Biopharmaceutical Boom and Bust

Erik Greb PharmTech editorBig biopharmaceutical companies likely struck up a chorus of “We’re in the Money” upon hearing Ernst and Young’s report that the world’s established biotechnology markets achieved profitability in 2009 for the first time ever. Mostly by dint of cost cutting, major players such as Genzyme (Cambridge, MA) moved out of the red and into the black. Making a profit was no small feat during the economic downturn, and large biopharmaceutical companies have a right to celebrate. Small companies and startups, however, are more likely to sing along with Bob Dylan, “It’s not dark yet, but it’s gettin’ there.” Read more »

Biopharmaceutical Collaboration Is a Sign of the Times

Erik Greb PharmTech editorThis morning I read about a public–private collaboration that reflects many of the latest trends in the drug industry today. The project began when the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) created the 21st Century Biodefense (21CB) initiative to enhance the nation’s biosecurity. Robert J. Cindrich, who is leading the initiative, said in a press release that the project’s goal was to foster advances in vaccine development and manufacturing. Battelle (Columbus, OH), a research and development organization, IBM (Armonk, NY), Merck (Whitehouse Station, NJ), and GE Healthcare (Waukesha, WI) have all joined the collaboration so far. Read more »

The Unkindest Cuts of All

Erik Greb PharmTech editorThese days, mandatory furloughs and staff cuts have employees in all industries nervously glancing over their shoulders. The pharmaceutical industry is no exception. Last week, Merck (Whitehouse Station, NJ) revealed plans to reduce its workforce by 15% by the end of 2012. Read more »

NSF, Microsoft Team in Cloud Computing

Patricia Van Arnum PharmTech editor Handling the vast amount of data that can be generated from scientific research, including pharmaceutical research such as genome sequencing, can be a formidable task. Researchers may not be able to efficiently manage this task through the use of personal computers (PCs) alone, nor do they have access to supercomputers or other advanced information-technology (IT) systems. The emerging model of cloud computing, an advance in computational computing, seeks to address researchers’ difficulties by creating a community resource of computational and processing power accessible on demand through PCs. Last week Microsoft and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a partnership to increase access to cloud computing for NSF-supported researchers.

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Rodney Dangerfield and R&D

Erik Greb PharmTech editorThese days, research scientists, much like Rodney Dangerfield, can’t get any respect. The latest evidence of this arrived on Friday, when AstraZeneca (London) proposed to cut 3500 research and development (R&D) jobs by 2014. Read more »

Put Your Money Where Your Molecules Are

Erik Greb PharmTech editorThe numbers are in, and it looks like 2009 produced a bumper crop of biopharmaceuticals. The US Food and Drug Administration approved a record 16 new biopharmaceutical entities last year, as opposed to 10 in 2008, according to a study by the Biotechnology Information Institute. Seven recombinant-protein or antibody products were approved last year, continuing an upward trend for these molecules. Great news, right? Read more »

Pink Slips and Pipelines

Erik Greb PharmTech editorLast week we saw more signs that pharmaceutical megamegers bode ill for New Jersey workers. Business Week reported that Pfizer (New York) planned to close six research and development (R&D) facilities—some of its own, and some of Wyeth’s (Madison, NJ). Many of the 400 employees at Wyeth’s research offices in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, could be laid off. And last Wednesday, Richard Clark, CEO of Merck (Whitehouse Station, NJ), told attendees at a Goldman Sachs conference that research jobs at Schering-Plough’s (Kenilworth, NJ) headquarters could be eliminated to reduce costs. Read more »

Do We Need Fresh (Fake) Blood?

Erik Greb PharmTech editorArt imitates life, and sometimes drug-delivery mechanisms do, too. Scientists often draw inspiration from natural agents and the body’s processes when developing carriers for therapies. Synthetic red blood cells are a new product of this strategy that seems to raise new possibilities in drug delivery. Read more »

Seeking Dividends in Science Investment

Patricia Van Arnum PharmTech editor President Barack Obama last week launched a new initiative to improve the participation and performance of US students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The project, called Educate to Innovate, will include efforts by the federal government, companies, foundations, nonprofits, and science and engineering societies in working with young people to encourage participation and achieve success in STEM. Read more »

Repairing the Engine of Drug Innovation

Patricia Van Arnum PharmTech editor

In a speech last week to the City Club of San Diego, John Lechleiter, chairman and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly, offered very candid remarks about the state of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry, saying that the engine of biopharmaceutical innovation is “broken.” His comments may be a bitter pill to swallow in light of escalating investment in research and development (R&D), but his frankness may just be the remedy the industry needs to reinvent itself. Read more »

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