Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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"Go Boldly" Rings Hollow as Biotech & #Pharma are No-Shows at Historic March for Science 

"Go Boldly" Rings Hollow as Biotech & #Pharma are No-Shows at Historic March for Science  | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The rallies and marches Saturday — with hundreds of thousands of people attending events around the world — served as a turning point for scientists, when many of them left the sterility of their labs and entered the muck that is politics.


The overwhelming sentiment was that science is under attack, and they could no longer afford to try to float above it all (listen to John Pharmaguy Mack's speech at the Doylestown, PA march). Scientists had to engage and take their demands to political leaders and policymakers, so they stood for hours on a sodden National Mall here and then marched through puddles to Capitol Hill.


All of that amounted to a message of resistance — the need for enduring defiance in the face of what participants see as an anti-science administration. There was little sense, at least from the speakers, that they see grounds for compromise or cooperation with the administration. To them, science is on the ropes, and they needed to fight back.


The no-shows: biotech and pharma


Biotech and pharma companies have been tiptoeing around the Trump administration, worried about proposals to regulate drug prices. But companies that are now marketing their “bold” work in scientific discovery and developing new treatments largely lacked an official presence at the marches. There was some action in the Boston area, and Google spinoff Verily Life Sciences donated some funding to the San Francisco march. It’s also likely that many company scientists were marching as private citizens and not flagging their corporate affiliations. Still, their absence felt all the more notable when one speaker in Washington started attacking pharma companies for drug prices, portraying them as enemies of the broader scientific community.


At the rallies and marches, there was general advice given: call your representatives, don’t forget to get involved on the local level, maybe even run for office yourself. But can that spirit endure? Or will scientists simply float back into the daily grind of their labs?


Further Reading:

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Science Needs Your Cells (and Bodies at #marchforscience)

Science Needs Your Cells (and Bodies at #marchforscience) | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

It’s often portrayed as a story of exploitation. In the early 1950s, Henrietta Lacks, a poor, young African-American woman, learned she had terminal cancer. Cells collected from a biopsy of her cancer were cultured without her knowledge or permission to develop a cell line, called HeLa. Over the ensuing decades, research using HeLa cells led to scores of medical advances, saving lives — and making a lot of money for a lot of people, though not for Ms. Lacks’s family.


Now enter Oprah. She’s the star of HBO’s new movie “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” based on Rebecca Skloot’s best-selling book and making its premiere Saturday night.


All of this has gotten people talking about the previously obscure world of research with discarded biospecimens, the parts left over after we undergo surgeries, biopsies and blood tests. Some are calling to change the rules, to require consent from patients before biospecimens are studied or to pay patients if specimens lead to medical advancements down the line.


Rather than demanding consent and payment, we should promote biospecimen research, shore up privacy protections and push for universal health care to ensure that the benefits of the research are available to all.


It’s not every day that scientists get Oprah’s help drawing attention to their work. Let’s not squander the opportunity.

Pharma Guys insight:

I hope Oprah will be attending the March for Science, which will also draw attention to the work of scientists!

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March for Science Gains Corporate Sponsors

March for Science Gains Corporate Sponsors | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The revolution will be on-brand, it seems. In addition to the academic and nonprofit partners of the March for Science, the event has recently been backed by a number of companies eager to align with its pro-environment, pro-science message. These partners — including biotech companies, a salon chain, and a local soap producer — are providing fundraising help and brand endorsement for the event, which in its meteoric rise has struggled with internal divisions and a series of public gaffes.


Companies that have joined in to help fundraise for local marches include a brewery in Chicago and a soapmaker near Boston. Some companies, like Cambridge, Mass.-based drug development firm Warp Drive Bio, have formally sponsored their local satellite marches. (The satellite events don’t receive funding from the organizers hosting the march in Washington.)


More expected corporate supporters — biotech and life sciences companies — have also gotten on board. Alnylam and its CEO, John Maraganore, have come out in support of the march, as has Jeff Albers, Blueprint Medicine’s CEO, and Sobi North America president Rami Levin. All of the companies cited science’s role in helping patient populations affected by diseases for which they produce pharmaceuticals as reasons why they were supporting the march.


The event aligns with activism that, in many cases, the companies are already engaging in. Executives from all three companies were among the 166 biotech leaders who signed an open letter criticizing Trump’s immigration order published on a Nature Biotechnology blog in February. Blueprint continues to participate in the #ActualLivingScientist campaign on Twitter, intended to raise public awareness about scientists after a survey showed most Americans could not name a single living scientist.


For both companies and activists, corporate endorsements can be a fraught endeavor — risking, on the one hand, diluting a movement’s message, and on the other, politicizing a brand.


March organizers have put together a pledge for participants that highlights the event’s intended peaceful nature and refrains from using specific partisan labels. However, recent social media posts indicate that the march may still be grappling with getting its political tone right. The main march’s Twitter account deleted tweets last week, in response to the recent strike in Afghanistan, that referred to the role of science in developing bombs. Organizers apologized for the posts’ partisan nature.


However, the risk to brands endorsing the march is still very low, said David Hessekiel, president of social marketing organization Engage for Good.


“I think that there is a tremendous body of companies whose existence is based upon science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” Hessekiel said. “And so, within that world and within their customer base, I don’t think there’s going to be a huge controversy about them saying that science is core to their business.”


Further Reading:

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The War Against Science Hurts All of Us

The War Against Science Hurts All of Us | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

My guest opinion published in the Bucks County Courier Times.

Pharma Guys insight:

I will be speaking at the March for Science in Doylestown. Hope to see you there.

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Scientists Run for Office in Washington and Will March for Science Too!

Scientists Run for Office in Washington and Will March for Science Too! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Michael Eisen would like to teach Washington a thing or two about the scientific method.


Last month Eisen, an evolutionary biologist at U.C. Berkeley, announced plans to run for a seat in the Senate in 2018. As a Republican-controlled Washington has waged war against as basic truths and evidence-based reasoning, it has inspired a political awakening among a scientific community that often resists political engagement. With their work under attack, scientists like Eisen have concluded they can no longer sit idly by.


“So many political problems are practical problems,” Eisen recently told Gizmodo from his Berkeley office. “You study them, you collect data, you try to make the right decision. That is somehow absent from Washington.”


Eisen doesn’t hope to serve as merely another Congressional vote in favor of aggressive climate change policy or investment in renewable energy. He aspiration—to lend a scientific perspective to the political process itself—is summed up by his campaign slogan: “Liberty. Equality. Reality.”


He’s not alone: more than 2,500 scientists have expressed interest in running for office through new group called 314 Action, prompting the group to plan an event in D.C. next month [read “Science Not Silence! MARCH FOR SCIENCE - April 22, 2017”;] to give scientists a crash course in politics. Over the weekend, hundreds of scientists convened at a political rally “to stand up for science” in Boston’s Copley Square. At least one other scientist besides Eisen—Tracy Van Houten, a rocket scientist in Los Angeles—has already committed to run.


“I’m not exaggerating, the response from scientists has been pretty incredible,” Ted Bordelon, communications director for 314 Action, told Gizmodo. He said that 314 Action has received more interest from scientists than it ever expected.

Pharma Guys insight:

I'm not a practicing scientist, but I have an MS and MPhil in Biochemistry, and I'm running for Newtown Township PA Supervisor! 

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Get on the Bus Rush! AAAS Should Formally Endorse March for Science

Get on the Bus Rush! AAAS Should Formally Endorse March for Science | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

It’s not often you see a public celebration of science. But come April, thousands of people, scientists and others, are expected to march in support of the field and its contributions to society.


But the March for Science is also a response to the feeling among many scientists that they are under siege by a hostile Trump administration and distrusted by many Americans.


Navigating that tension is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).


With the AAAS annual meeting taking place now in Boston, the group’s president, Barbara Schaal, and CEO, Rush Holt, met with STAT reporters to discuss why scientists need to be politically engaged, their views on the March for Science (“Science Not Silence! MARCH FOR SCIENCE - April 22, 2017”;, and why they worry that the Trump administration hasn’t appointed a science adviser in the White House or scientists in other agencies. Holt is a physicist by training and a former Democratic congressman, and Schaal is a biologist.


What’s your confidence level in this administration right now?


RH: If there’s an emerging disease that pops up in this country or elsewhere, I would say we are not prepared. We just have not succeeded in convincing the new administration that what we’re asking for is not a science plant inside the White House to look out for the interests of people in lab coats, but rather to get them to understand that it’s in their interest to integrate science and scientifically evaluated evidence into their policy making.


What’s been the reaction to the election?


BS: I have never seen my colleagues so galvanized than after this most recent election. People are talking about, what do we do? If you look at the membership of AAAS, it’s shooting up.


Are you worried about that backfiring?


RH: It’s a concern, but scientists have to be reminded that the response to a challenge to science is not to retreat to the microscope, to the laboratory, to the ivory tower. This requires vigorous defense. We think science is so beneficial to society that it should be defended.


Do you have a position on the March for Science?


RH: We have said that we are going to work energetically with our members, with our affiliate societies to see that the March for Science is a success.


BS: The folks that I talk to, they’re really in two camps. One group says this a potential disaster, it’s going to really politicize science, and it’s going to hurt the entire endeavor. And then there’s another group that says just get me on a bus, I’m coming.


Which camp are you in?


BS: I guess I’m thinking of the bus, but I’m not quite there yet.

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John Pharmaguy Mack at March for Science in Doylestown PA

John Pharmaguy Mack at March for Science in Doylestown PA | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

My name is John Mack and I live in Newtown.


On Twitter I am known as PharmaGuy – that’s P-H-A-R-M-A, plus “Guy!” I PUBLISH a newsletter for the pharmaceutical industry. And I have a graduate degree in Biochemistry.


Every day we benefit from medicines and vaccines created by scientists who work in pharmaceutical and government-funded research laboratories.


We need to discover new drugs faster and defend efforts that make those drugs cheaper and more accessible to everyone.


In doing so, however, we also need to defend the scientific methods the drug industry uses to prove that medicines WORK.


A big part of that process is the Food and Drug Administration, which ensures that drugs are proven safe and effective through rigorous clinical trials.


Today the Food and Drug Administration and other science-based agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency are under attack by the current administration,


WHICH intends to increase SPENDING on the military and decrease SPENDING on these and other science-based agencies that help improve our lives.


We should not have to sacrifice science for security.


DEFUNDING science impacts us on a local level whether the issue is the quality of our air and water, fracking, opioid drug abuse, or the heroin epidemic.


We need leaders who believe in data and scientific evidence to help solve these problems.


More scientists must get involved in politics today just as Benjamin Franklin did during the American Revolutionary War.


There is a war being fought today – a war against science.


We must defend science in THIS war.


Marching together is a good first step.


But we must follow up by electing pro-science leaders and ensure that they rely on evidence, not beliefs, when making decisions about our health, our environment, and our general well-being.


Thank you for listening and may Science be with you!

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March for Science Signage - Proof that Scientists are Nerds. Not That There's Anything Wrong with That!

March for Science Signage - Proof that Scientists are Nerds. Not That There's Anything Wrong with That! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The March for Science is expected to make history with hundreds of thousands of people attending rallies across the US and around the world on Saturday in support of science. In attendance will be not just scientists and doctors but also educators, kids, environmentalists, and others.

Of course, one of the best parts of any march is the signs — and the early evidence is that this march will definitely deliver on that front.

So, as a preview of what’s to come Saturday, we’ve rounded up the most clever signs marchers are making, and what our readers say the march means to them.


Further Reading:

Elijah Smith's curator insight, April 23, 2017 10:52 PM
On sunday may 23rd the global march for science took place. Many of marches all across the world were filled with people to promote science. The rally was also politically charged. Many of the marchers were asking for laws to be backed by science. Also many of the marchers were opposed to Trumps denial of climate change.

Overall I think that this march was a great idea. Not only did it get people together for things they believe in, but it was to make a positive change all across the globe. The march spread awareness to keep the earth clean and also to show politicians that they should support science based policies.
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Pharma Urged to Support March for Science

Pharma Urged to Support March for Science | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

As scientists across the globe prepare to flood the streets to speak up for research, organizers for the March for Science have expressed their disappointment at the lack of support from the pharmaceutical industry.


The main march is in Washington DC on April 22 but more than 500 associated demonstrations are planned across the world. Organizers hope the events will be “the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies and governments.”


Huge numbers are expected and yet the pharmaceutical industry has been conspicuous by its absence in the build-up. In the UK, Sophie Morgan, organizer of the Bristol March for Science, told The Pharma Letter that, while everybody is giving their time and skills for free, there are essential safety, first aid and technology costs to raise and response from the industry itself has been poor.


She said that “due to the short time frame we have had for organizing the march, we have had to take the initiative to approach companies and groups. However, when we have tried to contact pharma and other large STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) companies we rarely get further than the front desk and struggle to get responses to emails.”


Ms Morgan went on to say that “in the current climate there is a lot of insecurity regarding the future of science and scientific careers, so whilst we’ve engaged with a broad spectrum of the community, we’ve found young people, early in their now uncertain science careers, have really connected with the march ethos.” She added that “beside the obvious recruitment opportunities for pharma, it is the chance to get behind a new generation, and perhaps new more outspoken era, of scientists and say ‘we support you’.”


Ms Morgan concluded by making a final plea to the pharmaceutical industry: “With more than 500 marches taking place across the globe, this is an event that could be quite literally the biggest in the entire history of science. Shouldn’t an industry based entirely on science be part of it?”


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BMJ Editorial Urges Readers to Stand Up for Science in the Era of Trump

BMJ Editorial Urges Readers to Stand Up for Science in the Era of Trump | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Any president of the United States is entitled to implement policies that reflect personal ideology and political beliefs. The public may disagree on the merits and drawbacks of these policies, but as long as the supporting arguments are based on facts and comply with constitutional principles then so be it. In its first weeks, however, Donald Trump’s presidency has raised worrying questions about its likely impact on science and health policy. Many of the new administration's pronouncements seem to place little value on facts or analysis. They also seem lacking in careful consideration of the consequences for biomedical research, healthcare, and ultimately the health of people in the US and the rest of the world.

We are particularly concerned that Trump’s administration is acting in ways that will suppress research and limit communication on scientific topics that it deems politically inconvenient. All scientific communications from the Environmental Protection Agency may need to be approved by political appointees before being presented or published.


Scientists from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Health and Human Services (which includes the National Institutes of Health) are restricted in their communications with the public.


Scientific information on government websites is being removed and becoming inaccessible. Some agencies are responding through self censorship, cancelling key scientific meetings out of fear of retribution from political appointees.


Members of the president’s cabinet, including those responsible for energy and the environment, deny the evidence on climate change without attempting to counter the overwhelming scientific consensus with better or even different information.


Proposals to reform the Food and Drug Administration will scale back the agency’s ability to ensure the safety and efficacy of approved drugs, harming not only people in America but those in other countries that often follow the FDA’s lead.

How should science and medicine respond to these challenges? The BMJ’s solution is to reaffirm our commitment to fostering and applying the best evidence for policy and practice, to be an open forum for rigorous debate that challenges the status quo and holds us all to account, to speak truth to power and support others who do the same, and to actively campaign for a better world, based on our values of transparency, independence, and scientific and journalistic integrity.

The Trump administration’s early policies risk head-on collision with the scientific and health communities. The BMJ’s ongoing campaigns for open science and open data, the health effects of climate change, and corruption and conflict of interest in healthcare are some examples of where conflict may occur. At this early stage it seems unlikely that the administration will change its course and promote open discourse, based on respect for scientific evidence and data. But whichever way Trump turns, the scientific and healthcare communities must commit to serving the best interests of patients and the public.

Pharma Guys insight:

We should not only "Stand Up for Science,'" we should also March for Science, IMHO, on April 22, 2017. More about that here.

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Big Data, a Bullshit Course, & the March for Science

Big Data, a Bullshit Course, & the March for Science | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Tired of alternative facts, fake news, and breathless hyperbole, two professors at the University of Washington are trying to strike a blow for science.


Their weapon? A new course: “Calling Bullshit In the Age of Big Data.”;


The class website and colorful syllabus went online last month and almost instantly went viral.


“We woke up the next morning to chaos. We had 20,000 visitors, our mailboxes were full, we were getting book offers,” said Carl Bergstrom, a biologist who helped create the course.


Bergstrom’s teaching partner, Jevin West, an assistant professor in UW’s Information School, put it this way: “We just struck a nerve.”


Though the course will be held on UW’s Seattle campus — capped at 160 students, it filled in the first minute of online registration — the materials are available free online. Lectures are expected to be posted as well.


“What I’m finding among scientists is an uneasiness that goes back years, even decades, about an eroding appreciation of science, how it works, and how it’s incorporated into our society. And it seems to be in a crescendo right now,” physicist Rush Holt, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told STAT earlier this week (read “AAAS Should Formally Endorse March for Science”;


Scientists around the world are even organizing a series of marches on Earth Day in April, which they’re billing as “a call to support and safeguard the scientific community.”


[Read: “Go Boldly! March for Science!”;]


In Seattle, the professors hope to do their part by dissecting case studies — or, as they call it, “bullshit in the wild” — to demonstrate how scientific data can be manipulated to mislead the public. Examples include a Fox News report on food stamp fraud; the professors promise to explain “how Fermi estimation can cut through bullshit like a hot knife through butter.”


The duo has fielded many requests from other institutions who want to create their own courses using the material. In the name of scientific literacy and a reasoned populace, they are more than happy to share. “No copyright. No trademark. Use it. Take it. Run with it,” West said.


They’ve been pleasantly surprised to see an upswell of interest from high school and middle school teachers, too.


Many have asked if the course is a response to President Donald Trump, who has dismissed evidence of vaccine safety and called climate change a hoax. But the course was in the works long before the election. And while Bergstrom makes no secret of his disdain for Trump on his Twitter feed, he wants the course to remain apolitical. He promises to attack misrepresentations of science coming from politicians of any stripe.


“We need a citizenry that’s more informed and has the ability to call bullshit,” West said. “That’s good for everyone.”



Pharma Guys insight:

Further Reading: “Is Pharma Marketing a Lot of BS?”;

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Science Not Silence! MARCH FOR SCIENCE - April 22, 2017

Science Not Silence! MARCH FOR SCIENCE - April 22, 2017 | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Since Mr. Trump’s election, many scientists have expressed concern about rumors and public statements on the new administration’s views on science, climate change and the role of federal offices like the Environmental Protection Agency [and the FDA!].


Mr. Trump has called climate change a hoax (although more recently said he would have an “open mind” about it) and appointed some officials to his transition team who dispute mainstream climate science. But there is much that is still unclear about his administration’s attitudes toward science.


The president has yet to appoint a science adviser and has not responded to open letters calling on him to do so from science policy groups including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (whose president, Rush D. Holt, is a physicist and former congressman).


Few scientists have gone as far as Dr. Eisen, but other researchers are now undergoing a political awakening, contemplating what their role should be for at least the next few years.


*************** MARCH FOR SCIENCE ***************


The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.




We are scientists and science enthusiasts. We come from all races, all religions, all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all abilities, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all political perspectives, and all nationalities. Our diversity is our greatest strength: a wealth of opinions, perspectives, and ideas is critical for the scientific process. What unites us is a love of science, and an insatiable curiosity. We all recognize that science is everywhere and affects everyone.


Science is often an arduous process, but it is also thrilling (read “PhRMA's Dark Inspirational Video Starts a 6-Month Offensive: ‘Less Hoodies, More White Coats’”). A universal human curiosity and dogged persistence is the greatest hope for the future. This movement cannot and will not end with a march. Our plans for policy change and community outreach will start with marches worldwide and a teach-in at the National Mall, but it is imperative that we continue to celebrate and defend science at all levels - from local schools to federal agencies - throughout the world.


Satellite Marches are solidarity events inspired by the March for Science, and organized independently by volunteers around the world. If you can't make it to Washington, D.C. then you can join or host a Satellite March near you. We encourage everyone to follow to local organizers to stay updated, and reach out if you want to help!

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