Effective Use of Resources in Difficult Times

In scientific research, there is a tendency to have everything done in our own lab just so that you can say so, after all, scientific credit is the core criterion researchers are evaluated on. You say wait a minute, don’t we always encourage exchange of materials and COLLABORATION on projects? Sure, but not often enough to make “encouragement” unnecessary. Many “collaborations” are more like sharing of materials with conditions.

In business, collaboration is more in the form of OUTSOURCING or CO-DEVELOPMENT (sometimes through licensing), because doing everything by one’s own employees just doesn’t make much financial sense even for the mega-sized, we-have-everything type of companies. One friend of ours working at a Johnson & Johnson site once told us that a line of research using gene silencing technologies was debated but never moved forward because the lack of confidence in expertise: we are not expert on RNAi, how do we trust our own data? For most biotech and early-stage pharma companies, hiring an expert to do a task brings about too much uncertainty, not to mention cost efficiency.

“Having the expert do it” by outsourcing is somewhat more acceptable to the industry than the academia because the “We are the experts” mentality is more dominant in the latter. Heck, if we don’t believe “We are the experts” in our own field of research, then why do we even do it in the first place? In business though, who is the expert is not something one fights for if the end product or contribution to profit is not made.

The current economic conditions caused many large biotech and pharma companies to lay off thousands upon thousands of employees, in one case of Pfizer layoff, scientist positions were particularly targeted for elimination. Life goes on. Economic downturns are also opportunities for becoming lean and mean, using ways of doing things with much improved efficiency and productivity such as outsourcing, and finding new areas for long term growth.

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Monday, February 9th, 2009 State of Research No Comments