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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sinatra Was A Tough Guy

When you live a life like Frank Sinatra you leave behind plenty of film footage. There is one piece that I've seen on two separate documentaries. In the first documentary you see Sinatra surrounded by a bunch of burly men. They are rehearsing a scene for a movie while Frank is recording music at Capital Records. The thesis of this scene in the documentary is that Frank is a workaholic. In the next documentary you have the same film footage. It starts just when the rehearsing begins. The scene Frank and friends are going over is one where Frank is playing a tough guy. He calls one of the other men out while the rest stand back in deference to the boss. In this documentary they leave out the fact that the men are only acting. The thesis is that Frank really is the tough guy he is playing. 

The point here of course, is that context matters. Bullshitting, as I've mentioned, does not care about the truth. Bullshitting can take something that really happened, such as this Sinatra scene, and tell a number of stories. In everyday life we fall prey to such deceptions but they don't really harm people who take an active interest. In time, any Sinatra fan will come across the actual scene that took place in the first documentary. They will learn the truth. Frank is still a tough guy but he's not that big of a bully. 

What about stories that come from the lab of a published group of scientists? The stories that come out in the journals allegedly depict something that took place in a laboratory. The scientists who dictate the thesis behind the published work are not the guys who work in the lab. They are more like the producers of the latter Sinatra documentary. They begin with a thesis, they look for data/information that supports the thesis, and they present what they find. Some editing is required. The data/information that is left out often times will tell a different story. One in opposition to the original thesis. What then are the safeguards employed by journal editors and peer reviewers to avoid believing the wrong story?

I have written up a few of my experiences. Here is a cancer study using an antibody against denatured collagen. Here is a phage library that contains the holy grail peptide of RNAi drug delivery. Here is a computer program that pulls out drug targets from published information. Here is the origen of Prusiners prion theory. In each case I sat watching as a laboratory worker highly interested in the big picture science. What role does collagen play in tumor growth? How do we follow a drug molecule after it enters the body? Can we use published data, do we have enough information in the books, to begin to mine for molecules in a disease pathway. On each occasion I watched from my laboratory seat. I saw the whole scene, then read the version of the story that was published. Like Sinatra surrounded by his cronies, we had a scene. We had only to manipulate that scene, edit out the stuff that would hurt the narrative, and offer it up to the journals. Eventually some journal would accept the bullshit, and we could put the publication down on our resumes. After the publications, and maybe a patent or two, we would flounder with what we had put forth. We had to employ the political skill of saving face and distancing ourselves from what we said. If we couldn't use our science to advance our project goals, what were the chances of others succeeding? That was none of our business.

The cases I've listed are all MIA, missing in action. I can't track down the outcome of the work in which I took part. Long ago I had a role but I was removed through company buy-outs, lay-offs, temporary suspensions of projects and me just up and leaving. There is only one project that remains. It is the biggest scam of all. It is the 50,000 liter manufacturing claim from a company that expresses antibodies in yeast. The claim is bullshit. The bullshit claim was accepted by one of the major pharmaceutical companies. They shelled out over $100 million so far because the antibody may have a chance in demonstrating efficacy in comparison to the already approved drug. The question then becomes, can we make the drug in a cost effective manner to steal away sales from the competition? Like Sinatra and the tough guy scene, does the bullshit deception damn the project? Will that claim lead to another MIA biotech product? Would a full disclosure of the problems with manufacturing have prevented the potential loss of capital towards yet another biotech product? 

The potential loss in faith is something that is affecting everyone in biotech/pharma. Job losses have been massive. The promise of the science has not been realized by the scientists. We have to take some of the blame ourselves for not standing up and pointing out that truth. If we were in the room when Sinatra was rehearsing and someone is telling the story as if it were Sinatra being himself, someone should state the truth. Who will listen? Like the MIA projects from my own past, one has to wonder if anyone cares? Hundreds of millions of dollars of other peoples money is also MIA. I know where a lot of that money went. Cars, houses, and plenty of nice things by the people who were in the proverbial room when Sinatra was rehearsing. We all knew it was acting and we helped our leaders tell the world it was real. We get in our new cars and drive to our nice homes and hope we never get caught. 

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