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#antibiotics : somebody should do something

I’m blogging from my iPhone while I wait for my car to be inspected. Expect imperfection, although, some of you may not notice a difference.

To those of you on the left who are finally paying attention to pharma research, head on over to In the Pipeline. Derek Lowe has another story that illustrates the state of R&D research in the era of shareholder value and its potential impact on the rest of us.

This recent event is about Merck acquiring antibiotic research company Cubist. Cubist in-licensed much of its pipeline and had a small early discovery research team of 120 people. It has now been announced that those 120 researchers have been laid off.

I guess you could say, well, Cubist in-licensed much of their stuff anyway. But those 120 people presumably have many accumulated years of experience from working on antibiotic research and that experience will largely be lost because companies are not really investing in antibiotic research. Where are they going to go?

Some of them are going to get a nice payout from Merck but even if they pool their resources, it’s not going to be enough to make a dent in the hole of antibiotic research. It will mean starting from scratch-again- for many of them. Or casting around for another hard to keep job in one of the most expensive housing markets in thtalee country.

In the meantime, there goes some badly needed talent to combat multi drug resistant bacteria.

If only there was an institution big enough to fund research in the public interest…



8 Responses

  1. Silicon Valley has been the same since the mid-’90s…see Oculus VR for a recent example there. (To rub salt in the wound, Oculus were crowdfunded with the implication that this wouldn’t happen.)

    It works as a model…if your definition of working is making the rich richer while everything stagnates and declines.

    • I think I’ve mentioned this before but drug discovery, by its nature, does not happen in the same way that Silicon Valley development happens. It is more complex, takes longer and requires significant up front investment. In this case, laying off experienced drug discovery scientists erodes their skills AND makes it more difficult to get discovery done. Younger people may be fresher and cheaper but they need guidance on how the process works, when to hold’em, when to fold’em, when to walk away. It takes about 5-10 years to train someone to do it. Some people never get it, especially if they have never had an opportunity to work on a single project from the beginning.
      Financiers and Silicon Valley bigwigs do not understand this. They don’t understand the cell and researchers are only beginning to understand it.
      We are all at risk as a result.

      • Thing is, the development model doesn’t actually work in Silicon Valley, either. You’re mistaking malicious self-aggrandizement for misguided benevolence.

        • Ahh, the old malice vs stupidity thing.
          Otoh, much of what Silicon Valley does can be developed on a laptop. That’s a lot cheaper than spending months coaxing cells to do what you want. In the silicon world, physics pretty much works in your favor. In the bio world, it doesn’t.

          • Malice and stupidity are not mutually exclusive.

            If new plagues (or revived old plagues) run wild, pathogens will not distinguish between Our Divinely Ordained Superiors (or for non-religious reactionaries, Our Naturally Selected Superiors) and us vile scummy peasants.

            Many of the rich will die before they get old, too. 😦

          • The silicon valleyans conveniently forget that people other than themselves developed all the machinery upon which their lovely apps and softwares run.

            They never even knew that “Silicon” valley used to be called the Santa Clara Valley, and grew the best prunes in the world, among other things.

  2. The Feds are charging Senator Menendez with corruption.
    RD, any thoughts on this?

    • Nope. I don’t live in NJ anymore and couldn’t really figure out NJ politics when I was living there. It seems to me that the US Congressional delegation is appointed, not elected. There’s not one woman among them and hasn’t been in almost 20 years. That’s a problem, doncha think?
      OTOH, Chris Christie was “investigating” Menendez way back when he was a us attorney. It seemed like a bogus investigation back then and until I read more about it, I’m just going to assume it’s another bogus investigation.
      What committees is Menendez on? Someone is bound to profit from this.

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