Category Archives: Drug Discovery

Anyone for Social Media?


social media logos

What are scientific based companies doing on social media? Are popular services such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ been used in successfully promoting and selling scientific services? These are the questions I set out to answer in a small piece or research involving 10 well-known companies.

I selected a mix of  companies (please see tha table of results at the end of this blog) that are providing development. manufacturing or packaging services. I then reviewed their use (if any) of Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I tried to identify the official site for the company rather than for a company subsidiary or third-party activity on behalf of a company.

For the purpose of this research I didn’t include LinkedIn, as companies seem to have now, as a default,  some type of listing on Linkedin. This service tends to be very recruitment orientated, good for networking, but lacks the graphical and interactive features of the other social media sites.

Also I didn’t look this time at YouTube. The use of video and therefore YouTube  to promote a company’s products and services, though individual videos and also now through ‘channels’ is becoming more popular. But a company needs good video content to support this and may companies have been slow to develop this particular forum maybe due to the cost of making good quality video. I will however look at this medium as I extend this study for future blogs.

What is Social Media been used for?

The main categories of use of all social media by the companies included in the research were (in no order of importance)

  • Updates on general company news
  • Employee news and activities (charitable, company days out e,t,c)
  • Recruitment, individual job notifications or background to working in the company.
  • Product or service details or information
  • Notification of exhibition/seminar attendance and reporting

What I found…….

What was very interesting from the research was the overall popularity of Twitter over Facebook and Google+. It is been used broadly over the all the categories given above. This could be for the reason that it is still a quick way to post information due to the brevity demanded by the service. It is the nearest to a traditional ticker news service of the past but is also now allowing graphics to improve its visual impact.

Facebook and Google+ offer text, graphic and interactive features but are only used for limited purposes with companies opting out of the interactive features. Both services are used  for similar tasks with content been duplicated and used on both channels. Facebook has still a good lead on Google+ in overall terms of uptake by companies. Google+ is only been used in a small number of cases by companies and was much more likely than Facebook just to have just an address and nothing else. I am not sure why companies establish a Facebook,Google+ or twitter account and presence and then abandon them with no content or updating.  I think that this can be counter-productive as users start judging your company simply by the lack of activity on your social media accounts!

Some of the companies that were surveyed that are  using social media are not providing information or links to their Twitter, Facebook, Google+ sites from their own company websites! A reason maybe that company websites tend to be updated only from time to time and maybe not been updated with the relevant links. But a good social media strategy should have the different mediums complimenting each other and be integrated allowing a user to flow between them plugging into the strengths of each activity/chanel.

What I didn’t see in the survey was the use of social media for customer service or support. This is proving to be a very popular use of social media among other industrial sectors especially in a B2C context. But in this small piece of research I didn’t see evidence of social media been used to interact with customers for customer services actions i.e. recording customer issues, complaints, feedback e.t.c.

Also I didn’t see the use of social media to gain sales leads through requests for information from users (contact forms e.t.c) when accessing information available through the channels. This can be done through so-called   ‘calls for actions’. In return for access to content such as white papers,slides or new/old webinars the details of individuals and companies can be recorded and followed up on. So I would conclude that social media is not actively employed in direct sales activities or information gathering and gaining customer/user feedback but more extending the reach and purpose of existing company websites and linkedin activities.

Below is a table of results for the companies covered in the research.

 Company  Type of  Services             Facebook (activities)          Twitter (activities)         Google+ (activities)
   Lonza Manufacturing
  • Employee News
  • Social news
  • Product/Service Information
  • Company News
  • Careers
  • Product/service information
  • Basic  company details (address, website url)
  Covance Development
  • General company information
  • Events
  • Product/service information
  • exhibitions/seminars
  • Basic company details
  SGS Life  Science Development
  • Basic  company details
  • Basic company  details
  • Basic company details
 Haupt   Pharma Manufacturing
  • None
  • None
  • None
 Recipharm Manufacturing
  • None
  • None
  • None
  Aesica Manufacturing
  • Product/service information
  • Employee news
  • Company news
  • Exhibitions/seminars/webcasts
  • None
  • None
  Eurofins Laboratory
  • None
  • Limited (USA only)
  • Basic(company details)
  Patheon Development
  • None
  • Product/service information
  • Employee information
  • Company news
  • Exhibitions/seminar attendance
  • None
  Metrics Inc Development
  • None
  • Product/service information
  • Exhibition/seminar attendance
  • Company information
  • None
CapsCanada Manufacturing
  • None
  • Product/service information
  • Product/service information
Chesapeake Packaging
  • Product/service information
  • Company news
  • employee news
  • None
  • Product/service information
  • Company news
  • employee news

New very different therapeutic applications for existing drugs

Over the last couple of days I have read about an old drug Citalopram (Celaxa, Lundbeck)  initially developed for the treatment of depression, has now  been the subject of early research into the treatment of Alzheimers.  Researchers from University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, set out to explore the untapped powers of antidepressants, SSRIs to reduce production of beta-amyloid, a plaque that having grown on brain cells causes Alzheimers.(Ref: LA Times May 14th, 2014)citalopram

This very early research work into Citalopram has shown it effective in at least stopping the spread of the plaque (in mice) but not (as yet) rolling it back. What about other good examples of products/molecules developed in the past, that have found new subsequent uses? I’ve put together a table below identifying 10 compounds some of which have successfully been indicated and been awarded licenses for new applications. I have tried to pick out products that have found applications in other areas, very different from the original therapeutic application that they were developed to target. I did find quite a few molecules that have extended their application within the same sector that they orginally targeted, a common example of this is in the cancer sector.

Most of the molecules listed below in the table  through their brand names, are now household names for their initial application. Though the newer or subsequent application typically doesn’t replicate the sales  success of their original use, some like aspirin are now mainstreamaspirin in the alternative application such as in the case of aspirin, in  the treatment of hypertension.

If you know of other good example of older molecules/products that have been used in very different applications than those they were orginally developed for, I would welcome hearing from you and I will update this blog with the information.

Table showing a list of 10  molecules with their existing/original application along with newer applications.

Exisiting molecule Originator Company Original Application New or Secondary Application
Citalopram* Lundbeck Depression Alzheimers*
Sildenafil Pfizer Hypertension Erectile Dysfunction
Aspirin Bayer Pain Management Hypertension
Botox Allergan Stabismus/Blepharospasm Cosmetic use/Migraines
Perphenazine* Schering Plough Antipsychotic Leukemia*
Thalidomide Grunenthal Sedative/nausea Leprosy/myeloma
Sirolimus Pfizer Organ/transplant rejection Controlling a rare lung disease in children
Tamoxifen* AZ Cancer Bipolar depression*
Raloxifene Lilly Osteoporosis Breast Cancer
AZT/Zidovudine** GSK Cancer** HIV/Aids


* study of these molecules for these new applications is still at an early stage and have not been approved for marketing for these indications.

** Failed in clinical trials in the use as a treatment for certain cancers



LA Times:Preventing Alzheimer’s disease — with an antidepressant

TedBlog: 9 old drugs that learned new tricks: The head of the National Institutes of Health shares medicines that turned out to have multiple uses.

Antipsychotic Drug Fights Leukemia in Model: Perphenazine



Into the future, from milk powder to pharma super power…

Remembering recently visits during the 1980’s to the then Glaxo company in Greenford-London, the Glaxo factory was built (in an art-deco design) in the 1930’s,  and represented very much the birth of the modern pharmaceutical industry in the United Kingdom. I was told during my visit that the Glaxo factory  was originally a milk powder producer, and that during the Second World War, the factory at Greenford was pressed into manufacturing penicillin products to help the war effort. Glaxo obviously took this opportunity presented by the war, and went on to become a pharmaceutical super power within the industry. In the meantime GlaxoSmithKline have now moved out of the Greenford site and the site now awaiting sale and redevelopment. The latest news is old Glaxo factory is going to become an apartment complex, that’s progress!!

Glaxo building in Greenford, London.

This got me thinking about how both companies and industries evolve. There is a definite life cycle both in a company and the surrounding pharma-sector. We are only too aware of this in Ireland at the moment where some of our manufacturing companies are currently experiencing the patent cliff on a number of their products with the accompanying drop in sales. The modern industry here was initially built around the advent of the blockbuster drug but has quickly had to adapt what it does due to the demise of some of these successful products due to patent expiry and also manufacturing competition from other countries. From being very much gone from having a pharma industry based around the manufacture of bulk ingredients, the sector has looked for opportunities to both move down stream and evolve. So we have the addition of formulation manufacture to some of the bulk ingredients plants. Many of the formulations and products  included hard to handle materials and complex manufacturing. But again, many countries now offer this type of production, so again we had to look further  into the manufacture of biologics and new biotechnology products. Ireland has successfully attracted companies such as Amgen, Genzyme, Weyth Biotech (now Pfizer), Janssen Biotech, Biomarin, Alexion and Regeneron.  The move from small to large molecule synthesis and formulation is well under way!! As both companies and the sector grows, Ireland is also developing an accompanying  pharma service sector. This is represented by such companies as Alkermes, PPD,  TopChem, Almac and Icon.  They deliver chemical and biological development skills right across the life time of a drug product from discovery chemistry through to manufacture and distribution. These service companies need skills and knowledge in how to communicate globally effectively with sponsors/clients and deliver projects and development on time. It is not just anymore a case of being a toll manufacturer of bulk ingredients operating from a recipe developed elsewhere. Now service companies find themselves at the heart of a worldwide development process both in clinical development but also at the manufacturing stage.

Alkermes biulding in Athlone, Co. Roscommon, Ireland.

The future? This must involve discovering and bringing to market new drugs and medicines here in Ireland. Central to this effort, the government has been developing and supporting centres of research excellence at the Universities and also putting money into organisations such as the excellent National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT). This is exactly the type of government intervention that is needed and will help support the evolution of a research based industry in future years.

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NIBRT building in South Dublin

For further information of companies mentioned in this blog please go to