Here’s a David and Goliath story that will give you some insight as to how senseless and stupid the decimation of the pharmaceutical R&D industry has been and how insensitive upper management can be. I found the link at
Derek Lowe’s In The Pipeline blog. It’s about a medicinal chemist who worked on a project that resulted in the discovery of a block buster drug for a company that was bought out by another company. You can probably guess the rest. Yes, his site was closed down and everybody on the project was laid off. Congratulations for discovering this shareholder value enhancing drug. Please meet me in the cafeteria at 9am and then go away.
So, the chemist did go away. Many years later…
I got recently contacted by a patent litigation attorney from a giant pharma company, a company that is advertising on TV every night and whose name rhymes with “Mergers and Massacres”: They have a drug that is selling over a billion a year and now the key patent for this drug is facing a challenge from two generic competitors. Since I am on the patent (there is about dozen authors) the lawyers wanted to prepare me in case that I get subpoenaed by those generic companies challenging the patent. They offered me a free legal representation in the hearings and they proposed to pay me as a consultant (“at my usual rate”) for talking to them and for the deposition – should this subpoena happen.
The detailed history of the invention seems important in this case because the patent that sets the invention priority (and thus affects the date of the drug monopoly expiration) is being challenged on several fronts. It appears that their legal team has been having some difficulty piecing together the exact timeline of the project – who proposed/synthesized what and when (even as they have all the notebooks and employment records in their possession). Apparently no-one from the original team is employed with the company anymore: We were summarily laid off when our research site was shut down. (The chemistry director was actually forced out, under rather contentious circumstances, shortly before the site closure). Only a handful of employees was re-hired elsewhere within the company. And surprisingly, it seems that some of my ex-colleagues are not getting in touch with the patent litigation team now…
I am also not calling the lawyers as they repeatedly urged me to – instead I wrote to them and shared some of the impressions and experiences that I had while being – briefly – a part of their company – and I also reminded them of the class-action lawsuit that my ex-colleagues brought against them, when the company reneged on their severance payments after the layoffs. (The company settled out of court and apparently paid in full the promised amount, about 2 years later.)
Also, I reached out to the two generic companies involved in this litigation and informed them about this legal team approach from my former employer – and I offered to answer questions about the history of this drug discovery and I gave them the names of the few important inventors on the patent who could be perhaps more helpful than me. Then I wrote back to the legal team of the large company and I let them know that I contacted the two generic companies. I explained that I don’t want their money but maybe they could re-evaluate how they are going to treat the R&D inventors in the future. You know, in case they need them again.
I hope milkshake doesn’t mind me quoting him in his entirety. The story is just too, um, well, let’s just say that the week after I was laid off, an official email was sent around to all the staff from the bean counters who congratulated themselves at meeting and exceeding their proposed cost cutting targets for the quarter. I guess I was supposed to feel good about how my job was sacrificed to achieve that goal. The dudes who made that performance objective probably got a bonus that was roughly equivalent to my salary. Yes, yes, party on.
So, anyway, that was pretty nervy. I am in awe and bow to his surplus of balls and everlasting righteous indignation. Score one for the geeks.