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David Luke


About the topic





David R. Luke, Pharm.D., is Senior Medical Director in the Anti-Infectives / Pulmonary Team at Pfizer Inc. in New York, NY. Dave received a Bachelors in Pharmacy from the University of Toronto in 1977, and his Doctorate in Clinical Pharmacy from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Sciences in 1985. He has been on faculty at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Houston, and spent time at Roche before joining Pfizer in 1992. He has many clinical and basic publications.

 OK, he's a Canadian, so the Café assumes no responsibility for the truth, or even taste, of his personal statement: "My title is Senior Medical Director, Infectious Diseases, Pfizer Inc – a rather lofty title but really sublimed into a man with a beautiful wife of 22 years and five unbelievable children – far more important to me than the 100+ peer-reviewed publications and 200+ requested presentations. As far as my true biography, I was potty trained at 5 years of age – OK I was a late bloomer – and have had an enjoyable life playing the role of a researcher. I have owned a pharmacy, been a medical professor, completed over 300 studies in basic and clinic research, played hockey somewhat poorly for 45 years but have great stories (and lies) about the experience, and have no answers about raising children. However, my children probably have great stories about raising their father, which are well-deserved, and of interest to your audience."

About the topic

Dave writes: "My title is “Where have all the antibiotics gone?” and I think we should start with the song “Where have all the flowers gone?” as my introduction. Do you have A/V facilities to facilitate the attached song? [The 8 MB file crashed my mailbox, and is probably pirated.] I would like to play this song and then make the analogy between war (from the song) and the war on bacteria. In essence, we are at war with bacteria and we need to “shock” the audience. This is a scary situation and we need to wake up to the realities of true terrorism – resistant bacteria and emerging epidemics that we may not be prepared for (e.g., SARS, prions from Mad Cow disease, etc.) as opposed to anthrax, tularemia, and other bizarre bacteria."

From Science Writer Tabitha Powledge: There is no shortage of ideas for unearthing new antibiotic candidates. Why are they so slow to enter medical practice? The bottleneck, researchers agree, lies in the development process of turning them into effective therapies. Several researchers blame the big pharmaceutical companies that got so big by leading the way to new drugs for battling infectious disease, but in recent years have dropped out. Vincent Fischetti (Rockefeller) complains, “These are the big companies that have the money to develop antiinfectives, but they leave it to small biotech companies, and it's not going to happen as rapidly as it should. I think it's really unconscionable for these big companies to drop the ball because it's not going to be a billion-dollar market for them and that's what they're looking for.”

Half a billion at least, says Francis Tally, a big pharmaceuticals veteran who is now chief scientific officer at Cubist Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company located in Lexington, Massachusetts. According to Tally, Cubist produced daptomycin, approved in September 2003, by licensing it from Eli Lilly, which shelved the new compound after concluding its potential market was only $250 million.

But, Tally argues, the size of the market is not the only barrier to new antibiotics. Combinatorial chemistry and the genomics revolution have simply not delivered on their early promise. “The pipeline is very dry,” he says. “There's been a real lag at the basic research level.”

“Antibiotic discovery is hard,” Lucy Shapiro (Stanford) says. “It's a huge long process to get a decent antibiotic.” Walsh agrees. “It's easier to find inhibitors of particular enzymes for particular processes—and a very long road to convert that into something for development.”

What does the world's biggest pharmaceutical company do? Answer: Everything. Check them out:

A readable (long, though) white paper from the Infectious Diseases Society of America, July 2004, called "Bad Bugs, No Drugs" can be read or downloaded here.


© 2004 Colorado Café Scientifique