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[Dec. 12th, 2007|08:14 am]
The article raises the question of how many chemists are employed in the drug industry. It’s hard to get a good read on that, but there’s a quote from the Bureau of Labor Statistic that the total number of chemists in the workforce went down from 140,000 to 116,000 over 2003-2006. That doubtless includes a lot of analytical chemists and researchers in other fields than pharmaceuticals, but it’s not a number than can be made to look good. I would think that the ACS would have more specific data, although I know that not all the readers here trust what the organization has to say about chemical employment.
-- from http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2007/12/12/medchem_layoffs_on_the_front_page.php

[User Picture]From: hbergeronx
2007-12-12 10:43 pm (UTC)
It's a quote. I didn't say it.

But it's an important point: a 20% or so drop like that isn't "rightsizing", IMO, it's more likely a transforming market, one where fewer chemists are needed.
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[User Picture]From: twoeleven
2007-12-12 11:05 pm (UTC)
i think it's "yes, and" rather than "either, or". the pharma industry has both been consolidating and automating, for example. actually, i should be more specific: "big pharma" has been consolidating. there are still plenty of biotech startups springing up. some jobs have also gone overseas, so to speak, tho my understanding is that we've reached breakeven there, due to (for instance) wage pressures in india and quality control problems in china.

otoh, i'm not sure if this is a transformation or a lull. big pharma's been having increasing problems w/ its business model (spend fortunes on blockbuster drugs, and charge fortunes for them to recoup the r&d cost), but otoh, that model assumed that new drugs are hard to make (which they were, given what was known).

it's possible that increasing information about human genome (or more likely human proteome) will change the assumption, and the "problem" will become exploiting all the possibilities, for instance in so-called personalized medicine. this is just barely starting to happen w/ anti-microbials, where there's been a rush of new compounds w/ new modes of action as we learn more about how germs work. (they're so new they're all still in animal or human testing.) if this is the case, then pharma companies will eventually hire more chemists.
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