Weather here in Pittsburgh is right up there with Edinburgh, Scotland this spring. The forsythia still have yellow flowers on them. The magnolia tree was in full bloom when we got a hard, hard frost a couple of weeks ago. That turned all of the blossoms brown. That same frost killed the flowers in my planter. Don’t you love to spend money on plants to watch them die?
I noticed that someone was reading my Mad Men post from a couple of years ago. I still stand by the Ibsen connection but I have a couple of revisions, as well as some theories about a secondary theme on the submission of the creative forces in business to the forces of convention and money. Heads up: it doesn’t end well for the creative types. But if you’re wondering how it is Americans celebrate the MBAs and their values to the detriment of everyone else, Matt Weiner may have an idea about how that happened. I’ll try to map that out later.
In the meantime, what is the real world consequence of the defeat of the creative? We may be about to find out when it comes to infectious diseases. The NYTimes reported yesterday on the first case of MERS in the US. MERS is a respiratory disease that is related to SARS. It has a lethality rate of around 30%. That’s scary high. It doesn’t mean that MERS is going to take off like the pneumonic plague but I’m betting that fellow passengers on the flight with patient zero are sweating buckets right now.
MERS is a viral infection but resistant bacterial infections are the ones to really worry about. Viral infections require vaccines and they’re trickier to treat once you get an infection. For example, what do you take if you get the flu or ebola? Cat’s out of the bag at that point. You don’t have a lot of options but to wait it out and hope your immune system kicks in before you die. But we know how to make antibiotics. We just aren’t making a lot of new ones these days. Those kinds of drugs aren’t profitable because patients don’t take them for long periods of time so the shareholders aren’t getting a high enough return on investment. The antibiotic projects get dumped from the portfolio in favor of cancer drugs and orphan disease drugs. Maybe that’s reassuring to the cancer patients out there but how does it feel to be the shareholders’ cash cows? And what about the patients with resistant infections, psychiatric illnesses and other illnesses that are difficult and expensive to discover drugs to treat?
In the meantime, the creative types are busily writing their resumes in the wake of another M&A announcement. That’s the way the world works these days. The research divisions are viewed as unpredictable and expensive weights on the bottom line. The hardworking creative geniuses are at the mercy of the bean counters and MBAs.
And so are the rest of us.