For the first time in this whole trip, I go back to somewhere! I arrived in Philly late last night and checked back into my beloved (haha) Doubletree Hotel. I forced myself to go to bed as early as I could, because of the 3 hour time difference from San Francisco, but first sorted out my bags so I only have to take one to New York – we’re really in the end phase now!
The reason I was back in Philly was today’s meeting at Wyeth, a pharmaceuticals and consumer health company. We started by being met by Anne from the CEO’s office, who took us around the whole day. After a cup of tea in their cafe, we went on a tour of their site. It has a huge fitness centre with three studios for classes (membership $10-20 per month!) and occupational health centre, cafeterias, 3 miles of walking trails across the campus, banking, dry-cleaning and post office facilities… Pretty amazing!
After that we had lunch with some of the executives. The CEO was supposed to have been there, but couldn’t make it then (we met him later). But we had an interesting discussion with the President of the Pharmaceuticals division and some of his colleagues. We talked about the elements behind recent political attacks on pharmaceutical companies. It’s a tricky one, because they are companies after all, not charities, and they have to finance their drug discovery. Nonetheless there is a recognition that they could have done more to explain their business model and the process of drug discovery (88-92% failure of potential drug discoveries) that go into making their prices.
After lunch we went to the Discovery division and found about in particular about their work on uterine fibroids and osteoporosis. Then went to their High Throughput Screening Facility, which was an amazing piece of computer and manufacturing engineering if nothing else! Finally the three of us (Sam, Iyad and me) broke up and spoke to people specific to our interests. I talked to two guys from the government affairs side and we focused on the Innovative Medicines Initiative. They were both convinced that it was a step in the right direction, and an important political signal in itself, but didn’t feel that it was going to directly result in drug discoveries – to do that there needs to be competitive research, company A working with university B, not broad industry-wide partnerships because companies need exclusivity. It made me wonder whether FP8 couldn’t include some kind of “matchmaking” element. Rather than investing large amounts in individual projects, with all the IP entanglements and so on, use the money to facilitate the development of industry/academia partnerships. They also said that they couldn’t use Marie Curie as much as they would like because of visa problems. So the visa issue is clearly affecting things across the board, including from Western Europe. It’s a ticking timebomb for the US I reckon.
So all in all a day worth coming back to Philadelphia for. What I particularly liked was that instead of showing us all their corporate social responsibility and citizenship activities, they focussed on their core business. I have to say I wish some of the other big companies we saw had done the same.
Tomorrow I’m off to my last city of the trip, which is…NEW YORK! So I’m a happy lady!!!