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Ogori-Magongo Warrior
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sup' MSTPeeps? I was just thinking the other day about how the goal of Medical Scientist Training Programs is to train medical (physician) scientists right? Well the career options of an MD/PhD include consultancy & research for biotech firms, corporate administration, University basic science researcher, university clinician, university academic physician, private practitioner, blah, blah, blah...What struck me was that only very few MD/PhDs tap $ from the lucrative biotech market. I was wandering why this is the case. Is it due to the lack of an industrial training component in most MSTPs?; due to the very few mentors available in this track?; or due to detterence by the MST Programs themselves?

Personally, I intend on going the traditional route and hopefully joining the faculty at some university if they'll take me. But I'm curious to hear what you guys think about this untapped zone.
 

none

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Well, a little of both I'm guessing. I mean MSTP students spend such an amazingly long time in academia...I mean more than pretty much any other training program, it's got to be hard to leave it all after that. Biotech does work really diffrently too. Of course I think the universities themselves provide a little pressure too, or at least they certainly have at the interview stage. The faculty seem quite intent on pushing students into their current jobs.
 

JJ4

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Its a funny thing...
The other day I was talking to some dude and he was like "Pfizer will be knocking on your door."

Well...for all intents and purposes -- I too intend to stay in academia -- and as a fledgling MSTPer, am all optimistic about practicing medicine and have an awesome lab with a lot of post-docs and grad students (Okay okay, before any current MSTPers start to knock me out -- please let me have this dream while it lasts :D )

I guess the reason that many MD/PhDs stick with the university/hospital setting is that they went to the MSTP to go into just that....academic medicine.

Industry, while having a lot of money to offer, is neither of those -- academic nor "medicine" in the true sense of the word.

I guess mudphuds like to be around patients and academic basic scientists -- thats what we were reared in and thats where we feel at home I guess (in general).

Industry has a feel thats so restrictive and confined (not that academia is so free floating). But there's something about the NIH grant writing process and doing patient rounds thats real endearing...

Aww man....it's 1:45 and i have a paper due today at 9:00.... i don't even know what im talking about anymore.... :D
 
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JJ4

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Alright I'm -- my paper needs a topic... perhaps this break will help some...

"Science as Commodity" --- interesting....

In any case --- anyone decide on where they are doing lab rotations yet??

Original -- are you going to Vann Bennet's lab at all??
 
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Original

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none and JJ4,
Thanks for your responses. I gleaned from them that the academic culture is much warmer and certainly more familiar (to MSTPers) than industry. Some cool guy that interviewed me in St Louis told me about how his friend at Merck wouldn't tell him what he was working on. I found that unfair considering that all his friend needs to do is go on the internet to read about this WashU guy's work...(Sonic eh? 'sup with your people man? <img border="0" alt="[Laughy]" title="" src="graemlins/laughy.gif" /> ). Though the satisfaction one derives from the transparency of academia makes it all worth it.

JJ4,
This Van Bennet guy's work sounds very interesting from you and Sonic's description of it. I don't know where I'll do my lab rotations, but I'll definitely check it out. I'm probably also going to check out Lefkowitz and Caron labs. I'm crazy about receptors and signaling.
I'm absolutely going to do a residency right after school; though I don't have the slightest clue about what area of specialization.

Have you decided with whom you'll do your rotations at Mayo? Considering your experience and long list of publications, I'm sure they'll be scrambling to have you in their labs.

any other thoughts on this topic? what is the future looking like? will there be an increase in the blur between academia and industry? and how will this affect MSTP?...sorry for all the questions. Just curious.
 

chef

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When I interviewed at Maryland, I saw that 2 of their recent graduates started their own biotech business..

At UCSD, where there is a huge private biotech industry, many CEOs and founders were onetime faculty members at UCSD and affliated research centers.

At U Michigan, I heard that the graduating MSTPs were being contacted by local biotech firms, most notably Pfizer (they have a huge center in Ann Arbor).

Also, I think being in industry doesn't always mean you'll be a selfish moneycrazy pseudo scientist.. I followed a few scientists at Genentech, and they were absolutely wonderful, plus their publication record was most impressive. I also worked with a few folks at a private company in Bethesda, MD, and they were great too.

With the recent trend of private companies donating more money to MSTPs and academic institutions, I think we'll see more MD/PhDs (or MDs) enter the industry.
 

JJ4

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Hey Original...

Receptors and signalling ehh?? Very cool....

As for my rotations -- I'm thinking about this dude named Moses Rodriguez to kick it off.
I had an interest in doing a rotation in a field called atomic force microscopy to assess the mechanical stress on modular neuronal proteins anchored to the cell membrane (particularly how mutations to these will affect their modularity to sort of tie that in with disease phenotype). However after a ton of thinking and realizing that that's definitely not what I'll do my thesis in (i.e. a just for kicks rotation) and also realizing that there are at least 5 other dudes whom I'd like to check out, I decided against it for now. In any case Moses Rodriguez is a neurologist by training and an immunologist by profession. I'm most interested in the immunological implications surrounding the remyelination process after CNS injury and neurodegeneration. We'll see how that pans out.

Oh yes...so will there be a blur between industry and academia. Well (on a more tangentially related note) I think that most academic scientists (at the moment) don't necessarily look at ties with industry as being the most productive thing (i.e. due to the lure of monetary kickbacks from industry to the academic side) as their data may more or less be swayed into reflecting the ideals and goals of the company. Thus for political reasons I know some basic scientists that steer away from too much industry involvement. Also industry nowadays are recruiting very hard to get hardcore basic scientists to THEIR side and use the collaboration with academia as a last resort due to proprietary reasons (I think).

I see most of the collaborations with academia currently happening between small biotech companies (like Post Translational Therapeutics to name one), which in effect was actually started by an academic scientist who still holds a university appointment, rather than with "big pharma" like Pfizer and Merck. And to prevent getting weeded out, these biotech companies in turn try to collaborate with "big pharma" when the going gets tough and they can't quite float in the deep end.

Bioinformatics may be the first route of university-industry collaboration as rational drug design is nowadays trying to get their feet wet in structure based design. (However pragmatically, I don't see that happening soon). Also if the stem cell think pans out, there will be LESS collaboration as it is difficult to patent that kinda stuff.

So all in all instead of rambling without a clue, I think that industry would rather do their science and academic scientists like to stick to theirs. This also doesn't take into account the very different way that industry approaches basic science....(i.e. so nit-picky and anal).

I gotta run..my paper was due 10 min. ago.
 
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Wow JJ4,

That was quite enlightening. So the buffer zone between industry and academia is intentional and is protected. That makes sense. Knowledge for knowledge sake versus knowledge for the sake of profit. One can't but love the nobility in seeking knowledge for the sake of it though. The primordial driving force is curiousity. Almost like some internal fire driving you nuts till you get to the bottom of your study. What's even more beautiful about it is that there is no bottom. Each answered question gives rise to a myriad more unanswered questions. Sort of like a tree.
 
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jot

hey guys, i'd like to join the foray. i've been working at merck every summer in a molecular neuropharma group since freshman year (this will be my 3rd summer), as well as having worked in an academic lab during the school year for 3 years now (molecular computational bio). i've had really incredible experiences doing both, but i certainly have a bias towards the academic setting.
imagine this: you have spent 10 years doing your md/phd and postdoc and residency, then you join a big pharma company. they pay amazingly well (200k+ starting), you have vast resources, and as a bonus, they are grooming you on the fast track for upper level science management eventually. this scenario isn't wholly unlikely for a fresh mstp grad (there were two in dept around me). you work for about 8 years on a topic you enjoy and also seems to have some economic value (which is the bottom line). however, as you progress, the possiblity to actually make a drug decreases, so upper management does something radical, like completely changing the focus of your group. this happened to neuropharm group i work in now, almost all were receptor/cardio people when they were hired, and had to completely switch gears to neuro, which is no small feat. though now they insist that it brings about a synergy, and new perspective, it would be a tough change if you were really passionate about one topic. i am forunate to be working under a smart young woman from ucsf who did her postdoc with Mark Tessier Levine (for you neuro people), and she certainly misses the academic mode. this isn't meant to deter anyone from one or the other, its a matter of personal priorities; i would like to spend a decent amount of time on something that i have been trained to do, without worrying about the economic bottom line.
i guess this brings us to another point, which is more social, should we be doing science by the german ideal of wissenschaft (pure science for the sake of science), or as Dr. Randolph Virchow of the University of Berlin (father of pathophysiology) in 1848 insisted, "science must have the ability to act [for human good]".
heh, that was a bit long winded ... back to finals.
 

MAPKinkster

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Hey-

A frequent motto for mudphuds is "bench to bedside" and it seems to me that big pharm companies do this pretty well. i can see why some mudphuds would want to pass up academic or clinical positions to pursue work at a biotech company. perhaps there are more opportunities to use the dual degree towards translational research in industry.

-MapK

Ps. Jot - do you mean Rudolf Virchow? BTW I dig your website design.
 

JJ4

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Exactly. As JOT pointed out, in industry there's a "bottom line." It's precisely this "bottom line" that leaves a bad after-taste for those of us reared in the academic tradition.

Nonetheless there's something to be said about Virchow's premise. Indeed he's correct. It's the ability of science to act for the human good that made us go the MSTP route as opposed to the straight PhD right?? However I think ideas that come out of the wissenschaft (science for the sake of science) tradition tends to be more mechanically thought out. I'll give an example:

I know several labs studying spinal cord injury (SCI). However some of them began as a molecular neuroscience lab that came across neurite promoting proteins and decided to explore its effect on injured cord explants (after much needed in vitro analysis of how neurite outgrowth occurs on a molecular and cellular level using these proteins). These folks may be onto something.

On the other side, there is another lab which was founded on the goal of "curing SCI-induced paralysis." These guys heavily sift through the literature and meetings and try everything except the kitchen sink on their injury models. However, they do this with no inherent knowledge of how mechanistically their therapies work. The end result?? No cure -- because the implications weren't properly considered.

There are several examples of these failed therapies in the literature. A March issue of Science talked about Matrix MetalloProteases (MMPs) which are generally upregulated in tumor metastasis. The idea here was that MMPs must be responsible for clearing away extracellular matrix and other "stuff in the way," so that the tumor can metasthasize. So what did the companies do?? Of course! They tried trials using MMP-inhibitors in the goal that they may block the metastasis so that the tumor will not be diffuse and thus resectable. However they failed to take into account that MMPs are in fact recruited to the tumor site by stromal cells and that metastatic tumors are generally complexed with urokinase receptors and integrin molecules to assist in their moving. Thus -- while the MMP-inhibitors may work in vitro in tissue culture, it's very difficult to work in vivo. Once again, basic science was ignored in the mess to find "the cure." So much money.....wasted.

Going back to the spinal cord injury stuff....without knowing what accounts for a permissive substrate for neurite outgrowth, and other molecular cues at the acute injury site, it's difficult to just "regrow the cord" by sprinkling stuff on it.

So as you can see, the "bottom line" imposed by industry makes those in academia who are trained to mechanistically attack a problem point by point, annoyed at times. I guess, there's something about our training, as die-hard grad-students pipetting the night away, thats endearing in the end -- as opposed to going to meetings every third hour to discuss "where the company is going."
 
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</font><blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">quote:</font><hr /><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">Originally posted by jot:
<strong>
heh, that was a bit long winded ... back to finals.</strong></font><hr /></blockquote><font size="2" face="Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif">On the contrary. That was very interesting to read. You guys are brilliant! O.k check out this scenario: you're doing research to unravel the mech of a certain biophenomenon in a hermit bacteria. The work in question seemingly has no forseeable application to human good. But 10 yrs down the line, information gathered from this work turns out to be crucial to several areas of human health research.

In this case had you been a staunch subscriber to the Virchow school, you'd have abandoned the bacteria project and hence deprived the world of some good stuff. I think the optimal ideal would be a mixture of both philosophies. However, if it was either one or the other, I'd go with wissenschaft. I don't like Virchow because there's no objective yardstick for deciding which research is (or at some point will be) directly applicable to human good.

I'm enjoying this discussion and I'm learning alot. Seems wissenschaft is more academic, and virchow more economics-oriented. What do you guys think?

hey jot, GL with your finals.
 

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I came into this discussion a little late. You guys have said almost everything I wanted to mention. :)

I think part of the appeal of academic work is the autonomy. You don't have to answer to upper management as far as your research goes, and you work on what you want to work on. Also, you can choose to share your discoveries with the scientific community rather than being forced to patent and sell them. I like science the best when it involves a collaborative sharing of resources and knowledge.
 

MAPKinkster

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Hey-

Yeah the biggest failure to follow the principles of wissenschaft by biotech/pharm is the concept of sharing and criticism. It's disappointing that the influences from collaborations with biotech are creeping in academia.

e.g. My friend works in a structural bio lab at Berkeley which started a project as a collaboration with a biotech company. He finally got the protein to crystallize, got beautiful resolution, solved the structure, but couldn't present his results because he needed an okay from the company. And he's not going to get it published until the company feels like they've exhausted all possible leads they can get with the structure. Basically, it came down to patent vs. publish.

Just to pose another question:
While the freedom to pursue science for the sake of science is nice...shouldn't we also think of the implications and consequences of our work?

-MapK
 

MeGrowTall

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I don't think you are a good scientist unless you do consider the consequences and implications of your work as far as it pertains to other research. Science is becoming more and more of a colaborative effort where one lab cannot cover all the angles of a specific issue. Good PIs should focus not only on their own research, but how their research affects the scientific community (i.e., the big picture). For example, in my lab we do research on sodium channels involved in thermosensation. While the pathways of this sensory input have not been elucidated, figuring them out isn't going to create a cure for anything. But, the same channels, when mutated, can lead to certain forms of neurodegenerative diseases. So, I suppose it comes down to ideas that have already been mentioned of basic science laying the groundwork for researching cures and treatments.
That's what I have to say for your question MAPK, unless you meant the implications of research on society. If that's the case, that topic's a little too big for me to chew on. :)
 
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jot

its interesting that original brought up the counterpoint to virchows (rudolph, thanks) argument with the hermit bacteria example, for that paradigm is the major school thought in opposition to a strictly benthamite(utalitarian, greatest good for the greatest number of people)/virchow ideal. its major champion is ludwig or ludberg or something (i can't recall). one can never under estimate the power of serendipity; finding things that we had never sought out, the example are countless. an excellent read is "the structure of scientific revolutions" by the brilliant harvard physicist-turned-princeton historian thomas s. kuhn. though it was bashed in a woman studies class i took, it is brilliant (he coined the word paradigm).

i've recently been a bit shaken by a valid counterview to the biomedical approach (which i could have sworn by only a month ago) called the biopsychosocial model layed out by dr. george engel (recently deceased). there is something terribly dogmatic and reductionist about the myopic view we have of disease these days. though we pay lipservice and assume that we [current docs, hah not me as yet] are paying attention to the patient, there is a serious disconect in translating scientific breakthroughs to increased quality of life.

its funny [not really] that for a while i was so intent on doing an md/phd and i wanted to ensure that my research was top notch that i forgot why i wanted to be a doctor as well. though i still want to pursue the dual degrees, i think i am now with a much more wholistic reason in mind. ah, idyllic youth. but why not.
 
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