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Getting Pfired isn’t Pfunny

I went to Boston on Monday for a user group meeting for a well known application vendor in the field.  It’s potentially a good place to make connections.  My ideal employment situation would be doing modeling from my home and if there are companies out there who would like to work together on a secure connection so that can happen…

So, anyway, one of the presenters was a research investigator from Pfizer.  First slide, “we have a position open for a modeler at Pfizer, please see me after the presentation if you’re interested”.  Furtive glances and smirks rippled through the room.  Ok, this is sad.  There are people who really need jobs but no one wants to leave everything behind and go work for a company that won’t make any guarantees to its US workforce that it has a future in pharma.  Well, you might if you’re desperate and go in knowing full well that the assignment is temporary, and you have no family or kids you need to relocate, and can find a month to month lease on an inexpensive apartment in a run down section of town.

Pfizer seems unconcerned about the damage it is doing to its reputation which leads us to believe that maybe it doesn’t think its prime directive is drug discovery research anymore.

After the presentation, we talked about what exactly Pfizer was up to in its recent attempts to acquire Astra-Zeneca.  We flew through the options rapidly. Pfizer is in it for the money.  It’s using Britain as a tax haven.  The Swedes are pissed off because Pfizer isn’t promising to protect jobs in Sweden either, although it is much easier to Pfire US employees since we have virtually no job protections.  The scenario reminds me of Boeing, threatening to pull out of Washington if the state didn’t give them more in tax breaks and the workers didn’t give back more in pension security.  Then it was, pretty soon Pfizer will gobble up all of the remaining companies and it will just rename itself Pharma.  Ha-ha.  We’ll all know someone who was Pfired.  Come to think of it, we already do.  

Then the conversation turned to where else we could go.  Academia is out.  Soft money is too squishy right now, grants are heavily politicized and safe bets are favored over risk taking and innovation.  Government is out.  One modeler reported that she had recently been to the CDC to find the scientists didn’t even know the members in their own groups.  No one talks to one another.  And besides, the sequester has left them in a semi-permanent funk.  Salaries are frozen and you never know when some Republican will get his jollies by writing a bill to throttle research or when the Democrats will let him do it.  Expecting the government to get a clue and strenuously fund research seems to be a non-starter.  It isn’t going to rescue us.  That brought us back to the idea that private enterprise is going to have to step up and pour money into research or we’re all screwed.  But we all know, having heard it repeatedly over the last 10 years, that our jobs are not to discover drugs.  Noooo, our jobs are to create shareholder value, even if that means we have to sacrifice our salaries in order to make it happen.

The encouraging thing is that the geeks are finally understanding that shareholders are the only stakeholders that count.


Here’s the thing about pharma research that most people don’t get.  Scientists are heavily dependent on someone else putting up the capital to make it work.  Chemists and biologists don’t walk around with their own equipment.  That’s because the start up costs are astronomically high and the path to a payout is uncertain.  Research is also highly collaborative.  Corporate labs are actually close to ideal for pharma research because if a project needs analytical support or protein production or whatever, the team members can walk down the hall to the appropriate resource and get in a queue for that resource.  Having it all under one roof streamlines the process, which is already difficult enough.

In fact, I would have to say that this kind of research is the most complex that you will ever see and breaking up the process of research, as the MBAs have been gleefully doing lately in the name of shareholder value, has really devastated the work.  And there’s a cultural phenomenon underlying all of this uncreative destruction by the MBA/Bonus class that reminds me of a Jane Austen novel.  I’ll try to nail that down in another post but some of us are starting to wonder how it is that people who have spent a huge chunk of their lives in a lab before they get their first jobs in their thirties are treated like manual labor and have about as much economic security.  That’s a bad thing for society, innovation, research and progress.

On a related note, I saw this bit on Piketty’s book, Capital, on Avedon’s blog.  It’s what we have been experiencing in pharma.  The question is, how do we get our mojo back without the cooperation of the people we elected to government?





12 Responses

  1. There was this PhD chemist, let’s call him Dr. Darvon, who worked over at Building 7, at Eli Lilly and Company. Dr. Darvon took great pleasure in stealing my Smith educated research chemist wife and getting me pharmed from my marriage.

    In the pharma world, where you were only as good as your last great discovery, his attitude was that his job was to “make things happen.” He carried this professional attitude over into his (and everybody else’s) personal life.

    They both moved on together to Pfizer where they were both Pfired. Who says there is no justice and no honor among Pfieves?

  2. Please don’t leave comments like that on this blog. This is not that kind of place.
    In any case, you need to move on. Don’t let anybody steal your bliss

    • I only say this because this kind of behavior is so common. How long ago did Pfizer conduct its first major downsizing, “butt-sizing” as they called at places like GE (where I was Pfizered), and yet here we are? You write about the effects of working for a company that obviously has so little regard for its employees, while I, as an insider, write about the culture of corporations like Pfizer create, one which promotes competition at all costs, duplicates and encourages behavior more commonly found in psychopaths and sociopaths, and does so inside their companies and within their past, present, and future employees.

      Perhaps the reason why we have the problems we have within the health care system, like prematurely releasing drugs into the marketplace that produce side effects worse than the disease they are supposed to be curing is what is really being produced by companies like Pfizer. Then there is the concern you express in your article about the price that must be paid for going to work for Pfizer and companies like Pfizer, about what really what happens when you sell your soul to the devil and become the devil yourself.

      I take some of the kinds of medications produced by companies like Pfizer, the kinds of people that work for these companies; medications that leave me too fatigued, sick and nauseated to even so much as get out of the chair I am sitting in. Move on? You sure you don’t already work for Pfizer?

      • Nope. I worked for a company that was swallowed up by Pfizer. I left before the event.
        But seriously, this is not the place to air your domestic grievances. I own this blog and I don’t air mine here. When it comes to suggesting that someone has a intractable venereal disease, that’s really out of line. I have no way of verifying that and have tried not to get personal on this blog.
        That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of sociopaths in drug discovery. There most certainly are. The rest of us are just in it for the fun, right? Well, the income was good too but mostly, I just loved the work. So, you know, bliss. Don’t knock it.

  3. “some Republican will get his jollies by writing a bill to throttle research or when the Democrats will let him do it.”

    The appropriate response here is “Pfuck you and the rotten crotch that vomited you into this life!” You want to stop the sequester? Get out and support better candidates.

    • Who the fuck are you and where have you been in the last 6 years??

      • RD–he posts often on Driftglass’s blog. Like Drifty himself, HoBo is a Dinocratic Party loyalist who suffers from, ironically, one of the same delusions which the Tea Birchers suffer, even though Drifty and HoBo despise the Tea Birchers.

        That delusion states that the Dinocratic Party is an enemy of capitalism, or at least a check on its excesses, rather than what the D-Party actually has become: a shrewder, more effective vehicle for the shrewder, more effective capitalists. 👿

        Or perhaps I should merely call them the “Not Quite As Stupid” capitalists. 😈

        As for the Reptilian Party, it is the vehicle of the USAmerican equivalents of Monty Python’s Upper Class Twits, although the Tea Birchers sincerely believe it to be the Party of Real True Authentic Murkans. 😛


        • I don’t recall mentioning your blog over at Drifty’s place, but if I did, I apologize for leading HoBo here. 😛

    • HoBo, I don’t recall you ever being that rude to me, or any other doubter of the Dinocrats over on Drifty’s blog.

      But then, we Drifty-blog Dino-doubters are, AFAIK, all male.

      Maybe you just have a problem with women? :p

  4. Oh, and since I mentioned a certain group of aristocrats: :mrgreen:

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