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Dear Chemist, Biochemist, Technician and Chromatographers.
We supply chromatography tools and consumables to the global markets since 1995. Thus, I am talking daily to technical specialists that work in pharmaceutical, biotech, diagnostic and food industries. Many workers are depressed and cynical about their job stability. Unfortunately, a lot have mentally resigned. Most just execute their job description. Respect between workers and managers is disappearing. It is difficult to improve productivity in such an environmen! I am personally disapointed and concerned about this trend. Life sciences is driven by innovation. Its an industry that improves life conditions and wealth for everybody.
In the past century there were many entrepreneurial tool suppliers. They helped life scientist to evolve unique compounds and productivity. The resultant was a win-win situation for everybody. Unfortunately, there was no financial support from the pharma mangers. Above all, the external suppliers financed their own research. Because they saw an opportunity to build their own specialty enterprises. Competition was fierce. In turn, this led to highly creative tools. Furthermore, researchers developed an understanding for costs. Indeed, both parties motivated each other to be the very best. Managers frequently employ consultants as advisors. Technical department heads supported also the idea that researchers develop together with external confidant unique tools and compounds. Around 2000 US-MS manufactures convinced top managers in pharmaceutical companies to finance development of their technology and strangely, they agreed.
In the past 20 year the life science sector invested much of its profits in financing digitalization and growth of IT industry. Managers consider drug discovery as high risk activity. Consequently, they out-sourced the majority to universities and start-ups. In-house creators were replaced by administrators. Those in turn were eager to develop Asia as new user market as well as supplier of low-cost intermediates and API.
Quickly, Indian and Chinese companies became low-cost suppliers for the world. However, they also acquired many start-ups in the west. As a result of that they created a fast track to local registration authorities. Asian governments made sure that their local manufacturers had easy access to the home market. Growth ambitions propelled a solid cashflow and ability to finance inhouse drug discovery. Furthermore, they quietly created new highly innovative compounds so as to disrupt established markets of western companies.
Biopharmaceutical the new growth opportunity
Research and new knowledge in Biology, Biotechnology and Biochemistry created many new technologies. This resulted in many new therapeutic and diagnostic applications. More over, many countries commenced drug development. Unfortunately, the new possibilities also led to cost explosions. Administrators started to employ well educated multidisciplinary specialists. Unfortunately, they forgot to mix them with the old generation so as to foster cross-fertilisation of ideas and a knowledge explosion.
By about 2010 large pharmaceutical companies consolidated their purchasing activities. Consumables had to be procured through one approved supply company. Under those condition small innovative compounds and tool suppliers suddenly could not communicate with clients anymore. Researchers in-turn lost access to diverse range of creative tools that empowered creation unique compounds and processes. We too, we invested considerable time in extending patent life. This brought huge additional revenues for our clients. We were deeply shocked when we saw that purchasing departments destroyed such resources.
Commoditisation in research eliminates the need for research
Suddenly hedge funds acquired the appointed sole purchaser. For the simple reason to maximize returns they condensed product ranges and reduced overheads. Consequently, scientist perform research with commodity compounds and tools. Furthermore, delivery lead times doubled and wrong purchases increased dramatically. Sadly, many life science labs are gradually being commoditized. Speaking about comoditization, it is impossible in high quality and advanced research to get anywher with ordinary tools.
The young generation of scientists grows up in a increasingly digitalized and AI driven world. They know that it took more than 40 years to develop AI. Unfortunately, Financier and Administrators belief that machines will soon replace expensive specialist. Indeed, to be realistic we may require another 40 years for AI to reach that level.
Productivity improvement is the most important factor in the life science industry
As a mater of facts, young people are deeply concerned about losing the leading edge in western life sciences. On the other hand their superior prefer acquiring companies or completed problem solutions from our competitors.
We must return to improving our understanding of the life sciences and technologies. Leaders in Life sciences have done little to create useful and reproducible theories. Everything is still serendipity. Under such conditions productivity will continue to decline.
Indeed, it is time to discuss survival strategies for the industry per se and its drivers
Below are a number of blogs and videos in which I discuss such topics.