DIY Drug Discovery

Hi everyone – sorry it’s been such a long time since I’ve posted. December and January are pretty crazy months around here… (There’s usually a huge spike in submissions at the end of each year and it often takes a few weeks to work our way through the long backlog… Now that things have quieted down a bit, I hope to post more regularly…)

Anyways, a comment from yesterday’s In the Pipeline caught my eye:

You never seem to discuss the current absymal [sic] 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.

Now I certainly don’t want to trivialize how difficult it can be to find a job in the pharma/biotech sector, but those of you who aren’t happy with your current position/are looking for another job might want to read this ‘Careers and Recruitment’ piece that was recently published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. The article focuses on two “biopharma company founders” – Alice Huxley (President and Chief Executive Officer, Speedel) and Dominic Behan (Chief Scientific Officer and Senior Vice President, Arena Pharmaceuticals) – who “discuss their experiences and highlight factors that have been important for success.”

Huxley was a global project manager working on renin inhibitors, and after the merger of Sandoz and Ciba–Geigy (to create Novartis) it looked like that project was in jeopardy – Huxley “believed strongly in the potential” of the lead renin inhibitor in the program and was able to convince the management to “let me take on the project within Speedel and prove that it would work.” The outcome? That compound – Aliskiren – is now in Phase III clinical trials. Behan founded Arena Pharmaceuticals with two colleagues in 1997 and has helped it grow to 300 employees. They now have a drug candidate – Lorcaserin – in Phase III trials for obesity and several other compounds in clinical and preclinical development.

So let’s say you have a great idea and want to start your own company – what’s the next step? How do you turn those late-night conversations at the pub with your coworkers into a real company? (And I don’t mean a garden in your backyard that you call a ‘massive pharmaceutical factory.’) Though I know a few people who have started their own biotech companies (and though there’s lots of information about venture capital companies on the web), I don’t have any personal experience in this area… Maybe some of our readers have been through this process and know what to do next/who to approach with your ideas?


Joshua Finkelstein (Senior Editor, Nature)