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Eli Lilly and Cambridge

So Eli Lilly is opening a research center in Cambridge (specializing in drug delivery). This prompts several questions.
Which big drug companies have not taken the Massachusetts Plunge, at least a little bit? (GSK and Roche don’t have much of a presence, to pick two). What finally made Lilly decide that they were missing out, and what exactly do they feel that they’re missing out on? Is putting a 50-head-count unit inside the magical environs of Kendall Square enough, especially when whatever they come up with is going to have to make it through the rest of Eli Lilly? And so on. . .

51 comments on “Eli Lilly and Cambridge”

  1. anon the II says:

    Just for historical information, Lilly had a research site in Cambridge at 400 Memorial Dr. from 1994 till around 2001 or so. Top floor, nice view.
    So they were ahead of the curve and then late to the party. We’ll probably hear that they’re going to buy a Cray next.

  2. longwood says:

    I always thought the Merck building on Longwood by Harvard Med could make so much more money just renting parking spaces in their lot ($400/month/space easy) than working on drugs.

  3. Anonalso says:

    I don’t understand why companies believe Cambridge and SF are the golden sites for research. Seems like a huge waste of money just on real estate costs vs. get some great scientists, pay them more and live like a king in the Midwest.

  4. anon the II says:

    Oops!, my mistake. Lilly was at 840 Memorial Drive.

  5. anon says:

    Anonalso: If you work outside the hubs it may be fine, but also limits options if you want to (easily) change companies. And changing companies in biotech research is quite common.

  6. Anonymous says:

    @3 I believe it’s a number of reasons all together. First is the emergence of buying smaller biotechs as a way of filling their pipelines. Most startups are located around the schools from which they emerged. Second the emergence of biologics and now cellular therapies are centered around academic centers who are weaker in traditional med chem but very strong in biological space.
    So you can move to the Midwest but the midwest doesn’t have Harvard or MIT or Berkeley Stanford scripps so there won’t be these factors that I listed above.

  7. Anonymous says:

    @3 I believe it’s a number of reasons all together. First is the emergence of buying smaller biotechs as a way of filling their pipelines. Most startups are located around the schools from which they emerged. Second the emergence of biologics and now cellular therapies are centered around academic centers who are weaker in traditional med chem but very strong in biological space.
    So you can move to the Midwest but the midwest doesn’t have Harvard or MIT or Berkeley Stanford scripps so there won’t be these factors that I listed above.

  8. Wavefunction says:

    If nothing else they can at least bank on a higher proportion of unemployed scientists in the SF/Boston areas.

  9. Anon the III says:

    Anon the II: I suspect you already know from your remark, but Lilly did buy a Cray in the early 90’s. They put it in a special palace with lcd-frosted window panels on the route used for public tours.

  10. anonymous says:

    Lilly is just being thoughtful to its employees. When the day inevitably comes, the employees they fire at the Cambridge site will have easier time finding work in the Boston area than they would in Indiana.

  11. anonymous says:

    The move-at-all-costs invasion of Cambridge reflects a follow-the-herd mentality in corporate America (i.e. Pharma) that arises from the same Sigma XI idiots that came up with cramming scientists into open concept spaces & applying the Jack Welch “rank and yank” to drug R&D.
    That said, as @5 points out, it does makes it easier for the Great Unwashed to land a new gig upon the next restructuring, right-sizing, deck-chair-rearranging….

  12. Ellen Clark says:

    I recruited PhD and MD candidates for R&D for Eli Lilly for over ten years at a Director and above level. I know from actual experience how difficult it was to get candidates to move to Indianapolis. I am sure this is why they needed my assistance.
    The main reasons for the difficult recruiting efforts I faced were: 1. Most scientists already in the academic hotspots loved their lifestyle and didn’t want the more conservative Midwest environment. 2. Most highly trained scientists had equally highly trained spouses also in science and moving two people can be very tricky 3. Some didn’t think Lilly had much of a future before a likely merger that would force them to move quickly. On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times people would say to me, “The position sounds perfect; Lilly is a great company; can I commute or work from home?”
    Of course I am in the business of finding people and for a good job with good pay there is always someone in this vast world that will be interested. The search might take a bit of time, but usually we found someone qualified. I must say in all the years Lilly never compromised or settled. If a quality scientist could not be found, the position was not filled. But this situation was rare. How did I attract candidates? Often some wanted the more low-keyed way of life in the Midwest, especially for their children. And always someone could have a much larger house and living standard on the high pay Lilly offered given the cheap living costs. Some candidates wanted some big pharma experience before moving on and never planned on staying forever.
    Although Lilly is not a present client and I do not speak for them, I suspect a Cambridge site will make recruiting some especially sought after candidates easier. The candidates could work most days in Cambridge and commute to Indianapolis once a month as needed. I wish I had this ace up my sleeve when I was recruiting for Lilly.
    Lastly, Lilly already has a presence in Southern California and NYC due to the companies they bought over the years. So they have never been entirely dependent on the Indiana location. But Cambridge is where the action is and this will be a additionally desirable site.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Most highly trained scientists had equally highly trained spouses also in science and moving two people can be very tricky
    This. It is really tricky for two career couples outside of hubs. This is a huge consideration for my husband and me when evaluating employment options.

  14. @Anon 6 and 7 says:

    To give you the benefit of the doubt, I assume that you are not being an “Ivy-Plus snob”. The majority of the misnamed Big 10 is located in the Midwest, along with some institutions that you and others may have heard of: UChicago, Northwestern, Notre Dame, etc.
    Yes, SFO and BOS have “techie allure” and “cultural capital”. Unfortunately, we as a society continue to practice the fallacy of treating biotech/pharma the same as infotech. Aside from drastically different regulatory requirements, physical manufacturing costs are often overlooked by today’s robber-baron investors. Although pharma/biotech may have routed its investments (business faith?) away from the Midwest, at least 3M, Proctor & Gamble, DuPont, Bridgestone, Monsanto, PPG, Lubrizol, and other high-impact companies continue to offer viable careers in chemistry…despite lousy weather and limited availability of self-absorbed pseudo-intelligentsia.

  15. Anonymous says:

    All this is very easy to explain by a virtuous (or vicious, depending on your perspective) cycle of specific types of companies attracting specific talent pools, and specific talent pools attracting specific types of companies.
    It’s why you get all the indian restaurants in one part of town, and all the chinese restaurants in another.

  16. Anonymous says:

    The extreme opposite would be to distribute pharma talent uniformly across the globe, with exactly the same number of pharma people for each every square mile. I doubt it would be very efficient and cost effective.

  17. MTK says:

    @12, Ellen,
    That’s the #1 reason to be in Cambridge, imo.
    Access to talent.
    Given the fluid (ahem) nature of the industry and jobs, being in Cambridge is a big draw, particularly for two scientist couples. Even if a couple can find suitable positions in Indianapolis, Philadelphia, or wherevery, what happens when one gets right-sized out of a job? At least in Cambridge there are a lot more options when that happens.
    So the talent is opting to stay there which means companies have to go there.
    If Mohammed won’t go the mountain…

  18. bad wolf says:

    So are these going to be employee-employees, or more AMRI contractors?

  19. the kid says:

    Cambridge site will look good in the annual report; execs need a Cambridge site to be taken seriously when golfing with the execs from the competition.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Also there is another reason why Boston is attractive for dual career couples. There are at least nine or so universities within commuting distance of Boston that have PhD programs, and many smaller colleges. Also non-profit academic style research institutes like Broad. If you are a dual career couple, and one person is an academic and the other person works in industry, there is no better city for maximizing one’s chance of this working out.

  21. Pfriend says:

    Why? – to be near MIT and compete effectively for postdocs
    For a technology company, an MIT postdoc is the most valuable employee. Preselected from candidates across the world for superior intelligence and ambition. Added benefits quite often: young, unmarried, childless, don’t own a home, live in the area, and for their 40 hour salary will work 60-80 hours a week. It’s not PC to talk about such matters. Don’t talk, just set up a situation where you are appealing to MIT postdocs, and less so to parents from the suburbs, i.e move to Kendall.
    Consider Pfizer, previously ony a few train stops away. Not close enough. Why would a postdoc get on the train with the abundance of options in Kendall?
    Great for shareholders but you don’t build a cohesive society where they only desired employees are postdocs, many of whom are foreigners.

  22. the kid says:

    Shareholders are all that counts anymore in a global world.

  23. Anonymous says:

    @21 you are contradicting yourself a little bit. Competition for MIT postdocs is so fierce as to attract many companies to Cambridge. You even point out Pfizer who moved a relatively short distance to Cambridge. But yet despite this competition and companies falling over themselves to move to Cambridge they are only paying a 40 hour salary for a 80 hour work week?
    Your thesis is a bit off. I’d suggest that its because the talent pool is only part of the equation but not all of it.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Also “you don’t build a cohesive society where the only desired employees are postdocs many of whom are foreigners?”
    1. When they give you a job you are no longer a postdoc
    2. More than 50% of residents living in New York City are foreign born. New York seems to be doing just fine.

  25. Sheepdog says:

    Baa! Baa!

  26. steve says:

    You all miss the point. There is one reason, and one reason only, why all these pharma have located to Boston: the Red Sox.

  27. Dr. Manhattan says:

    @12 ” I know from actual experience how difficult it was to get candidates to move to Indianapolis.”
    Why? I spent a week there one afternoon!
    Seriously, I remember hearing that Lilly paid very well and their employees were among the highest earners in the modest economy of the area. But yes, I can imagine that it would be hard to get someone from either NY, Boston, SF or San Diego to move there.

  28. @24 Anonymous says:

    NIBR, Pfizer, and other major pharma in Cambridge have inexhaustible supplies of “industrial postdocs”. They are effectively contractors and very few matriculate into “permanent” employees.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Can you change the title, it’s very misleading, they won’t be in Cambridge proper, they’ll be in the US Cambridge.

  30. ColinTD says:

    #29, reminds me of the old joke about an American tourist going round one of the Cambridge (UK) colleges.
    They as the porter (the person who effectively runs the site, not a bag carrier) “Is this college pre-war?” to which the reply is “Madam, this college is pre-America”….

  31. Anonymous says:

    The college I studied at in Cambridge (the real one) was founded in 1284, back when Boston was nothing but a clump of trees.

  32. Anonymous says:

    More proof that our industry is one big rat race. I bet a QC tech in Indianapolis can afford a nicer house than a manager in SF when you take cost of living into account. I’m in the Northeast, and I’ve had co-workers with PhD’s tell me their siblings and friends who stayed in their rural hometowns ended up with nicer houses and cars on a blue-collar salary.

  33. alig says:

    @31, a good portion of today’s Boston was underwater until they filled in the bay in the 1850s.

  34. AH says:

    When I left Lilly 5yrs ago to move back to New England my Sr. Director mentioned some data HR had showing that East and West Coasters almost never stayed at Lilly more than 8 years. East Coast pay on Indiana cost of living was nice, but you were in Indiana, and there’s a lot more to quality-of-life than the size of your house.
    My guess is they are following the herd with this move, but attracting talent probably has a lot to do with it.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Holy crap, you mean pay isn’t everything???!!! Who’d have thought that? Younger generations of scientists are willing to forgo significant sums of money for a better quality of life and more work life balance. There’s nothing in Indiana compared to NYC, Boston, SF, and other major cities on the coasts. There absolutely are intangibles that companies need to keep in mind when attracting the best younger talent. Millenials simply don’t give a crap as much about owning big homes and big cars like the Baby Boomers. Who cares if your salary can buy you a bigger home with a bigger yard in Indiana? You’ll still have to drive everywhere to go to the nearest restaurant, bar, movie theater, farmer’s market, or whatever. Millenials are simply moving to urban hubs, I thought this was well known?

  36. petros says:

    Re #30, #31, quite so.
    My college was only founded in 1584 but John Harvard was an early alumnus!
    The college now has the Herschel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry as a fellow

  37. Anonymous says:

    You can drive a few hours from Indy to Chicago once every few months to go to the theater, museums, fancy restaurants, etc. If you live somewhere like Manhattan or SF, realistically you aren’t going to have time to do that stuff every day.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I guess unless you are a shut in the size of your house is going to keep you happy for so long. when you emerge from your house to socialize the cultural clashes of most people with advanced degrees will become more apparent, especially if your employer is the only high-tech-nerd employer in the region. If you have kids quality schools are also a concern as is the culture. I’m pretty sure most scientists wouldn’t enjoy debates with the school board about whether to discuss evolution in the classroom. Especially if they are vastly outnumbered.

  39. Anonymous says:

    @36: I shagged some bird round the back of Emmanuel.

  40. Anne Onimus says:

    @39 – That was me, small world! How are you?

  41. Hap says:

    I think it depends what you’re used to. For single people, being in the city offers lots of things they might want, and the presence of lots of other people is useful and interesting. Being there, though, is going to filter your choices – you live within the financial constraints it imposes (since everything is more expensive in the city, you learn to live with smaller living space and fewer children, probably, unless you have lots of money). If you’re going to be in pharma, it looks more and more like you are stuck with (or gifted with) these constraints, and are forced to behave in accord with them.
    Off the coasts, it’s possible to find good education, and lots of things are cheaper, but the cultural background is variable. If I had to move to one of the coasts, it would be difficult to manage financially. Of course, job options elsewhere may be more limited, or limited in a different way (everyone wants people they don’t have to train, and younger people that don’t cost as much).
    Getting a job in science looks more and more like a game of musical chairs. I’m not sure how this works out well. I’ll be happier when India and China open their own management schools, and the joy of cheaper labor comes to upper management. Almost no one deserves it more, I think.

  42. @35 Anonymous says:

    Disclaimer: Depending on taxonomic convention, I am either a Late Generation X or an Early Generation Y. Also, I live in the Midwest, a.k.a, “Flyover Country” to the Coasties.
    • You misspelled “Millennials”.
    • Not all Millennials have the same values. Most of the ones that I know are already married, are non-contractors, have kids, pay mortgages, etc.
    • Money is not everything, but without it you have nothing, especially in the USA. Vegan scones, Cage the Elephant tickets, and prix fixe menus at pop-up restaurants aren’t cheap.
    • Irrespective of fads (including socioeconomic “hub” designations), it is crucial for employees and employers to evaluate organizational fit and provide sufficient transparency. Even if Lilly had/has trouble keeping Coasties for more than 8 years, can both parties get the most out of that relationship? Companies and schools can become very successful by being “stepping stones” or “feeder programs” to “better opportunities”.

  43. Torson says:

    Not sure if Lilly’s Cambridge site is a paradigm shift. It will only house 30 scientists/engineers. It is not as whole Lilly RD is moving.

  44. MoMo says:

    Lets see if they really make a commitment or just hire AMRI workers that are treated like the groundskeepers.
    I was told they have to drink water from a hose outside.

  45. LMM says:

    @12: As an Indianapolis native (now on the East Coast), I’d kill to have a stable job at Lilly so I could move home. But I’m terrified of being laid off, and Lilly wanting to move to one of the biotech hubs wouldn’t make me feel much happier about going back there.

  46. AQR says:

    It should be noted that, according to the Lilly press release, this research center will be focused on drug delivery and medical device technology, not medicinal chemistry. Since it will increase the company’s staff in this area by 25%, it very well could make a significant impact.

  47. Circle_City_Denizen says:

    Many upgrades to Indianapolis downtown living in recent years. If only they would expand the subway out to Broad Ripple, then folks from the coasts would consider it more seriously. Too bad the state legislature has told the city to drop dead on that request.

  48. cynical me says:

    I think the premise that large pharma moves to these hubs to be more productive in R&D is flawed. They move there b/c their board recognizes the locations as innovative (and they are). This helps management appear forward looking and keep their jobs. Moving a conservative culture into an innovation zone cannot work out in the time frame required to be seen as a success – if anyone is actually measuring outcomes.
    Having moved from Pharma to academia, I can say that the culture is invigorating and it is great to work with so many talented people who are more focused on science than corporate politics and reorganizations. But, I made the move b/c that was what I wanted – I wasn’t relocated to an ‘innovation zone’ so I could become innovative.
    Old wine in new skins will still taste old.

  49. Ann O'Nymous says:

    You all should talk to some urban geographers, who have been studying this phenomenon for years. Why is Silicon Valley where it is? Why is North Dallas home to so many telecom companies? What could Southern California possibly offer media firms? Why is Northern Virginia full of defense contractors?
    My understanding is that it normally starts with a source of capital, builds with an anchor tenant and then snowballs as people move closer to supply them or buy from them. For example: university->Texas Instruments->Nortel->telecom heaven in Dallas. Or cheap money->federal govt->defense in northern VA. Once you get a few orgs mopping up the talent and the capital everyone wants to get in on the act, just as in the Lilly case.
    As far as relocating from a metro hub, the continual stream of wacky news stories out of red states doesn’t help. My spouse hears “Boston” and thinks symphony, bookshops and redsox. (I think ‘shoveling snow’, but hey). My spouse hears “New Jersey” and thinks pollution, sopranos and Snooki. My spouse hears “Indianapolis” and thinks “will never see my gay friends again”.

  50. Derek Lowe says:

    #49 -it’s true that this has been the subject of a lot of study, and the process you describe (sort of like crystal nucleation) seems plausible (if mostly in hindsight). But wasn’t RIchard Florida making a living going around telling cities how they could remake themselves into creative enclaves by changing things around according to some formula?

  51. Boston Biotech Bachelor says:

    Looks like Lilly will really take that Taxachusetts Plunge real well. Beantown is the place to be for biotech firms and big pharma. Anyone who thinks otherwise should have a close look at themselves and understand why are they so envious. I just feel ppl like Derek Lowe are a complete disgrace to the pharma industry.

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