About this Author
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

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
Not Voodoo

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
Realizations in Biostatistics
ChemSpider Blog
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa

Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net

Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine

Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem

Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus

Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Should Drug Industry Research All Get Rejected For Publication? | Main | Abandoning the Chinese Drug Market »

January 16, 2014

Merck Pulls One Out

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

Merck's vorapaxar, a thrombin antagonist that many had thought might never make it, has received a positive FDA advisory committee vote. I'm glad to see it - peripherally, I go way back with this compound (well, its ancestors), and I really had doubts that Merck could get things to fly. Anticoagulants are a very tricky business - we'll see (if and when it does get approved) what sort of market it can carve out. They're up for treating patient who have already had one cardiac event, which is still a good-sized market.

Comments (18) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Cardiovascular Disease | Regulatory Affairs


1. Chrispy on January 16, 2014 1:09 PM writes...

One wonders how many of the chemists associated with this were axed in the recent out-with-the-chemists, in-with-the-biologists musical chairs...

Permalink to Comment

2. anchor on January 16, 2014 1:21 PM writes...

Good for them! But, is it going to bring in enough $$$$ to pull Roger and Merck out of spotlight? How much is the revenue projection for this drug, say in next 2 years? Need some help here.

Permalink to Comment

3. anonymous on January 16, 2014 3:57 PM writes...

#1 - pretty much every chemist who ever worked on this is were "let go" - most of them in the 2011 round and the remaining in the 2013 round. Great to work at Merck.

Permalink to Comment

4. a on January 16, 2014 6:19 PM writes...

What a terrible place to work. Horrible environment.

Permalink to Comment

5. anony-mous on January 16, 2014 7:00 PM writes...

Derek - FYI, it's a thrombin RECEPTOR antagonist

Permalink to Comment

6. polybus on January 16, 2014 9:59 PM writes...

So instead of dying of a heart attack, you die of stroke instead. No survival benefit in the trial designed to figure that out. Maybe it's just a dosage adjustment or two, but I wouldn't take it until survival is improved.

Permalink to Comment

7. fourtytwo on January 17, 2014 3:53 AM writes...

Good news. We need many more good news stories to get our troubled industry back on track. Incidentally, doesn't the structure of Vorapaxar make your med chem bones shudder? I know it's based on a natural product, but the bits they added on don't look too nice either! Still, well done Merck (and it's former employees who made it possible).

Permalink to Comment

8. Anonymous on January 17, 2014 7:22 AM writes...

I hope future potential employees of Merck will realise that the prize for helping to save the company (and management's ass) by developing a new product, will be a redundancy letter just after they've been milked. This company has sealed its fate.

Permalink to Comment

9. Teddy Z on January 17, 2014 8:51 AM writes...

What I think is neat is that the natural product is a M2 antagonist.

Permalink to Comment

10. MRL loyal on January 17, 2014 1:15 PM writes...

I am really scared to do this because I shudder to think of the comments soon to be directed at me but I take offense to #4 & #8:

I am a young Merck bench chemist and I understand the nature of comments like #4 and #8 but I feel compelled to disagree. I find my career at Merck to be incredibly scientifically rewarding and FOR ME, Merck is a great place to work.

Job security sucks in big Pharma and it is often the case that the team that made a drug is not around to celebrate when the drug is released many years later. This is very sad and the system is broken and I hope someone can fix it.

But for me, Merck is an awesome place to be a chemist. It's not like you can wake up and say "I cant wait to get to work and enjoy my amazing job security." I choose to be ready for my pink slip and receive it with a smile when it comes. But until that day I plan to do some kickass experiments here at Merck.

I apologize to any of my friends no longer at Merck to whom this may seem insensitive.

Also glad to hear good news on vorapaxar.

Permalink to Comment

11. Hap on January 17, 2014 3:07 PM writes...

Maybe that's the best way to approach your job.

If drug companies think that finding a drug is a random event and not representative of people's value to them, then with the amount of people fired you would expect that a fair amount would have found drugs (because there have been so many layoffs), and that would not be unreasonable. If finding a drug is not uncorrelated with the abilities of the people who do it, then firing the people who help find drugs for companies and thus to enable their growth and existence seems rather unjust, particularly when it seems to be happening to support a shift to a rather unproven (but cheap!) model of drug discovery. I am assuming that it is, in fact, not so. If that's the case, then there is a lack of fairness. While that lack of fairness (and it's an organization of people, so it could in fact be made to function fairly) may not be relevant now, it likely will eventually. If companies don't think your work or experience doing your job is important, then you probably won't be doing it long, and won't have the resources to do it well.

The lack of correlation between work outcomes and job security eventually will be businesses' murder-suicide notes to the economy - if what people do and how well they do it doesn't matter, how long will they continue to work at doing it and for how long?

Permalink to Comment

12. funny guy on January 17, 2014 3:17 PM writes...

@10. MRL loyal, as you pointed out, "I am a YOUNG Merck bench chemist...." come back 10 years later and let us know what you think.

Permalink to Comment

13. anonymous on January 17, 2014 3:26 PM writes...

LOL. Good luck with you.

Permalink to Comment

14. TX raven on January 17, 2014 4:12 PM writes...


Smaller companies sometimes fire the research folks who discovered a drug candidate to get funding for its clinical development...

Fair? Just? Drug discovery in the brave new world...

Permalink to Comment

15. Anonymous on January 17, 2014 5:24 PM writes...

BTW, Vorapaxar is the product of Schering-Plough chemists. All gone by now I presume. To clear the space for MRL loyals.

Permalink to Comment

16. A on January 17, 2014 10:26 PM writes...

@10. Wow - I haven't bumped into anyone with that kind of enthusiasm yet. All the folks I know won't admit publicly how bad things are. But if you sit with them and have a beer they all hate that place.

Permalink to Comment

17. somuchbetterintheolddays on January 18, 2014 7:11 AM writes...

Hmm.Decent paycheck, pretty interesting work, chance to occasionally help people. No grant writing. It could be a lot worse.

Considering the alternative of being a half paid adjunct faculty on soft-money in the current funding environment, the Pharma gig isn't so bad.

Not saying the situation is ideal, but this isn't the 90s anymore for anyone in chemistry or life-science research.

Permalink to Comment

18. Anonymous on January 20, 2014 4:25 AM writes...

Good on you for speaking out with your thoughts #10, and well said. Enjoy it while it lasts, move onto something new, and don't look back. Best wishes to you.

Permalink to Comment


Remember Me?


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

The Last Post
The GSK Layoffs Continue, By Proxy
The Move is Nigh
Another Alzheimer's IPO
Cutbacks at C&E News
Sanofi Pays to Get Back Into Oncology
An Irresponsible Statement About Curing Cancer
Oliver Sacks on Turning Back to Chemistry