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Friday, July 29, 2011

Is It Me or Is the Emperor Naked?

It's time to take another look at the Cargo Cult of RNAi research.

Merck bought Sirna back in 2006 for 1.1 billion U.S. dollars. They announced last week that the company will be eliminating 13,000 jobs, 12 percent to 13 percent of jobs by 2015. Merck also announced an end to its Sirna unit.

I first started blogging about siRNA research back in June of 2006. I mentioned the Merck deal in March of 2006. It is now July 30, 2011. Roche has given up. Pfizer gave up. Now Merck, while not yet admitting that the Emperor has no clothes, is making significant cuts and shutting the doors of its main RNAi investment research facility.

It's easy to be the Cargo Cult Scientist and use my considerable skills to predict the future. A pessimist is more often correct than the optimist but that is not my secret. I've done the research. I have spoken directly with the leaders and I have studied their ways. Why was RNAi selected by the leaders to be the next big thing?

The leaders of the Cults need to tackle problems that they can handle. Curing disease and helping people is tough. Making drugs is a bit easier. They begin with a Drunk Under the Streetlight approach. RNAi is an easy choice for this approach.

How do they direct the lab people to do actual laboratory research in RNAi? Beer and Pizza diet!

At some point some naive little person is going to point out that the Emperor has no clothes. How are they going to handle that?

An Emperor who cares for nothing but his appearance and attire hires two tailors who promise him the finest suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or "just hopelessly stupid". The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor then marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretense. Suddenly, a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but holds himself up proudly and continues the procession.

The Emperors of the RNAi cult are cringing more than ever. But they hold themselves up proudly and continue the procession.

Still, McConnell said Merck continues to invest significantly in RNAi technology. The decision to close the facility was based on other factors, including ongoing efforts to manage fixed costs. The technology Merck acquired in its acquisition of Sirna has been integrated across the company’s R&D organization, he said.


I succeed at predicting the future because I have looked into the eyes of the leaders and I know how Cargo Cults operate. I know that a scholarly scientific look into the research of RNAi will not appear because it fails to promise the coming of the cargo, only reasons as to why it did not come. We continue to look to the skies.

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