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Drug Industry History

Way Out Here

Those Pfizer predictions I posted last week were accurate in outline, but not in detail. (The company must be doing a reasonable job of clamping down on leaks). La Jolla and St. Louis survived, confounding expectations, and Michigan got hit very hard indeed.
That’s sad, and ironic. The very research facility (ex Warner-Lambert) that discovered and developed Lipitor, the drug that’s been most important in keeping Pfizer afloat, is getting the axe. I know some people up there, and I have a lot of sympathy for them. Not only are they out of a job, but they’re out of a job in a part of the country that will almost certainly not be able to absorb them.
I’m having enough of a time trying to keep the moving vans away here in Connecticut, and my state has a real pharma/biotech presence. Nothing compares to the obvious always-find-something locations, though: Boston/Cambridge, SF/Bay Area, San Diego/La Jolla, New Jersey from Philadelphia to New York.
On the other hand, the classic example of going out on a location limb is Eli Lilly. Indianapolis, whatever its other charms (like reasonably priced housing), is not a hotbed of drug discovery research once you leave the Lilly premises. The company has generally paid people well, and it’s understood that the premium is partly to offset the risk of moving to a part of the country where there’s basically only one place you can work. (Well, there’s Abbott in Chicago, and there used to be Searle, but it’s not like anyone’s going to want to commute from Indianapolis to Chicago).
Lilly’s the biggest example I know of, but there are plenty of smaller companies located in unlikely places. Nominees are invited for the Most Isolated Company Award – and I’ll kick things off by mentioning Albany Molecular.

51 comments on “Way Out Here”

  1. David says:

    There was Myogen in Denver, but it’s been purchased. Ditto for Kos in Miami. Solvay in Marietta or Encysive in Houston seem like possible winners. 3M in St. Paul is pretty good too.

  2. Don B. says:

    I believe that 3M has sold off hteir pharmaceutical group. I don’t know what happened to the researchers/people in Minnesota.

  3. former AMRI employee says:

    At least Albany Molecular has generally paid people well, and it’s understood that the premium is partly to offset the risk of moving to a part of the country where there’s basically only one place you can work.
    Oh, wait…

  4. randomguy says:

    I’d put my vote in for Myriad in Salt Lake City. Great bunch of people in a beautiful city, but well, it’s a bit of an odd city too.

  5. tom bartlett says:

    Myriad– Salt Lake city.
    Also, doesn’t AMRI have a Mount Prospect, Il site?

  6. pc says:

    On another note, since AMRI is mentioned, is it true that it requires employee to work 10hr every day?

  7. Emma Jean says:

    LigoCyte Pharma in Bozeman, Montana.

  8. LNT says:

    Yes, as of a few years ago, it was an unwritten (but well communicated) policy that AMRI requires employees to put in a 50 hour week. I interviewed there and was told this directly. I generally work 50 hours a week — but it’s because I want to get ahead and want to do well. I certainly wouldn’t want to work someplace that REQUIRED me to put in 50 hours! That’s like taking a 20% pay cut!

  9. Steve says:

    The Kansas City area has a big push on for growing the biotech/life sciences arena. Not sure about pharma groups – but if research is your gig, this could be a growth area.
    Here’s a link:
    http://www.mriresearch.org/WorkingWithMRI/Alliances.asp
    Very affordable housing, cool ands oon-to-be lively downtown as well.

  10. Tuck says:

    TransOva Genetics is based in Sioux City, Iowa, and has a regional center (for collecting ova from bovine donors, I gather — does that count?) in Belgrade, Montana. Even more remote than Bozeman.

  11. Milo says:

    Promega Bioscience (chemistry) is located in San Luis Obispo, CA. Pretty scenery but there is nothing else there science wise (except Cal Poly).

  12. Cryptic Ned says:

    IDT (source for DNA oligos) is in a suburb of Iowa City.

  13. Milo says:

    Re #6 & #8
    I interviewed at CBRD in Delaware 4 years ago and was told flat out that 50-60 hours a week was expected.
    I recently saw a grad school chum at an ACS meeting who happens to work at AMRI and he looked pretty ragged… I guess they work their folks hard.

  14. rpesin@adelphia.net says:

    La Jolla survived, but there will be significant displacement of employees due to the changing scope of research there towards cancer, ophthamology, and antibodies/vaccines. Conceptually these changes make sense as there is synergy for cancer research with UCSD and Salk. Neighboring Orange County is a the nation’s capital for ophthamology related companies. The allegiance with Scripps provides support for the antibodies/vaccine work.

  15. Erik says:

    As someone who isn’t quite yet in pharma, when you guys take your jobs, how long do you plan on staying there? Obviously this is probably case dependent, but for the normal size companies are you already thinking about where you’re going to work AFTER leaving BEFORE you even start????? That’s what this discussion seems to be implying….not that I think it’s a bad idea to look a few steps ahead….

  16. New Grad says:

    As someone who has just taken a job, I can tell that I am not at all thinking about where I will work next. I think we all hope for job security, but change is now just a reality of this field that one has to accept- unlike maybe 30 years ago.

  17. dave s. says:

    Belgrade is like 8 miles from Bozeman. It’s basically a suburb, part of Greater Metro Bozeman. I wouldn’t class one as being more remote than the other.

  18. tiki says:

    Hawaii Biotech in Aiea, Hawaii (on the island of Oahu)

  19. alchemist says:

    Deciphera (small bio-tech/pharma)
    Lawrence, KS

  20. horrible says:

    How about Jackson Labs in Bar Harbor Maine.
    #1, Isn’t Tanox in Houston as well?

  21. Chrispy says:

    New graduates:
    I was told by someone in HR that the average turnover for biotech technician-level jobs is 3-4 years. As a Ph.D. I am on my third job in nine years — both of my previous employers went belly-up.
    Although I never have applied for a job without the motivation of Unemployment, it is generally true that you will do better, career-wise, to swap jobs every few years. Look at any V.P. level CV and you’ll see this. It stands to reason, too — would you rather hire someone with five years at Bayer, five at BMS, and five at Merck or someone with 15 years at Lilly? Guaranteed the guy who swaps around will have a higher position — unless, of course, every swap was because they were fired and every position they took an act of desperation.
    Something which I am only now beginning to have to come to grips with, too, is that older Ph.D.s with a lot of management experience can have problems finding jobs. Existing management can find them threatening, and they like to promote from within. (How many high-level jobs do you see advertised?) This is a little counter to the swap-jobs-every-few-years thing, but the deal is that when these poeple DO find jobs they’re (in theory) good ‘uns.

  22. daen says:

    Well, if companies outside of the US count, I’d nominate deCODE Genetics in Reykjavik, Iceland. And there’s a small biotech cluster in Dunedin, New Zealand, which is pretty far away from anywhere else except the rest of New Zealand …

  23. eugene says:

    There is a “greater metro” Bozeman!? Wow…

  24. Ben says:

    It’s funny that two of the big chromatography suppliers are located in the same town and that that town is in the middle of nowhere. I am, of course, referring to Supelco and ResTek. As a former employee of Supelco and an undergraduate alum of Penn State, I recognize that Bellefonte, PA is not the easiest town to get out of, shipping wise. So it always amazes me when I think about how those two companies can survive.

  25. anon says:

    Ben: In a way the location of Supelco makes sense. If I remember correctly, they donated analytical hplc columns to some groups at Penn State in exchange for developing separation methods. (I also graduated from PSU, last generation of the Chandlee era.) Relatively cheap location (suburb of State College) plus a relatively cheap labor source nearby.

  26. Erik says:

    What you’re saying makes sense Chrispy, I am certainly expecting a move or two in the future down the road.
    I always wondered about rising up the ladder into management. Is life really more difficult as you rise up the ladder so to speak? I mean, you should be more valuable to the company, right? Finally having experience and skills and THEN having life get MORE difficult is definitely a raw deal!

  27. milo says:

    Anon (#25),
    If possible, drop me a comment on my blog, I have a question for you.

  28. Jenny says:

    “always-find-something locations, though: Boston/Cambridge, SF/Bay Area, San Diego/La Jolla, New Jersey from Philadelphia to New York”
    I wonder when it was the last time you’ve ‘been out there’ Dereke?
    The tri-state area is weak and San Diego/la jolla is a death zone (friends at a recent biotech co whose stock got torpedoed have yet to find jobs after several months). All of San Diego is a contracting disaster. You never seem to discuss the current absymal state of employment for chemists. What reality are you living in? Maybe you should stick to the ‘chemistry is fun talk’? You do your field a disservice by constantly ignoring reality.

  29. Dr.Carbon says:

    In 2006, Myriad in Salt Lake City became even more of a pharma-island with the shrinking of our neighbor, NPS Pharmaceuticals. We were invited to walk through the empty NPS labs and glean reagents to cut down on their disposal costs; a very sobering experience.
    By the way, we have several job positions open:
    1. An RA position in chemistry (hit-to-lead).
    2. An RA position with our analytical team.
    3. A group leader position in Med Chem (managing 4 people while still working in the lab).
    Personally, I’m very happy in SLC. If you ski, rock climb, bike or have a several wives, then this location has a lot to offer.

  30. milkshake says:

    Selectide (of Sanofi-Aventis) in Tucson, AZ.
    Great place, reasonable housing and you can ski, bike, climb, stargaze or grow prickly pear there. You can have several wives too but it is generally frowned upon by the Czech community..

  31. freshblood says:

    i interviewed at AMRI recently and didn’t get the slave-driven impression from the many people i met. my former co-worker w/in the co. has nothing but good things to say. never-the-less it is interesting to hear all these perspectives from you btdt industry guys. good blog btw

  32. Derek Lowe says:

    Hi Jenny – actually, I have a fairly good idea of what the employment situation is like in these various areas. Dozens of colleagues of mine have been investigating them first-hand, unfortunately.
    It’s true that SD/La Jolla isn’t what it was a few years ago, but compared to some other areas of the country, it’s still a target-rich zone.
    As for discussing the job situation for chemists, well, since I’m unemployed myself as of next Tuesday, it’s not a topic that I like to dwell on right now. But I’ve talked about many layoff situations here. Interestingly, many of my laid-off chemistry colleagues are finding positions, so the job market, while not booming, could certainly be worse.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Out of curiosity, what does the peanut gallery think of the RTP (Raleigh/Durham) area these days? I was thinking it might have a sizable enough population to allow a career to progress without the need for relocation, but then again that might only exist in Boston / CA these days. Anyone have a feel for the environment out there? Growing? Crashing?

  34. Anonymous says:

    PDL BioPharma’s production plant in suburban Minneapolis is a long ways from other biotech.

  35. Steven Jens says:

    Derek, I don’t know what part of Connecticut you’re in, but I had a boss in Cambridge who commuted daily from somewhere near New London. Of course, he was a little nuts.
    I currently have a coworker, still around Boston, who lives near Hartford, but he works from home four days a week, which I suppose isn’t an option in your line.
    Good luck.

  36. Gerald says:

    How about The Woodlands, Texas? Lexicon Genetics is there.
    Also, sometimes the jobs are in places where you don’t expect them … these are straight biology though, some with veterinarian tendency:
    http://hostedjobs.openhire.com/epostings/jobs/submit.cfm?version=1&company_id=15597

  37. Jeremiah says:

    Indianapolis has quite a bit of chemical R&D, actually. Dow Agro’s primary research facility and Reilly Chemical are both located there.
    There is more than just big pharma for chemists, you know. Besides, it’s better than living in New Jersey.

  38. molecularArchitect says:

    To describe the current chemistry employment picture in California as “abysmal”, as Jenny did, is an understatement. I and several former colleagues, all with >15 years experience, are still unemployed after a year.
    Chrispy’s comments about the difficulties faced by older Ph.D.s with management experience are a troubling indicator of the future of Medicinal chemistry as a career. There are jobs for new grads and those with less experience. Small companies are unwilling to pay for technical experience and think they can successfully do med chem with a combination of inexperienced teams and outsourcing. In my opinion, this will prove to be a false economy. No one graduates from school knowing how to discover and optimize drug candidates. They might be great synthesis chemists but it takes experience to learn how to function in a multi-disciplinary team and succeed. Schools don’t produce good med chemists, real-life experience in industry does.
    A huge part of the problem is that the investment community want a quick return and is shying away from funding discovery research in favor of “development-stage” companies. This isn’t just a problem in the small biotech arena, P&G recently eliminated all their discovery efforts. Just where in the hell are the discoveries to be developed going to come from without experienced med chemists?
    Honestly, I love doing chemistry and have enjoyed my career but I wish I had studied something else. It’s hard to accept that my career in chemistry may be over. I’m too young (and can’t afford) to retire. The options of teaching at a small college or starting over in a new field (at much less money) are not particularly attractive.
    To answer Erik’s question: if I were just finishing a PhD, I would not take a lab job. Head into the financial end of the business. That will vastly improve your odds of working until you’re ready to retire. If I were early in the PhD program, I’d quit and enter a more lucrative field. If you go for an MD or PharmD, you can still do research but have many other options if the industry continues on its self-distructive course. An MBA or JD will open even more opportunities. None of those 4 alternatives require any more intellect or hard work than a PhD program, probably less.

  39. molecularArchitect says:

    To describe the current chemistry employment picture in California as “abysmal”, as Jenny did, is an understatement. I and several former colleagues, all with >15 years experience, are still unemployed after a year.
    Chrispy’s comments about the difficulties faced by older Ph.D.s with management experience are a troubling indicator of the future of Medicinal chemistry as a career. There are jobs for new grads and those with less experience. Small companies are unwilling to pay for technical experience and think they can successfully do med chem with a combination of inexperienced teams and outsourcing. In my opinion, this will prove to be a false economy. No one graduates from school knowing how to discover and optimize drug candidates. They might be great synthesis chemists but it takes experience to learn how to function in a multi-disciplinary team and succeed. Schools don’t produce good med chemists, real-life experience in industry does.
    A huge part of the problem is that the investment community want a quick return and is shying away from funding discovery research in favor of “development-stage” companies. This isn’t just a problem in the small biotech arena, P&G recently eliminated all their discovery efforts. Just where in the hell are the discoveries to be developed going to come from without experienced med chemists?
    Honestly, I love doing chemistry and have enjoyed my career but I wish I had studied something else. It’s hard to accept that my career in chemistry may be over. I’m too young (and can’t afford) to retire. The options of teaching at a small college or starting over in a new field (at much less money) are not particularly attractive.
    To answer Erik’s question: if I were just finishing a PhD, I would not take a lab job. Head into the financial end of the business. That will vastly improve your odds of working until you’re ready to retire. If I were early in the PhD program, I’d quit and enter a more lucrative field. If you go for an MD or PharmD, you can still do research but have many other options if the industry continues on its self-distructive course. An MBA or JD will open even more opportunities. None of those 4 alternatives require any more intellect or hard work than a PhD program, probably less.

  40. A-NONY-MUSE says:

    Anyone else find the “colon cleanse” addy at teh bottom of this blog topic highly ironic?

  41. Derek Lowe says:

    Tell me about it. I’m trying to see if I can get rid of that stuff. Anyone who goes in for “colon cleansing” needs to cleanse their cerebral cortex while they’re at it.

  42. Mark M says:

    Re: post #33
    I would currently classify RTP as another death zone that is enraptured with the “contractor” idea.
    RTP to be full of great opportunities for discovery scientists (including us synthesis folks). Not any more. Supply far exceeds demand and salaries have fallen. Of course, GSK is an outlier in all of this–but there is only so much talent they can soak up and dont even try to get in there as a PhD without either prior big pharma experience or the right pedigree.
    I didnt want to, but I had to leave RTP. This is how a lot of folks feel about San Diego/La Jolla.
    I am now a recruiter and I can attest to the woeful situation in San Diego. However, up the road in San Fran the opps are much more plentiful.
    That being said, these days it is far better for your career to be involved in development than discovery if you want some degree of say on where you live and how long you can stand to be unemployed if you get laid off.
    My clients can not get enough analytical, bioanalytical and formulations scientists. I know many a talented PhD organic chemist who has transitioned to one of these fields (or even patent law) and done quite well through tough times.
    My transition took me to recruiting.
    I wish all job seekers good fortune for 2007.
    -Mark

  43. milkshake says:

    Merck in Boston was seeking people to few mechem job positions, from RA level up to a lab leaders with n-years of experience. I don’t know how fresh this information is though.

  44. Jose says:

    Don’t forget Bend Research Inc., in OR- not really Medchem (mostly formulation research) but it is certainly a little island….

  45. joe says:

    I am a drug discovery biologist and agree with the comments of molecularArchitect comments, even the sad ones related to job selection. For some reason management never appreciates the contribution of medicial chemists to a successful program. From the outside, it may look like the chemists’ make compounds at random, and the so-so ones might but not the good med chemists. A good creative chemist is a joy to work with and can turn a program from a 4 year futile effort into a 2 year success story. This type of creativity can’t be gotten through contractors or vendors. Big Pharmas should know better than to think it can and small biotechs don’t know what they’re missing.

  46. James says:

    molecularArchitect, would your reply to Erik’s question (i.e., what you wrote in #39) be the same if it were a Ph.D. in an engineering discipline (e.g., chemical/biochemical/biomedical engineering) as opposed to a science (e.g., chemistry)?
    Thanks!

  47. MolecModeler says:

    I’m at the big company in RTP. You (everyone) need to figure out how much you love research. Discovery is the pits, no one cares about you. We all laugh/complain about stupid MBA’s making dumb decisions, but who are they affecting? Us. Who’s making them? Them. Who’s the real fool?
    Anyway career transition is probably what I’m looking at, otherwise expect to work 20 years to get anywhere with real decision making posibility (at least in big pharma).
    MM

  48. Just a dad says:

    Gerald on January 25, 2007 10:12 PM writes…
    How about The Woodlands, Texas? Lexicon Genetics is there.
    After a little over 6 years with Lexicon my son was laid off on Monday as part of their restructuring. There were approx 125+ people let go.

  49. lcguy1 says:

    How about GSK in Hamilton, MT. Kind of out of the way too.

  50. molecularArchitect says:

    James (#46), I honestly don’t have a clue about career opportunities in engineering disciplines. These folks are more involved in manufacturing and I’ve never worked in that end of the business. A number of pharma companies are building manufacturing facilities in Singapore. I imagine that there are cost savings associated with this. I assume that Singapore is chosen rather than China or India due to the substantial capital costs and more stable political/economic environment.
    Mark M (#42), I can attest that the opportunities in San Francisco are not plentiful. There are some entry level positions but very few for experienced chemists.
    So tell me, how does an experienced chemist over age 45 make the transition to analytical, bioanalytical or formulations? Every ad I see in those fields wants people with experience, just the opposite from MedChem.
    How did you make the move to recruiting?
    I know several people who are exploring the patent agent opportunities. Gads, I would hate to do that for a living!

  51. not gonna say says:

    GSK in Hamilton MT had layoffs this week.

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