Corrections or additions?
These aricles were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 15,
1999. All rights reserved.
Career Changes for Gene Researchers
Research to map human genes has revved up to ramming
speed, which will almost surely affect careers in several areas of
the pharmaceutical industry. Wes Cosand
technology and bioinformatics of Bristol-Myers Squibb, believes the
stepped-up pursuit of the human genome will impact not only the
of drug targets, but also the development of new drugs and the use
of those drugs in the health care system.
"Reasonably conservative companies are betting that this new
will change the way that drugs are not only discovered but also the
way they are developed in the clinic and the way they are sold in
the marketplace," says Cosand. He is an alumnus of Ohio Wesleyan,
Class of 1970, and Rockefeller University.
At a meeting of the Association for Women in Science Cosand will
the impact of recent discoveries on the industry and the career
they present. Entitled "The Impact of Genomics on Drug
the talk is set for Thursday, September 23, at 6 p.m. at Wyeth Ayerst
on Ridge Road. Call 732-274-4607 for reservations.
Two events in the past year precipitated a sea change in the industry,
says Cosand. The first was the announcement that the United States
government and the British-based Wellcome Trust, the world’s largest
medical research charity (http://www.ac.uk
increase funding for accelerated research on genomic sequencing, so
that by February, 2000, a working draft of the sequencing could be
ready. (The government-funded Human Genome Project (HGP) is battling
it out with entrepreneur Craig Venter of P.E. Celera to try to
the complete human DNA located in the 23 chromosomes. If the
can win the race, the data will belong to the public domain.)
The second announcement, in April, was that 10 major pharmaceuticals
and the Wellcome Trust were joining in a precompetitive initiative,
to find hundreds of thousands of places in the human genome where
the DNA sequence differs among differing members of the population.
"These companies saw that as so critical to the industry that
they wanted that job done as soon as possible," says Cosand.
"Those two unusual announcements were overlaid on a landscape
where many of our firms are doing significant recruiting of scientists
to increase their efforts in genomics," Cosand explains.
The obvious result: "Recruiting is a real challenge. The pool
of people with a background in biology as well as in math or computer
science or quantitative skills is small." Excellent career
are available in these three brand-new areas:
"Most of the companies are finding that a rich source of
says Cosand. "The earliest impact will be, perhaps, novel (new)
antibiotics." Because bacterial genomes are smaller, they were
sequenced before human genomes; that data will be available earlier.
of each gene each person has. "It turns out that in front of every
gene there is a tiny volume control. If that is turned off, it is
just as if the organism lacked the gene," says Cosand. "If
it is turned up high, then many many copies of that gene are
The settings of the hundreds of thousands of volume controls
a great deal of the biology."
a drug for a particular person. People are different, and as Cosand
points out, significant portions of the population differ in
DNA sequences. "This diversity is a problem for us in designing
and selling drugs because they differ in how they react," he says.
"If we could easily determine the differences in genetic makeup,
we might be able to easily determine how a person’s tumor would differ
and choose the most efficacious treatment regime. We might be able
to more easily set a more appropriate dose for a patient." When
scientists really understand the fundamental biology, they might use
this genomic knowledge to tailor medical care for those with a
to a disease.
areas has fueled the rapid changes, sometimes called the
of drug discovery. The adrenalin-powered research started out with
high throughput screening, screening at a very fast rate.
spent a lot of money developing technology to do the screening. Then
they realized they needed to do synthetic chemistry and greatly
the ability to do combinatorial chemistry in high throughput
says Cosand. "They saw genomics as an extrapolation of the
trend, to vastly increase the rate at which they characterized the
protein targets which would then go into high throughput
"In the last year their view of genomics has certainly changed
and become perhaps more sophisticated," says Cosand.
often reveals an ability to admit ignorance. As Cosand says, "We
really do not entirely understand the impact or the effect that
— Barbara Fox
Long Term Care Insurance — heard of it? Probably
not, because many businesses don’t offer it. Long Term Care Insurance,
or LTCI, covers what Medicare does not: non-medical expenses related
to old-age or a debilitating condition that requires some kind of
assisted living arrangement.
With the nation’s largest demographic — the babyboomers —
approaching the golden years, health care is becoming a serious
so much so that the federal government is willing to put its money
where its rhetoric is, says Lisa Snyder
of Benefits Professionals and an insurance broker with Kistler Tiffany
at 2470 Princeton Pike. "The government has put a lot of new rules
in place that are highlighting long term care insurance as something
people should seriously consider," she says. "Legislation
was passed in the last two to three years to provide tax benefits
to encourage employers and people to buy it." Snyder covers the
specifics Tuesday, September 21, at 8 a.m. at Smith Stratton on 600
College Road East. Call: 609-987-6672. Cost: $30.
LTCI covers assisted living, nursing homes, adult day care, and home
health care. Benefits come in dollars per day that can be applied
to a variety of levels of care usually for an extended period, like
five years. The younger you buy it, the less expensive it is.
From an employer’s standpoint, one of the big selling points, says
Snyder, is discount rates. "Most employers think that once you
start talking benefits, it’s going to cost money, and most employers
can’t afford another benefit." A voluntary plan is offered at
a discounted rate. "This doesn’t require employers to add to the
Along the same lines, employers don’t have to stretch human resources
to administer the plan. "HR people are already inundated,"
says Snyder. "We as enrollers can deal with the employees in the
evening at their home. There are no payroll reduction slots or payroll
billing if the policy is voluntary. Everything can be billed directly
to the employee’s home."
The real benefit to the employer, in the end, is the peace of mind
it gives to employees, says Snyder. "If somebody’s parent is
trouble, at least they have something to fall back on so it won’t
drain someone’s retirement savings. A lot of people do it themselves,
which may mean leaving the work force permanently or leading a double
life. During the day, you have diminished productivity because you’re
worried your parent is going to wander off."
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