Monday, July 15, 2013

Hey, that's the wrong way!

From this week's C&EN, movement from East to West (article by Michael McCoy): 
In a reversal of the trend of moving ­pharmaceutical chemistry research to Asia, the drug discovery services firm Evotec has decided to close its laboratories in Thane, India, and conduct all chemistry research in Abingdon, ­England, instead. 
Evotec didn’t encounter performance or quality problems with the Indian staff, says Evotec Chief Operating Officer Mario Polywka. “They are the most amazing organic chemists.” 
Rather, Polywka says, the firm’s increasing focus on high-value collaborations—including with Harvard University and the Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science—means that close involvement by the firm’s medicinal chemists with research partners is paramount. 
The Indian labs’ operations will wind down by the end of September, Evotec says, putting 120 people out of work. Employment in Abingdon, where about 180 medicinal and other chemists work now, will increase, Polywka adds, although he won’t give a number.
It's my assumption that this is a brief blip in the other direction and not a trend-setter at all. Brief bad news for Thane, I'm sure, good news for Abingdon, one hopes.

[Is anyone noting that it seems like the major pharmas are the ones that seem to be going to China, not India, for med chem? I wonder what that's about?]


  1. The Aqueous LayerJuly 15, 2013 at 11:44 AM

    “They are the most amazing organic chemists.”

    I'm sure this made them feel better after getting fired.

    They probably realized, as most companies are, that quantity doesn't always mean quality in terms of medicinal chemistry. They could hire 50-75 people in England and probably get better output.

    We've had much more success with partnerships from China than India when it comes to medicinal chemistry support. Not sure why, but it is real.

  2. CJ: Does that mean all those who were let go from big pharma and who got stampeded by outsourcing activities would be rehired here in the USA? Yippee!

  3. I assume it's partly because the patent protection in India seems somewhere between documdrama and budgetary fantasy - there doesn't seem to be any real reason to trust it. Given that, I would think that pharma does not want to train them how to make their materials so that they can duplicate it at their leisure. China will probably take their IP at some point, but it's in their government's interest to make sure that everything stays attractive and profitable for pharma until they can duplicate pharma's skill set for themselves and until they can secure markets for the drugs they do find (by convincing regulatory agencies that their capabilities are real).

    The Ranbaxy falsifications might have taken much of the wind from their sails, too - considering the reputation that Ranbaxy once had and the comprehensive falsification and corporate (social?) culture thereof required to sustain their dishonesty, companies may not be sure who they can trust there. (Had it been a simple case of executive malfeasance, you could burn the execs on a funeral pyre and move on, but the problems seem to have been deeper than that).

  4. ..Is anyone noting that it seems like the major pharmas are the ones that seem to be going to China, not India, for med chem? I wonder what that's about? May be their lackadaisical attitude did them in! I suppose you can as well say that the big pharma wants things done faster and a disciplined approach?

  5. The quality of an average scientist in China is very likely higher than their equivalent in India. The population is more educated on average so you get better support workers. Also the infrastructure is also a lot better and the government is available to crush local bureaucrats and iron out (literally) the details if you're big enough.

  6. Anyone cares to comment on the quality of work at Evotec/Abington? 26k GBP, senior PhD level, short term contracts sounds very cheap in comparison to US, Germany, Switzerland, India...

  7. Sideline ChemistJuly 15, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    Actually, the primary reason for Big Pharma shifting CRO operations to China is pure cost--China's cheaper.

    The entire outsourcing industry is a race to the bottom where you get entirely what you pay for.


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