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Ooooo, SNAP!

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.

Wednesday: Running, junk and diapers

 Update:  Holy Hemiola!  Susie says that the heat has buckled part of the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia.  That’s not good.  The last time I had to go to Philly, the traffic was one of the most miserable experiences of my annus horribilis.  Looks like it’s going to be closed during rush hour.  Good thing it wasn’t an I35 bridge style collapse. Still, *I* wouldn’t drive over this section of highway.  Nosiree.  If only we had a stimulus package that could have fixed our aging infrastructure…

Run for the Employable

I got a little behind on my Couch to 5K running plan during the rainy May we had in NJ.  For those of you with iPhones, there’s an app for that. The one I use is called Get Running. It’s easy to use and you can play your own music in the background over the cheery cues of your British running coach. Happily, I am back on track and working on week three, for those of you who want to follow along or join in.  In another week or two, I propose that interested parties get together to run in the cool hours of the morning.  If any employable people want to run with me, let me know in the comments below and I’ll let you know where you can meet me.  I’m still taking suggestions for T-Shirts.  My present concept is black letters on white that says “em-ploy-able” in three lines across the front and your job title across the back.

My run list is shown below.  Today, I added Paul Young’s “Love of the Common People”, a little ditty popular during the Reagan Recession, and for our union friends out there, Billy Bragg sings “There is Power in a Union”.  These two songs are great for the brisk walking/warm up stage.
1.) Amazing Grace- Laura Love (warm up)
2.) Paul Young – Love of the Common Peopple
3.) There is Power in a Union
4.) The Heartbreak Rides- AC Newman
5.) Firework – Katy Perry (one of the best running songs.  What a surprise)
6.) Fireflies – Owl City
7.) Real Wild Child- Iggy Popp
8.) Jessica- Allman Brothers
9.) Raise Your Glass- The Warblers (Glee)
10.) Welcome to the Future – Brad Paisley
11.) Iko Iko – The Belle Stars
12.) My Big 10 Inch Record – Aerosmith
13.) Love Today- Mika
14.) All These Things That I’ve Done- The Killers
15.)Let the River Run- Carly Simon
16.) River of Dreams- Billy Joel
17.) Run – George Strait (cool down)
18.) Volcano- Jimmy Buffet (post run stretch)

Basic guidelines:

See your doctor before starting any exercise program.  Don’t take on more than you are physically able.  Run if you can, if you can’t run, walk, if you can’t walk, roll.  Other activities, like Zumba for the Employable, are totally cool by me.  Just do it together, where’s it’s visible.  Wear whatever shoes you like.  I wear Nikes because they are the only running shoes that don’t give me intense shin pain for two weeks.  Yes, I have tried others.  If Nikes bother YOU, don’t wear them.  Keep your eyes on your own shoes.  Running shoe purity is not welcome here.  Dress comfortably.  Nothing too tight or too loose.  Batten the boobies.  Drink water and make sure to stretch before and after.  Lunges, hamstring curls, calf stretches all highly recommended.  If you forget, your body will remind you a few days later.  So, it’s best to take a few minutes and release the tension in your muscles.  It will feel good.

On the pharma front:

The Supreme Court has ruled against Stanford University in favor of Roche in a disputed patent case.  I haven’t read the whole decision but Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline has been following this for some time now.  This is what happens when you don’t consult a lawyer before signing over your patent rights. It’s a little intimidating to be in a room with suits who slide papers over to you and tell you they can’t do business until you sign. I’m particularly concerned these days because Big Pharma seems determined to turn its employees into independent contractors.  After we budding entrepreneurs figure out how to cure Crohn’s disease or cancer on our own, Pharma and venture capitalists will want in on the deals.  And that’s where the innovator had better be very careful when signing away their rights to the patents.  It could mean years of work for very little return.

In fact, I’m more than a little concerned that there are no professional organizations looking out for independent R&D professionals, now forced to make their fortunes on their own.  The ACS does not seem to be evolving, sadly.  Maybe it’s time to reintroduce the concept of the guild for R&D professionals.  We need protection for our intellectual property as well as a fair return on our investment of time and money.  And for those of us with the requisite 10,000 hours that indicate mastery of our subject matter, it’s time we considered ourselves to be professionals like doctors, writers and plumbers.  Does anyone know anything about Thomas Malone and the new guild concept for e-lancers? My gut feeling is that we dispossessed better move on this quickly.

Moving on…

The black hole that is the administration’s plan for the unemployed seems to centered around Tim Geithner.  His name keeps popping up over and over again.  And not necessarily in a good way. The latest is from Matt Yglesias, he who was able to snag a gig at a prestigious online magazine at the tender age of twenty something.  Still can’t figure out why more lefty women aren’t getting tapped for money paying writing opportunities.  You’d think the world had never heard of George Sands or Currer Bell or George Elliot.  We could be unsexed.  But I digress.  I’m sure there’s a reason why that Y chromosome carries so much gravitas.  Let me know when someone figures it out.


Matt Says that Christina Romer and Larry Summers, who were in favor of tackling unemployment, were overridden by Tim Geithner and Peter Orzag who want to bring down the deficit.  Romer was supposedly the expert who should have had the most pull in this situation but Obama sided with Orzag and Geithner.  Summers probably undercut Christina Romer’s position years ago with his stupid remarks about women being incapable of great mathematical and scientific thought.  Thank you, Larry.

It’s very interesting how the finger pointing has increased  lately.  Lots of leaks from the Obama economics team members both credited and un.

Here’s the money quote from Matt Yglesias:

 In general, the Obama administration stands out for having at times a weak grasp of the non-legislative functions of the presidency and doesn’t seem to spend much time worrying about Fed appointments or stimulative things executive agencies can do.

No, $#@*, Sherlock.  That was the number one reason why 18,000,000 of us voted for Clinton.  Obama hadn’t been in the Senate long enough to know where all of the bathrooms were much less run the executive branch.  With Clinton, not only would you have gotten someone who was more of an FDR style Democrat and had been around long enough to see the mechanisms of government working, you would have gotten a mentor thrown in for free!  But we’ve been over this again and again.  The Obama fanbase was simply wrong and ignored all evidence that the other candidate was the one they should have been supporting.

There’s a good reason why we shouldn’t give twerpy, sychophantic twenty something brats their own by-line in journals like The Atlantic.  Their overconfidence is a result of successful asskissing, not any particular genius or political insight. But I don’t want to turn this into a diatribe against Matt.  His record should speak for itself.  He was one of the guys who shoved Obama down our throats until we gagged.  Thanks a lot, Matt.  Want to make my COBRA payment for me and my kid in a couple of months when the money runs out?


But wait!  There’s more.  Atrios (not a putz) at Eschaton has another link to a Geithner story.  It turns out that Geithner’s approach to the economy is going to be shaping the president’s campaign for next year.  His approach sounds an awful lot like “protect the holders of those toxic assets at all costs!”.  Isn’t that special??  I can’t wait for 2012.  The last time I took so much time off from work was when my daughter was born 15 years ago.  But it looks like we jobless can look forward to an indefinite period of underemployment and economic uncertainty for years to come, whether a Republican or Obama win in 2012.

If I were to write Obama’s performance review, I would give him a 2 and give him 6 months to turn it around or send him packing.

Many of us got “outstanding” and “exceptional” reviews in the year of our layoff and we still got shown the door.  There’s no excuse for retaining the poor performers in a time of layoffs when there are plenty of people who could perform the job better.

And here’s a little blast from the past for Anthony Weiner.  David Vitter gave a press conference the day he admitted to visiting a DC prostitute.  I can’t recall if he mentioned which brand of disposable diaper he wore but details like that are not important.

Showing your junk to the world is so high school, Anthony.  Nowadays, adolescents attend mandatory assemblies on the perils of sexting.  Just last season on Degrassi, Alli Bandhari sent a sext of her nekkid boobs to her boyfriend and that sucker was all over school before the end of the day.  (Brook records it on the DVR, why do you ask?)  Maybe Nancy Pelosi can add an assembly to her calendar.  But don’t resign over it unless Vitter goes first.  After all, sexting is just immature.  Prostitution is illegal.

Patenting Parts of People

The ACLU just started a lawsuit saying that patents of human genes are invalid. Specifically, it’s about two breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and 2, but the implications extend to the principle of the thing. And it’s about bloody time.

To understand the merits of the case, consider two parallel situations.

a) Someone removed a strip of skin from your forearm (surgically, with anesthesia, of course), carefully dissected out the different layers, labelled them, and filed the whole thing away in a scientific exhibit. Do they get a patent? No. You can’t patent something you didn’t invent.

b) Someone removed a microscopically small piece of skin from your forearm, carefully noted all the different components down to the molecules, labelled them, and filed the whole thing away. Do they get a patent? Yes. Apparently, so long as it’s invisible, you can patent things you didn’t invent.

At this point it seems quaint to insist that patenting life, so long as it’s in very small pieces, is wrong. We’ve grown inured to the travesty. It is, after all, a very lucrative travesty.
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