of the first published patent applications that exemplified or claimed the compounds. Use whatever criterion you like (All Time Top 50, 2012 Best Sellers, 2008-2013 New Releases, etc, etc). No doubt the legacy maps would come out pretty similar, with a highish concentration of pins in the heartlands.

Now we're at the outset of a brave (or rash) experiment. Novartis and BMS plan to partly compensate by shifting scientists to Boston Mass. Out of the heartlands and into the biology-led hubs/ecosystems/hotspots (delete whichever two you're most bored with hearing). Out of boring New Jersey and provincial Old England, into trendy Boston Mass and Cambridge UK. Anyone out there tell us how many pins these hubs/ecosystems/hotspots boast on legacy drug discovery maps..?

Biggest Q of All - What will the maps look like in 2033? Of course the maps won't just reflect geography, but will be about any number of factors we're fuzzily aware of now or that come to matter in the future. So come on you futurologists, get your pins out and get predicting - as for me, I'll soon be on the sidelines, but hoping to spectate long enough to see how it plays out...

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23. @KayakPhilip on November 9, 2013 11:23 PM writes...

Did they not know about Shiny Building Syndrome? Neurocrine, Idec (San Diego?). Arena, now Vertex, Ariad and Aveo.

(Assuming there were new jobs to be found) I'd start looking around as soon as my company announced plans for a new building/campus

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