22 August 2008

What is the Value of the (Technologist) Man?

Protagoras said

"Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of
things which are not, that they are not"
which the first part is the part most of us know.

It is clear that FBDD is "HOT", and I have been struck by how many companies are doing or want to do NMR as part of their FBDD. This is surprising considering that many pharmaceutical companies have been through the ebb and flow of the 3 stages of NMR disease: 1) structure will revolutionize drug discovery (1992-1996), 2) NMR screening will solve the HTS problem (1996-2004), and 3) we have SO learned from out mistakes, trust us THIS time (2004-). As James Bond said, "Once is happenstance, twice coincidence, and three times is enemy action."
I lived through stage 2 and the resultant NMR-ectomy at a Big Pharma. The driver for the round-filing of our group was "business decision", in other words "we have no idea what value you add and sheesh, those silver cans are expensive to upkeep." Obviously, the value of technologists, especially at big companies, is tough to quantify. It is even harder if you don't fully understand the technology or how it is applied. I asked one of our senior management how do you quantitate the contribution of technologists (Computational, Structural Biology, etc.) to a project. His answer was wholly unsatisfying, and state of the art: "We will see over time [thinking to myself at the time, what sort of timeframe?] that projects you are involved with are more successful."
Very Protagoran, don't you think?? But not very satisfying to the technologist.

So, with an increasing level of technology commensurate with an increasing level of FBDD in industry at both the Big and Small pharma level, I pose the question: "What is the value of the technologist?"

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