Friday, December 9, 2011

Who's the Albert Pujols of pharmaceutical chemistry?

Oh, Pujols! Credit: Wikipedia
Albert Pujols was a star first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals. After winning his second World Series with the Cardinals this fall, he decided to sign with the California Anaheim Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for 254 million dollars. (Sorry, Cardinals fans -- I feel for ya.) 

I'm relatively unaware of any pharmaceutical process or medicinal chemistry departments that have made similarly large personnel moves, even in the good ol' days. I'm sure there were many behind the scenes maneuverings back in the day, with directors moving from company to company, bringing along their best lieutenants. I'm going to guess such moves just don't happen these days. 

By contrast, there always seems to be a veritable "hot stove league" of chemistry professors moving from department to department. While I'm sure that those older and wiser than I can name even older precedents, the move of Peter Schultz to Scripps seems to have been accompanied by a significant financial commitment to building laboratories, etc. People have followed the move of John Hartwig from Yale to Illinois to Cal with some amusement.* 

Readers, any stories of the good ol' days of pharma and big personnel moves? (other than mass layoffs, that is

*Sincere condolences for those who have to pack up the gloveboxes and put them on the moving trucks. It seems that professors never seem to hire movers for that sort of thing.


  1. Would you trust lowest-bidder movers to dismantle your glovebox and move all of your pyrophoric/air sensitive/decompose-if-looked-at-wrong advanced intermediates/reagents?

  2. When Paul Reider moved from Merck to Amgen he brought many of the Merck process people with him.

    But, there are no Pujols' in chemistry, because we are not as important as he is - clearly.

  3. I heard that when Jordan was moving from Iowa to UChicago, movers tried to drive the truck with his glovebox(es?) under a bridge too low, smashing quite a bit of a hardware.

  4. Not pharma, but when Paul Chirik recently moved from Cornell to Princeton (leaving behind a whole floor of lab space and equipment designed specifically for him) he tried to make his grad students take their chemicals with them in their cars. Didn't go over too well.

  5. @10:50 am

    That's illegal.

  6. @Anon, 10:50 AM;

    I have a hard time believing that Prof. Chirik tried to force his students to move the chemicals themselves, in their cars. Sorry, something feels very exaggerated in this story. Princeton was no doubt paying for his entire lab to move, so why? I don't think the whole story is here, or it's coming from a student that didn't get to move and is trying to discredit.

    I'm sure someone (as is always the case on the internets) will come on here and say it's a fact, but this just doesn't pass the sniff test.

  7. When my original advisor moved during my grad career, we took chemicals (both solvents and solids) in our cars.
    Believe it!

  8. The deal that got Hecht to move to ASU was quite impressive...

  9. Some obvious-to-me examples from different eras:

    David MacMillan (aka D-Mac, Big Mac, A-Rod of organic chemistry): Berkeley to Caltech to Princeton

    Jeff Bode (aka Jarrod Saltalamacchia?): UC Santa Barbara, UPenn, ETH

    Bill Roush (aka Roger Clemens?): MIT, Indiana U, UMichigan, TSRI Florida

    Kendall Houk (aka Darryl Strawberry?): Lousiana State, UPittsburgh, UCLA (Yeah, I know he's not synthesis-oriented, but he's still carved an impressive niche in computational chemistry.)

    Dale Boger (aka Roger Clemens?): UKansas, Purdue, TSRI-La Jolla

    Albert Padwa (aka Pete Rose?): Ohio State, SUNY-Buffalo, Emory

    Samuel Danishefsky (aka Jimmy Foxx?): UPittsburgh, Yale, Columbia

  10. @CJ: First off, props to your recent interview by SciMag (additionally promoted at In the Pipeline) regarding the impending DOOOOOOOOM for traditional Pharma.

    @Anon1020: How long did Reider's Merck-cronies-in-tow last following his departure from Amgen. Anyway, I've found Ed Grabowski's seminars far more chemically informative than Reider's.

    @Thread: I never had the experience of relocating with my PI. Some of my friends in grad school did have to transport advanced intermediates for total syntheses by car because airmail would've been too expensive and bothersome (DOT regs). The inorganic transplantees had it slightly easier: after preping their gloveboxes for transport, most of their air-unstable complexes were scuttled.

  11. @CJ - OK, OK, I admit I'm late to the discussion, but I have a candidate: What about Chris Senanayake? He publishes like crazy, builds huge med-chem and process efforts wherever he goes, and has held management-level positions at several of the big-leagues (Dow, Merck, Sepracor, Boehringer) over the last 20 years.

    Failing that, perhaps Bruce Roth? P-D, Pfizer, Genentech?

  12. Up north, Robert Young left Merck Frosst (before it closed up) for academe at SFU.

    Puzzlingly, at least to me, I recall Tomas Hudlicky left UF for Brock university in, yes, St. Catherines.

    Maybe minor league move: Snieckus from Waterloo to Queen's.

  13. Anon @5.47

    How about G. N. Lewis (aka Babe Ruth + Cy Young): MIT to Berkeley?

  14. Chris Senanayake was fired from Sepracor from publishing too much.

  15. if I was a grad student moving a late-stage natural product intermediate I'd want to take it in my car. Why chance a moving company breaking months of work?

  16. I am familiar with the Hartwig move to IL. When John Hartwig moved from Yale* to UIUC, movers packed up all the chemicals and the gloveboxes. Most of the air-sensitive complexes survived in taped, screwtop vials that were further sealed in vacuum food-sealer bags in the glovebox. A few things couldn't be moved due to DOT restrictions, but these were all purchased reagents that weren't a big deal to replace.
    All of his students' and pdocs' moving expenses were paid, and they also received a free trip out to IL to look for apartments well before the move.
    Although I heard plenty of complaining, everyone admitted that the disruption was minimal. Too bad UIUC didn't end up being as bright and shiny as everyone had hoped; I don't blame him for ditching.

    *This was a bad time for Yale. We had just lost John Wood, and Glenn Micalizio left for Scripps FL not long after. Things are better now.

  17. Not to jump on an old thread but the comment about Chirik is completely true.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20