Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A fat Pfizer pushed away the pioneers

My column this week over at Michigan Business Review discusses the Pfizer plant closings that have caused a great deal of trauma in local communities. I blame Pfizer for refusing to live up to its end of the patent-cycle bargain and refusing to look at the work of those who are truly pushing the boundaries of medicine, including nanotech pioneers here in Michigan. Here's an excerpt:

Instead, there pervaded a culture that gave collective shrugs against those who pushed the frontiers, against those who were developing methods of avoiding the kinds of side-effects that gave Pfizer and others such a black eye a couple of years ago. Remember Celebrex and Vioxx? So, most experimental therapies were shown the door.


I am thinking of companies like Ann Arbor’s NanoBio Corp. or Avidimer Therapeutics Inc., both companies spun out of the nanotech labs of the University of Michigan’s James Baker, and both working on the next generation of targeted, timed cancer therapies that could do away with painful chemotherapy.

Last year, when Pfizer began trimming its Ann Arbor workforce, Baker told me that there was an exciting ‘’critical mass’’ of people in Ann Arbor available to help his companies -- people who know the pharmaceutical business and can help with process development, clinical and regulatory issues, toxicology and other aspects of the business.

I also think of Donald Tomalia, a former Dow chemist who now heads Dendritic Nanotechnologies Inc. in Midland. His company is also working on a whole platform of potential game-changing anti-cancer compounds based on an invention he had more than 20 years ago. He told me that large pharmaceutical companies are finally realizing that their pipelines are empty even as their blockbuster drugs are coming off patent.

Now, almost a quarter-century after Tomalia’s invention of the dendrimer, the doors to Big Pharma are at last being opened for him.

Read the whole column here.

Update: Family ties bring good fortune to John Wu. And he wants to extend his "family" to former Pfizer workers looking for opportunities in China. Story here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cambridge fooled by nano hype

Nanotechnology 'has turned into a big business so quickly that few are monitoring nanotechnology's effects on health and the environment," says a resolution in Cambridge, Mass., instructing the city manager to look into regulating nanotech.

Sounds to me, again, like "nanobusiness" is the victim of its own hype. Nanotech is not big business. There's a great deal of promising science, a few high-risk investments, a whole lot of nanoscale snake oil masquerading as nanotech. But, as of yet, no big business.

Nanotech investment hypsters, however, have successfully created the illusion that it's big business in order to attract more investment. The only thing it's really attracted, though, is threatened regulation.

When nanotech 'industry' believes its own PR ...
Nanotech's real danger is the nano con

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Smalls to The Wall


That's me, NanoBot Smalls, my avatar in Second Life. And as it is in my "first life," my Second Life self kept walking into walls. So, I decided to park myself in front of a virtual wall that contains more meaning -- a replica of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. And there I sit, deep in virtual contemplation.

And, while you ponder that, ponder this, my report on Second Life for Michigan Business Review.

Among my sources are Clay Shirky, an author who has followed every virtual fad since 1993. Clay gave me some wonderfully cranky criticism.

And as a counter to Clay, I also talked to Jack Mason. Longtime NanoBot watchers might remember Jack as one of my best correspondents for Small Times. Well, our boy Jack is all grow'd up now and working for IBM. I was pleasantly surprised when our worlds collided and I had an excuse to call him. Jack is in charge of IBM's Virtual Connection Center on Second Life.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Government Created Killer NanoRobot Infection

From NanoBot

I sing the auto body electric

Now that I've narrowed the region, but broadened the scope, of my coverage, I'm still finding myself dipping into my nanotech experience as I cover a broad array of topics -- primarily involving the late great auto industry here in Detroit.

In my column at Michigan Business Review this week -- yeah, it's called TechTonic, just couldn't come up with anything better -- I discuss the "story behind the story" of General Motors' decision to revive the electric car, along with some news of local interest involving Ford's renewed investment in six Michigan auto plants to convert them to "flexible manufacturing" facilities.

I think it all comes down to the spirit of Henry Ford at last returning to Michigan. The idea is not just to make cars, but to own the frame, or template, onto which all current and future cars will be modeled. I learned this through my coverage -- from the inside and out -- of the pharmaceutical industry, where the goal is not to come up with the next blockbuster drug, but rather to invent the "drug delivery vehicle" that carries any one of a number of targeted, timed drug therapies.

I did not include this in the column, but I also think of Donald Tomalia and his dendrimers. Tomalia, also a Michigander, has ever since he invented the tendriled molecules a couple of decades ago at Dow, always dreamed of a kind of Periodic Table of Dendrimers, where his molecule can serve as the basic frame for almost limitless possibilities and products.

Must be something in the Michigan air that gives us delusions (aspirations?) of grandeur.

Google Earth gives 'space elevator' a lift

Stretching the meaning of Google Earth, a community of believers has marked the spot where, so sayeth the faithful, nanotubes will rise.

Space Elevator: The Music Video
Got the world on a string
Buy-in-the-sky scheme

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Motown goes electric

Chrysler, GM go back to the future. Read my coverage of the North American International Auto Show media and industry previews here.

Pictured above is GM's all-electric Volt concept car. And at right is, well, I just love Italian cars, don't you?

And flip through my blogger's notebook with:

Toyota pours a little cold water on ethanol (video)
The guys who love their parts
Famous racing commentator buys a sandwich
All this and the Sync, too
Who resurrected the electric car?
And more

To tell you the truth, I do not get all that excited over cars. But all the technology that's being embedded everywhere in today's autos. Now that's pretty exciting.

The Big Three is now the Big Four, and there is still no public transportation to speak of in the Detroit area. The auto may be on the decline, but it's still king.

More later and, yes, nanotech too. Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Blogging the Detroit auto show

Please be patient, nanobot fans. Nano blogging will return. Meanwhile, I'm in Detroit, blogging the 2007 North American International Auto Show, amid some horrible news in the auto industry. But, yes, a company actually WANTS me to blog for a change. Here's my first installment.

Chrysler's LaSorda likes bread and butter

And here's a feed to get you there via the portal of your choice.

Update: Video here and a new all-electric concept vehicle here. Or start from the beginning here.