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Monday, August 28, 2006

Craiglist Ad, A Cure for the Flu

Some jobs are advertised on craigslist. Notice that craigslist is not capitalized. It's a website where people peddle their used items. They sell old sofas, stereos, and old jobs. The jobs you see are the ones that were recently abandoned for greener pastures. You're not going to see an important executive job posted on craigslist. To fill an executive position we have recruiters who seek out accomplished individuals. We have compensation experts develop a package that will lure the best candidates to serve a corporation. But is all this Cargo Cult science? Could we advertise on craigslist to fill executive spots and still get the same level of performance?

The executives in a biotech company have one thing missing. They don't know what is going on in the lab. There is not enough time to sort through the details that go into a potential cure for a disease. Execs need to know what the gist of it is and they will move along and do their important work. Meanwhile, the kid who got his job off of a craigslist add has to figure out how to make siRNA prevent the next avian flu pandemic. There really is a company who is taking on such a project. They bought the license from a smaller company and now they are "developing" the technology. Shouldn't the technology be developed before you buy it? Imagine the executives negotiating the deal. Millions of dollars are exchanged. People are flying from coast to coast working out details and writing up contracts. After it's all said and done, they look at what they've got. Is it a cure for the flu? Not exactly. We'll send it to R&D and see what they can do with it. The important work has been done.

Laboratory positions for the company curing avian flu with siRNA are listed on craigslist. Currently they are hiring some process development people and some QA types. Other websites are used as well. Just after the executives struck up the license agreement an ad came out on the WBBA website. They wanted a PhD who had experience with siRNA and the avian flu virus. Hmm.

So what do the executives talk about that puts them out of the craigslist arena? They certainly aren't talking about ways of detecting siRNA interacting with the influenza virus inside a human body. When it comes to developing the next big cure, I assume there is much talk about the the cost of the trials, who will run them and so on. But after all is said and done, the real work must begin. Every aspect of the next steps is critical to understanding whether or not the drug will work. It is at this time that the people involved are more than just some schmucks you find on the internet while you're looking for an old sofa on craigslist. All the agreements and legal battles will become useless the day they shut down the trials due to lack of efficacy.

Executives don't cure disease. They make deals. So do scientists however. The deals we make are with nature. If we're smart we get what we're after. If not we have nothing. It's a high risk endeavor but one we enjoy doing because we are convinced that we are indeed smart. We don't want to talk about making deals with other human beings. The only thing that matters is curing the disease. After that let the execs do their job and get the drug made. They are good for some things.

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