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Biotech Science

Former Intel CEO Rips Medical Research 484

Himuanam writes "Former Intel CEO Grove rips on the medical research community, contrasting their lack of progress with the tech industry's juggernaut of breakthroughs over the past half-century or so. 'On Sunday afternoon, Grove is unleashing a scathing critique of the nation's biomedical establishment. In a speech at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, he challenges big pharma companies, many of which haven't had an important new compound approved in ages, and academic researchers who are content with getting NIH grants and publishing research papers with little regard to whether their work leads to something that can alleviate disease, to change their ways.'"
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Former Intel CEO Rips Medical Research

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  • Breakthroughs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tx_derf ( 1060278 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:03PM (#21246977)
    The only reason Intel has had any motivation to come up with any real breakthroughs in the last 20 years is AMD eating their lunch with the Opetron. All they had in 2003 was the Itanium and we all know how big of a turd that was.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      So what your saying is e need a smaller, new pharm. company to come along and make a smaller, more powerful medication?
    • Re:Breakthroughs? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gbulmash ( 688770 ) * <> on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:12PM (#21247095) Homepage Journal
      Actually, Intel doesn't have to deal with artificial rights activists protesting outside their labs to free the poor microchips they're experimenting on, nor do they have to jump through HUGE FDA hoops when they're ready to scale up to live environment testing of their advances. The folks at Intel have the luxury of playing a lot faster and looser than medical researchers, because a failed attempt at increasing clock speed by 5% usually doesn't kill a living being.

      - G
      • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:14PM (#21247123) Homepage Journal

        Actually, Intel doesn't have to deal with artificial rights activists protesting outside their labs to free the poor microchips they're experimenting on, nor do they have to jump through HUGE FDA hoops when they're ready to scale up to live environment testing of their advances. The folks at Intel have the luxury of playing a lot faster and looser than medical researchers, because a failed attempt at increasing clock speed by 5% usually doesn't kill a living being.

        I agree with you 100.000000000137468%

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by marcello_dl ( 667940 )
        Besides can't compare building stuff, even if it's as complex as a CPU, to fighting disease, which is a war with an enemy that adapts. He could have compared chip making to the automobile industry and medical research with UI design (where supposedly idiot-proof design deals with better idiots)

        Anyway I'm convinced a big reason of the different pace of IT development resides in technology bringing closer the dream of powerful men to be able to control the world by themselves. Never fear the masses they keep
    • The only reason Intel has had any motivation to come up with any real breakthroughs in the last 20 years is AMD eating their lunch with the Opetron. All they had in 2003 was the Itanium and we all know how big of a turd that was.

      Innovation on CPUs doesn't necessarily have to consist of obvious "breakthroughs". CPU performance has increased exponentially over those last 20 years due to incremental, evolutionary improvements. Opteron wasn't exactly a "breakthrough" either: it just extended Intel's long-in-t
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I feel a car analogy coming on...
    • Perhaps the following metaphor is not the most effective, when discussing the field of medicine:

      We need to give wild ducks the opportunity to emerge and quack their way to success.
  • Let's talk about the failure of Itanic.
  • by Dinjay ( 571355 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:04PM (#21246995)
    I don't think that the IT industry has the regulatory pressures that the medical industry has, so he isn't comparing like with like.
    • by Slugster ( 635830 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:11PM (#21247079)
      Hey there! I'm in an unrelated field and I don't know how to do your job, but here's a few changes I'd like to see anyway....

      So Mr. Grove, let's consider all the faulty products you shipped in just one year of your career at Intel--and now let's imagine every single customer that bought one of those products suing your company for a half-million dollars each, and winning....
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Volante3192 ( 953645 )
      Seriously. If that Intel floating point bug was instead a medicine, well, ask Merck how that whole Vioxx thing blew over...

      It's not like Merck or GlaxoSmithKline could refab a molecule and offer an exchange. When you take into account the FDA and lawsuits hanging over their heads like Swords of Damocles, it's *almost* a wonder how they still manage to stay in business.

      (Almost, until you find they're able to shuffle trivial patents for known good medicine in and push those off to customers...but that's a r
    • Not without merit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:15PM (#21247137) Homepage Journal
      His argument is not without merit though. There is no financial interest in developing new drugs when old drugs are still protected under obscenely long lasting patents. And researchers are, as researchers are. I highly doubt many of the silicon engineers are eagerly awaiting news of how Timmy used their latest creation to do his high school term paper on. Like whys, most researchers are likely more interested in continuing their research than the 5-20 year battle what ever their last findings will go through before becoming a commercial grade product.

      All of that could be put aside though, save for one major factor. There is a HUGE amount of money in the pharmaceutical world. And the sad fact is, more of that money goes to crap like Viagra commercials during the Super Bowl than to the research and development of new drugs and treatments.

      I'm not saying everyone in the industry is a greedy whore, heck, I've met and worked with some really great people who are in it for the cures. But the privatization of research, the excessive burden of patents, and the big-business/lobbyist friendly approach of our government over the last 2+ decades have lead to a slowing of development and a maximization of profits.

      • by raehl ( 609729 ) <raehl311&yahoo,com> on Monday November 05, 2007 @07:20PM (#21248005) Homepage
        There is no financial interest in developing new drugs when old drugs are still protected under obscenely long lasting patents.

        Wow.. that statement is just fundamentally stupid.

        A new drug is either better than an old drug, or it isn't.

        If it's better, then it doesn't matter if the patent on the old drug is 5, 10, 20, or 100 years long - your new drug will sell better than the old drug. And if it's worse, it still doesn't matter how long the patent on the old drug is - nobody is going to use your new drug.

        If anything, long patents ENCOURAGE new drug development, because you can develop a slightly better drug and then compete patented-drug to patented-drug, whereas if patent duration is short, by the time you develop your new and improved patented drug, you have to compete with a now un-patented drug that is sold at generic prices.
      • by ahfoo ( 223186 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @08:07PM (#21248617) Journal
        After cloning Dolly the sheep, Ian Wilmut was invited to Boston to give a lecture on his work. After his presentation, there was a call for questions and the room was silent. There was zero interest in this research and you'd have to quite naive to not know why. Everybody there was making their living on grants. The last thing in the world you want to put on a federal grant is that you're going to do human therapeutic cloning. So why would you even bother asking a question in the direction. The subject has nothing to do with you if you're an American biomedical researcher who plans to stay employed. And yet at the same time it's some of the most exciting science in decades.

        That's fucked up. This is politics essentially censoring science.

        Now, I've seen a lot of arguments in this thread about how medicine is so regulated and semiconductors aren't, but I think that's slightly disengenuous. In fact, Intel has broken the law many times in their chip making efforts. This is not a secret. They've been sued probably hundreds of times since the seventies for contaminating groundwater supplies with heavy metals and doing all kinds of mean nasty things that release toxic chemicals into the air, water and dumped across the land. That's just a fact and it shouldn't be surprsing to anyone here at Slashdot. I'm all into recycling and doing my part to save the planet and what not, but being fully aware of Intel's past I'm still using their products right now. I'm culpable as well. What's done is done. They bent the rules and went for it and they certainly had the nuts to go ahead and say fuck it to the rules sometimes even if it meant lawsuits. Intel has been sued for taking chances with peoples health on hundreds of occasions. It's not such a different situation. Let's not pretend they never took any risks and everything was just hunky dory and above board all the way down the line and somehow it's a whole different game for people in medicine.

        Admittedly, there is a big time difference in the business models which helps explain the differences. Semiconductors are essentially a glorified form of printing that uses lots of nasty chemicals. So printing and money go hand in hand. Money is printed too, after all. Medicine is a whole other ball of tits. It is supposedly privatized and profit oriented in the US, but it doesn't really work that way on the research level as we see with this story about Ian Wilmut and the questions that weren't asked. Personally, I belive medicine should not and essentially can not be profit oriented in an effective way, certainly not a moral way. It should be government subsidized just like education and the government should be forward thinking and willing to take chances and innovate. The heart of the problem with that plan is that the American electorate seems to be so incredibly dysfunctional and hooked on this psychotic free market rhetoric that real advanced medical techniques based on stem cells, gene therapy and tailored therapies will probably emerge and become popular in the massive state subsidized medical systems of Asia and Europe first.
    • by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:18PM (#21247169)
      I work for a contract pharmaceutical manufacturing firm. I can tell you definitively that regulations have three major effects on pharmaceutical companies as opposed to those that don't have to follow them (i.e. herbal remedy companies):

      1) Increased cost of development

      2) Slower time to market

      3) Increased cost of production

      None of those prevent discoveries. They do raise the financial entry barriers for startups, however.
    • by UbuntuDupe ( 970646 ) * on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:26PM (#21247269) Journal
      Alright, then let's compare like with like!

      If pharma advanced like processors:

      -Time for a cold/allergy medicines to kick in would halve every 18 months.
      -Medicines would be cheap, but you'd have to buy them in five-year supplies at a time.
      -No one would be able to figure out what Mac molecules look like.
      -Pill would do anything you wanted, except for the 50% of the time that you vomit them.

      And if computers had to follow pharma regs:

      -Chipmakers would have to run extensive tests to ensure they were Turing complete.
      -Chips would be pulled off the market if they ran into any unpredicted infinite loops.
      -Every computer would come with a book full of warnings including such gems as "Not intended for use underwater."
      -Computer commercials would occasionally just mention the product in a positive light with no real information about functionality. (Oh wait, they already do that ...)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by xtracto ( 837672 )
      I don't think that the IT industry has the regulatory pressures that the medical industry has, so he isn't comparing like with like.

      It is more than that... I once read a really insightful quote from no one less than Mr. Bill Gates who said (in scope of the Melidan-Gates Foundation) paraphrasing a lot:

      "medical research is different from technology research, in that, in technology research you can throw a large sum of money and add some engineers to improve a given technology. But with medicine, you can keep
  • Basic Research (Score:5, Insightful)

    by p0tat03 ( 985078 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:05PM (#21247001)

    researchers who are content with getting NIH grants and publishing research papers with little regard to whether their work leads to something that can alleviate disease, to change their ways.

    And that's the way it ought to be. Not all things need immediate applications. Many of the most impressive inventions of our time have been a fusion of research that seemingly have few worthwhile applications. Expanding the sum of human knowledge is never a waste of time.

    • Re:Basic Research (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sofar ( 317980 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:22PM (#21247225) Homepage
      You think that it's good that medical/pharmaceutical companies have increased their revenues year past year without any significant increases in reduction of the major diseases over time?

      I'd say that the medical industry has been feeding on the community for way too long. Medical procedures are insanely expensive and the equipment and medicine costs are through the roof. But it's not like medicine got any better in the last 30 years, only the scale has been slowly tipping in our health's favour, but it should have swung completely over already.

      The medical industry has consumed more input than it has given back for a very long time. It's time we start seeing some payback to *everyone* who put money in the system: the consumers of medical care.

      You're completely forgetting that this is "medicine" we're talking about here, and not "biology". One was to observe nature, the other one for curing people.
      • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

        You're completely forgetting that this is "medicine" we're talking about here, and not "biology". One was to observe nature, the other one for curing people.

        They go hand in hand. Do you think they were trying to invent some miracle cure for some disease when they stumbled upon the structure of the DNA? Better understanding of our biology will eventually lead to better technologies and medicines. I'm not talking about pharma companies, I'm talking more about the guy's notion that research that has no immediate application is somehow a waste of time.

      • You think that it's good that medical/pharmaceutical companies have increased their revenues year past year without any significant increases in reduction of the major diseases over time?

        You say that as if there was some way to a) measure progress against 'major diseases' and in some meaningful way and b) as if progress were guaranteed if only (the mostly mythical) big pharma would just do it.

        I'd say that the medical industry has been feeding on the community for way too long. Medical proce

      • Re:Basic Research (Score:5, Insightful)

        by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:56PM (#21247649) Homepage Journal
        it's not like medicine got any better in the last 30 years

        Bzzt. Wrong. Endoscopic surgery. Cardiac stents. Infinitely better drugs. Colonoscopy. Go back to 1977 and have a stroke, a heart attack, a major car wreck, testicular cancer - hell, go back then and have chronic stomach ulcers. The treatment for those used to be a partial resection of the stomach through an open incision. Now, it's a course of antibiotics. Those were just the examples that occurred to me over the course of five minutes. There are a lot more.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by riprjak ( 158717 )
          Ahh! Stomach ulcers; great example. The cure for this was discovered because someone, an Australian (so probably excluded from the chaps big pharma is lazy rant), discovered the CAUSE, making the development of a treatment trivial.

          TFA is fundementally suggesting (IMO) that there is too much focus on what we think we know and not enough on what we don't, insufficient root cause research. Indeed, your example of the success of curing Stomach Ulcers is a clear case which SUPPORTS the Basic Research arguement
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Cancer treatments have gotten much better, CAT scans, MRIs, PET scans, paternity tests, pregnancy tests, emergency contraception, regular low-dose contraception, contact lenses, mechanical prosthetics, Prozac, we don't use electroshock treatment anymore, Dermabond for quick repairs of minor lacerations, Cipro, Oxycontin, laparoscopic knee replacements, dental implants, joint replacements at all, organ transplants, LASIK, and a whole bunch more.

          We are so much better off medically in the last thirty years tha
          • Re:Basic Research (Score:5, Informative)

            by badasscat ( 563442 ) <> on Monday November 05, 2007 @10:03PM (#21249757)
            Just one more example - a couple years ago, I had two spontaneous pneumothoraces (collapsed lung) in the span of six months. That calls for surgery to repair it. Even 10 years ago, I would have been looking at a thoracotomy - basically the same as open heart surgery, but for the lungs. They make a large incision, push your ribs out of the way (ie. break them) and then work on your lungs out in the open.

            Instead, with modern advancements I was able to have the VATS procedure. This involves three tiny incisions and the insertion of a small camera to help the surgeon work. It's still a painful recovery, but there's a lot less interior trauma.

            So it's BS to say there have been no advancements made over the last 20-30 years. Look at our life expectancy over that time - it's only gone up. That's not because we're net healthier (true, we smoke less, but then we're also much more obese), it's because we're eradicating or controlling more and more diseases, we're performing fewer and safer surgeries, and we're using more effective medications (yes, even for so far incurable diseases like HIV).

            In fact, one of the things most people don't realize is that almost all of our life expectancy gains over the last 100 years have been due to disease control, not better overall health. In 1900, lots of people made it to 70 or 80 years old before death, but lots of people died when they were 20 from things like polio, smallpox and TB. Infant mortality was also much higher than it is now. In other words, we're living longer lives because of the health care industry, not because we're all eating better food.

            That's to say nothing of modern pain management. Say what you want about oxycontin, I don't know how I would have gotten through the first six months after my surgery without it. A lot of modern medicine is focused on quality-of-life issues, which are important issues. 20 years ago, a doctor would have said to just live with it; the pain is good, means your nerves are coming back. The current thinking is it's not enough to just save a person's life, it's also about giving them a life worth living. After my pain meds ran out the first two weeks after my lung surgery, I was in absolute hell until I made it back to the doctor and got my prescription for oxycontin. People who have never gone through major surgery have no idea what real pain is like. Oxycontin made life bearable until I healed well enough to get off it (and seriously, it was about a year).

            The pharmaceutical industry has its share of problems. But it's just way off base to say there have been no advancements over the past however many decades.
        • by KWTm ( 808824 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2007 @12:08AM (#21250677) Journal
          I echo the sentiments of the sibling/parent posters. To sum up:

          We have had steady advances in medicine. Just during the time I was in medical school (a decade ago), I was astounded by how much medical science had advanced. By the time I was finishing up on my medical training and getting ready for independent practice, we were being taught: "Remember that treatment for arthritis you learned in second year? Well, we don't do that any more --here's what we do instead ..."

          However, from the standpoint of the ordinary patient, there has been a problem in one specific area of medical research: Big Pharma. (That's what they call the largest pharmaceutical industries: Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, GSK, Astra-Zeneca, Wyeth, etc.) This is because they are not bringing new drugs to market.

          Don't misunderstand me, now. I didn't say that basic research wasn't taking place, or that it didn't have potential to be developed into useful products. I said that Big Pharma was not bringing new drugs to market. I blame this on the profit-centred, corporate-minded groupthink that has been running Big Pharma. In a nutshell, Big Pharma has been mismanaged.

          In the pharmaceutical industry, you can see a new drug coming from a long way off. First there has to be basic research; one in ten research studies will show a promising molecule (ie. possible drug candidate). One in ten molecules will be developed into a stable usable form that doesn't have to be sealed in gaseous form or injected directly into the kidney or other impractical things. One in ten usable molecules will show promise when tested on animals. One in ten animal-tested drugs will go on to clinical trials in humans. One in ten human trials will show something that's worthwhile marketing. (Okay, don't take the one-in-ten ratio too literally; a better estimate is that every drug brought to market came from somewhere around 500 to 1000 possible molecules.)

          It takes time to go through all these discovery phases, and to go through clinical trials, get approval from the FDA (or equivalent regional drug authority), etc. There's a very long pipeline to go through before a drug gets to market, so you can see right now what sorts of drugs will be coming out five years down the road.

          And Big Pharma has, basically, nothing coming out.

          This is because there has been a huge merging frenzy in the past decade, almost like an orgy of nested expressions that would do any LisP programmer proud. Toss in SmithKline and Beecham, blend with Burroughs and Wellcome, sprinkle in some Glaxo, bake at high temperature, and out comes a steaming hot GlaxoSmithKline. Then there's Pfizer, gobbling up Warner and Pharmacia / Upjohn, and then spitting out the bones, a process so repetitious that the people eaten up and summarily laid off produced a T-shirt with the oval blue logo in the style of the Pfizer logo that says, "Pfired!"

          It's been great for people juggling stocks. Valuations went up, people made money, CEO's made speeches ... and they sort of forgot about making any drugs. Instead, they made money through tactics with which any Slashdotter will be disgustingly familiar.

          Any of you heard of "patent lawsuits"?

          Yup, they went through patents! Hey, little company there, you can't sell our drugs, cuz WE have the patents! We have to make our money! My favourite example: a few years ago, a little company called Andrax sees that the patent for omeprazole (brand name Losec, or Prilosec in the USA) will be expiring soon, so they start developing a generic equivalent, preparing studies for the FDA to show that their generic equivalent is safe and equal to the brand name version. The plan is that, a year later, all the manufacturing equipment and research will be in place and they can start mass producing omeprazole the instant it comes off patent.

          What happens? AstraZeneca ("AZ"), owner of the original brand name, sues Andrax for violating the patent. They say that the patent actually
      • Re:Basic Research (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @07:23PM (#21248051)
        It's life. They're not discovering new "major diseases" to treat, and the remaining major ones have proven resistant to simple solutions. It's going to take a serious quantum leap in knowledge, such as understanding of the immune system, to provide a set of new medical solutions.

        The "medical industry" is not a research industry. It's a service industry, and provides the service of health care to an aging population that refuses to take basic steps to assure its health, such as universal health care, better pre-natal care, eating a better diet, exercising, and visiting a dentist once a year. So don't be surprised that the industry continues quite well providing that health care.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      Exactly. Look at Green Fluorescent Protein for instance. You'd think a glowing jellyfish would just be a curiosity right? It was, then someone cloned it. Now we can hook CFP up to other proteins and use it as a tag. We can actually watch vesicles being transported around cells in real time. Not only that but we can hook C(yan)FP up to protein A and Y(ellow)FP up to protein B, such that the stimulation and emission spectra overlap just right and use that system to actually measure protein-protein inte
  • Liability... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:05PM (#21247003) Homepage
    From the article
    The fundamental tenet that drives us all in the semiconductor industry is a deeply felt conviction that what matters is time to market, or time to money. But you never hear an executive from a pharmaceutical company say, "Before the end of the year I'm going to have xyz drug," the way Steve Jobs said the iPhone would be out on schedule. The heart of every high-tech executive has been, get the product into customers' hands and ramp up production. That drive is just not present in pharma; the drive to get sufficient understanding and go for it is missing.

    Let me tell you, if Intel had to pay $5,000,000 to the widow of everyone killed by an FDIV bug who would have died 3 weeks later (eg, like a drug company has to do), they would be a lot more conservative about getting chips to market.
    • Exactly. That comment of his is either seriously ignorant, or genuinely exasperated. Either way, it's way off the mark. Just the fact that he's comparing getting a consumer product to market with getting a drug to market shows that he shouldn't be taken seriously. Not only are the stakes higher, but the processes are totally different.
    • "Before the end of the year I'm going to have xyz drug," the way Steve Jobs said the iPhone would be out on schedule.

      Heh, I bet the FDA would have something to say about that...and it wouldn't be repeatable in polite company.
    • by sofar ( 317980 )
      Nonsense, these medical companies don't pay *any* damages nowadays, almost everything comes right from your own pocket through the overhead that they charge on the medicine and equipment that *you* paid for with your health insurance.
  • The medical establishment fears change in some ways. We still don't have computerized medical records in the US. If you become incapacitated away from home it's very likely no one will have any idea what medical conditions you may have or what you're allergic to.
    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      The medical establishment fears change in some ways. We still don't have computerized medical records in the US.

      Citation needed. Long before "Vista" was the name of the Windows version formerly known as Longhorn, VistA [] was a free software electronic medical record system used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Or is your complaint that the private hospitals have dragged on adopting free software?

      • by jcr ( 53032 )
        Long before "Vista" was the name of the Windows version formerly known as Longhorn

        Sorry to nitpick, but Vista isn't longhorn. Longhorn cratered. Vista is a 1.5 year rush-job face-saving measure.

    • Just what makes you think that lack of computerized medical records is due to fear? How about:

      Lack of a standard record format?

      Lack of standard definitions?

      Lack of time and money? Lots of medical systems (think doctor's offices and small, rural hospitals) aren't exactly rolling in excess cash or excess time.

      And if you're so very worried about being incapacitated away from home, you can do wonders with a copy of your records in a manila folder. Low tech. Functional. Or even a typed summary stuck in

    • This has been pointed out by numerous commentators in the past:
      medical regulatory bodies generally tend to reject new technology, even if individual patients are willing to accept the risks.

      The usual logic for this is that if the regulating agency approves anything new that leads to the death of people, the regulatory agency gets blamed well for that--but if they refuse to approve a new medicine for use, nobody knows the true cost of doing that--how many people it would have saved. So from a practical
    • We still don't have computerized medical records in the US. If you become incapacitated away from home it's very likely no one will have any idea what medical conditions you may have or what you're allergic to.

      Unless you wear a medic-alert bracelet, which anyone with half a brain will do anyway. Besides being less prone to failure, they also don't require publishing your health history for anyone who feels like it to look up. Before you reply that they can be locked, remember that you're incapacitated

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:05PM (#21247015)
    Former Intel CEO rips automotive industry for not doubling fuel efficiency and halving cost every 18 months.
    • Next up ... farming industry.

      Former Intel CEO rips farming industry (agrobiz) for not doubling crop production and havling cost every 18 months.
      Nope, you can't generalize from one industry to another as simply as that, can you?

    • I know your joking but until the recent eco drive most cars had poor MPG. American cars lag hugely when compared the the european market. Here we have lots of small town driving cars which unleaded will do 50MPG, my Dad's just bought a Toyota Yaris which does an average of 66MPG. We also have things like the land rover defender which may only do 25-30MPG but can actually go off-road, up mountains and everything else (they also fit about 8 people in them if your squueze.) The technology in American cars does
      • by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:59PM (#21247681)
        America's a different market. Up until recently, generally speaking, people wanted technology put into performance, not efficiency. You can have both (Tesla []) but it will cost you. People from the Union of Concerned Scientists preach that with products available today, you can increase the fuel efficiency of any automobile on the market by 30-80% depending on the auto. Auto manufacturers are only just getting around to it because, finally, gas prices are high enough that Americans are asking for it.

        As for Harley's: it's a taste. Like buying the biggest pickup truck you can find and jacking it up to 12 feet in the air. Or owning a hummer. Or a Ferrari for that matter. Now you might say, "a Ferrari? That's cool though!" Sez you. Still gets less than 10 mpg, you can't ever really use its speed without risk of getting caught, so you have an expensive, fuel quaffing car that looks pretty.

        Personally, I hate Harleys. People make them loud as a cannon, drive down your road at 6 in the morning to go to work. "Loud pipes save lives," they say, which is utter crap because I can't even hear the tractor trailer next to me with my windows up, how the heck am I going to hear you coming up behind me? Whatever, it's a feeling of power thing, I gather, sitting on a big rumbling beast of metal.

  • tech innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sohp ( 22984 ) <> on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:05PM (#21247017) Homepage
    I can hardly imagine what the medical profession would be like had it been subjected to the so-called progress and innovation we've been cursed with in the tech industry in the past couple of decades, but the possibilities are horrifying. Microsoft Doctor? Intel Inside? Intestinal Exploder? "rights management" for your medications? Nursing outsourced to call centers? No thanks, Andy.
    • See Stargate SG1 Season 6 Episode 16 Metamorphosis

      Nirti is conducting experiments on a group of locals ....
  • Unlike chip makers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:06PM (#21247021) Homepage Journal

    Unlike chip makers, pharmaceutical companies need a national government's approval to market their product. How quickly would Intel and AMD have been able to step up the capabilities of their processors if some Digital Restrictions Ministry or some other government agency had to approve every stepping?

  • No so easy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:06PM (#21247025)

    First, given the current regulation scheme (the FDA in the US, for example) the distance between a fundamental discovery and an actual drug on the market is much greater in medicine than it is in technology -- Intel does not require approval from anyone to market their next-gen processor. Second, the current patent system makes making trivial improvements on existing drugs (hence extending monopoly protection) much more profitable than researching new drugs (high risk of failing to produce anything).

    But even ignoring all these things, on a fundamental level biology is orders of magnitude more difficult than physics. We understand the physics of seminconductors and the mathematics of computation fairly well. We can simulate future processors ahead of time to see if a new cache design will improve performance or not. We have no idea how to simulate a biological system, and barely have quantitative models for event the simplest ones. Let's give it 100 years and try again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Oink ( 33510 )
      The way we physicists refer to this situation, is by saying that biology is truly in its infancy, in that there's no real such thing yet like 'mathematical biology.' Really, one could argue there's not even a field of theoretical biology. Everything is empirical. We can't predict squat.
  • In other words, please start inventing faster because I don't want to die a trembling mess.

    In all seriousness, I hope that he gets them moving, and that such cures are not only for folks with Groves' wallet.

  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:07PM (#21247039)
    Well Andy, Maybe the human body is just many many times more complex than a calculator.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by djtack ( 545324 )
      Yes, what has been discovered about biology and medicine in the last 50 years is staggering. Saying there's no progress because we can't cure Mr. Grove's Parkinson's is like saying there has been no progress in the semiconductor world because Intel can't sell me a gallium arsenide CPU, or a diamond substrate CPU... we're still stuck with crappy old silicon, after 50 years!
  • by mgabrys_sf ( 951552 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:07PM (#21247043) Journal
    And it's news that the Pharms would prefer to treat the symptoms rather than cure a disease? There's no money in cures. But keeping people buying pills to treat symptoms - or better yet - reclassifying symptoms as new diseases. Now you're talkin' the shareholder's language baby!

    Otherwise it's all just an order for another box of a half-dozen duh's. To go.
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:08PM (#21247051)
    We don't understand the human body. We don't know how some drugs even work. It isn't like a computer that we built from scratch ourselves. Two people of exactly the same body mass and type will react differently to the same drug, and we usually don't know why. We haven't mapped the genome, and when we finish mapping it, we won't understand it. We don't know why aging happens. We don't know what causes many diseases. We don't know where viruses came from or how to stop them.

    Medical science is mostly things we don't know, so we stick to the few we do and research the heck out of them. Also, Big Pharma aren't interested in cures. Cures hurt profits. They research treatments, not cures. That's what I'd hope is the main point of a rant against Big Pharma. They are paid to keep people sick, but mask the symptoms, not to actually make them well.
  • Sorry but I don't feel that Intel has a huge record of innovation.
    Intel is making X86 cpus. They are very fast but they are still X86 CPUS. The still work on data in the same way as the 386 did but much faster. MMX and SSE? they are tacked on DSP instructions. What Intel and the other IC companies have done is just evolve basic digital logic circuits. They still use gates and work in binary. Take a look at things like the survival rate of cancer over the last 20 years and the survival rate for premature bir
  • How would you like medicines that make you overheat and go up in smoke if you don't wear proper water cooling? Psychiatric medications that make you repeat the Pentium FDIV bug when balancing your checkbook? A defect rate that sends 10% of people from hospital right into garbage can and forces many more to be retested for lower brain clock frequency?

    True, things that have to work change much slower than our entertainment equipment and office accessories. Cars, airplanes and medicines take a looong time to d
  • Don't knock it, mate. That Viagra is great stuff. Could be one of the defining inventions of our time. Seriously, think about the number of marriages that have hit the rocks because the girl (usually younger) can't get all of her needs satisfied anymore. One drug has made that a thing of the past.
  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:16PM (#21247145) Journal
    If someone actually cured the diseases, they wouldn't be making billions selling drugs for them.
    • by sohp ( 22984 )
      If someone actually wrote software that works, they wouldn't make billions selling consulting and support hours to install/troubleshoot/upgrade/recover/configure/patch the problems.

      Fixed for you.
    • Curing many diseases is completely impossible without some sort of nanomachinery entering every cell in the body and checking/repairing its DNA. (Removing retrovirus code, restoring tumor suppressor genes, etc.) Not to mention that there are many disease for which, if anyone developed a real cure, they'd be instant trillionaires. And how is a pill supposed to repair the nerve cell damage causing this guy's Parkinson's? Stem cell therapy might help, but...
  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:17PM (#21247155) Journal
    OK, so Grove compares apples and oranges, and the liabilities involved with testing medical "studd" are way higher than with microprocessors and other tech stuff... all that and more... but I, in my hart of hearts, feel he has a point. I often wonder what, really, does modern medicine manage to really solve? Diabetes? Nope. Cancer? Nope. Arthrytis? Nope. Ostheoporosis? No. MS? No. etc. (keep that flamethrower down, damn!) I volunteer helping blind people, and just happen to know many eye diseases that are uncurable.

    It's a bit depressing, considering it's one of the oldest sciences.
    • Poor spelling? Nope.

      On a more serious note, there are advances in treating diabetes. Twenty years ago, diabetics had to use insulin from pigs or cows. Cancer survival rates are WAY up. You lump cancer into one disease when it is really hundreds. Those are the ones I know just a bit about, but the fact of the matter is that there IS plent of progress on a whole raft of diseases, but there is no magic "take and live forever" pill.

      As for your last comment, two points: 1) one expects that the oldest sciences ma
    • by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:48PM (#21247541) Journal
      You know what is ironic? Computer hardware is a major limiter of research; imagine that. Calculating the most stable structure and interactions between proteins is very computationally intensive. Excluding super-efficient mathematical methods [unlikely] we are stuck with *his* hardware to do the job. If he wants to attack something for his perceived lack of medical progress, he better start cracking on the better hardware so that we can do our work.
  • Had his opinion been a comment he'd be rightfully modded -1 troll or something to that effect because there is no -1 factually inccorect mod. He assumes that medical science is anything at all comparable to computer science as far as progress. Even if it was, he seems pretty ignorant of how far medical science is advancing. When it was first possible to record the entirety of a genome we were limited to a few hundred or less base pairs a day. Now we can decode over a hundred million per day. I would ca
  • by Sans_A_Cause ( 446229 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:19PM (#21247187)
    "...he challenges big pharma companies, many of which haven't had an important new compound approved in ages, and academic researchers who are content with getting NIH grants and publishing research papers with little regard to whether their work leads to something that can alleviate disease, to change their ways."

    What absolute horseshit. Has he _been_ to a meeting on, say, cancer research recently? I have. And I'll tell you that the vast majority of Big Pharma and academic researchers with NIH grants are working their asses off to develop the Next Big Drug. Not only are there public health reasons involved, but also big financial reasons as well. I've seen amazing things thrown at problems: room-sized robots screening chemical libraries, natural product extractions from flora and fauna harvested by divers from the sea floor, massive computer time and effort thrown into drug design, data mining of the literature of known compounds and their interaction partners, ultra-precise radiation delivery systems involving whole-body other words, _huge_ technological efforts costing millions--nay, billions of dollars to develop treatments for cancer.

    And you know what the net result is? We're still using drugs and techniques mostly discovered in the '60's to the '70's. Why? Because despite all of these efforts, we haven't found anything that works better. And that's the important thing. It has to work better. Not as good as. Better. Nothing much does.

    There's luck involved. Things like Viagra come along not because we _designed_ it to be an ED drug (in fact, it was originally a treatment for high blood pressure), but because it was _discovered_ to be an ED treatment. You can say "I'm going to have a drug to treat prostate cancer by the next Apple Developers Conference" all you want, but it ain't gonna happen unless you get amazingly lucky.

    Pharma is not the semiconductor industry because people are not machines.

  • No innovations in the past 50 years?! Christ on a cracker! We have Viagra, birth control and even pills that help curb obesity! We had none of those drugs to help the problems that these drugs treat 50 years ago! Nuff said...
  • With computer research (either hardware or software), going from idea to demo to production sample is a fairly straightforward investment of money and labor hours. If it works, it works, and if not, you try again. No harm done.

    With medical research (either equipment or chemicals), every one of those steps is harder:

    1. the system you are trying to work on has millions of years of obfuscated kludges and minimal documentation, so coming up with good ideas in the first place is hard
    2. once you have a demo of you
  • Right now software and technology companies have to compete with Biotech for investment dollars so this should really matter to /. Andy is right that the current players in pharma aren't really creating much new and are simply patenting tiny (and obvious) baby steps. One thing Andy isn't pointing out is what every terrible corporate disease movie will tell you: it isn't in biotech's financial interest to find true cures. Symptomatic treatments can be sold thousands of times instead of the one time a cure
  • Considering the fat that the average pharmaceutical company invests 20% of their earnings into R&D (and mot of them don't even research new things) compared to the 50% that go into advertising campaigns/bribing doctors one should really wonder if there might be some misunderstanding here.

    Besides, pharmaceuticals are the biggest patent trolls known to man. Just change two functional groups of an already known (and cheap) drug that already proved to be anti-cancerous and starting to market it as a new
  • It is worth noting that intel doesn't make use of patents while biotech heavily relies on them. So much for "patents are needed to push r&d".
  • by TheMohel ( 143568 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:24PM (#21247257) Homepage
    He's a rich man who is getting sick and old, and he's mad because it has turned out to be hard to find out how to stop people from getting sick and old. He's upset, and I understand that, but he also missed most of the points that might be out there to get.

    No question that medicine is a different culture than engineering. I've spent a lot of time in both, and I know. I also know that medicine is NOT particularly creative, and you don't really want it to be. You want your illness to be routine and fixable, and being routine means that nobody has to sweat particularly hard to figure it out. The sweat, and there's plenty, has to be done in research and development, and the difference in development effort between a new therapy for a disease and a new electronic entertainment device is remarkable.

    He talks about how the two cultures deal with failure. In engineering, particularly in microelectronics, failure means that you spend money, time, and energy fixing something you broke. In medicine, failure means that you kill somebody. This used to happen a lot, and the modern biomedical research culture is highly biased against failure. It's not OK to die in a study any more, even if the condition we're studying is in and of itself fatal. Changing this would speed up the process of research, but who's volunteering to die for the cause? (And no, offshoring it is NOT the answer - foreign governments are wising up to this quickly, as are domestic ethics consultants.)

    He derides modern statistical techniques, misunderstanding the difference between statistical failure and subgroup averaging, and he flatters himself a prophet when he recommends something that pharmaceutical researchers have been doing for thirty years: analyzing failure to see if you can find partial success somewhere.

    He writes off in a sentence or two the hardest problem of all, which is figuring out what in the heck is really going on (preparatory to changing it). In engineering, the complexity is finite and human-directed, and the systems are designed with severable components to make the process of debugging and analysis easier. In medicine, the complexity is engineered by a billion years of evolution, not all of it productive or even useful, and very poorly understood. In an organism such as people, where 50,000 poorly-understood genes interact with factorial complexity, just figuring out which end to push on can be maddening. It's the reason that peer review was invented: if you're up a creek with a paddle-less enzyme, there are probably only a few hundred people in the world who can tell whether you're a genius or just confused. Peer review at its best is just like open source. At it's worst it's a lot like open source at it's worst, but the less said of that the better.

    I would love to see more acceptance of modern information techniques and more flexibility in medical research. I would love to see better use of rapid prototyping and model systems, and we're heading that way. We've actually come a huge way in medicine just in the last decades, and the pace is accelerating. TFA is just a measure of the fact that, just like software, sometimes the better the system gets, the more you can see how imperfect it is.
  • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:26PM (#21247275) Journal

    (misquoting shamelessly from memory)

    PHB: I figure that anything I don't understand can't be that hard. "Reengineer our world-wide network topology: 30 minutes."

  • Andy Grove is very correct. Let me know where I can read or listen to his speech.

    My perspective is from having rheumatoid arthritis (RA). I have RA for five years now. Its always bubbling up so really impacts me. Got fired from my last job due to this.

    In the RA arena researchers don't know the cause. Same thing for cancer and a host of other diseases. In a computer system, if you don't know the cause, its hard to fix. One first level drug, methorexate dials down the whole immune system to target RA. Then mo
  • Although some will have differing views on this, I agree with him in many ways. Pharmaceutical companies will only make something if they feel that it will make a big profit, and then they simply milk the income. You can't blame them for that, but it doesn't equal progress.

    Academic researchers are the worst though. Many people who I have met who have existed in a pure academic world, especially in the medical world, are quite simply, utterly detached from the real world and solutions that have a practica
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:34PM (#21247371) Homepage Journal
    which makes it much easier to grab the low hanging fruit. The history of medicine goes back thousands of years and is much more "mature". Any industry accomplishes a lot when it is young, that seems to be the nature of the game. Look at airplanes. There was less than 50 years between the flight at Kitty hawk and testing the first jets. But how much have planes improved in the past 50 years? Not nearly as much because it gets harder and harder to find places to improve. Boeing's all composite design is pretty revolutionary, but it only achieves about a 20% increase in efficiency at best. Same with medicine.

    Medicine is also chasing a moving target much more than say microchips are. There are always going to be new challenges in tech, but once a problem is "solved" in the computer world, it tends to stay that way. Compare that to what medical researchers have to deal with. As seen in the news, bacteria and viruses evolve. Malaria is a constantly moving target. Much harder to chase a moving target than a still one.
  • There has been enormous progress in medicine: imaging, diagnostics, genetics, drug treatments, surgical techniques, etc. Many medical problems that used to be serious are now treatable, preventable, or manageable. The one thing medical science can't do is extend life much, but that's because people are basically evolved for living around 70 years, and after that, many things go wrong at once.

    Intel, however, is a different story. Until Intel came along, there was a wide variety of processor designs, progra
  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:41PM (#21247463)
    A while ago Grove was ranting about the bar-code system for blood banks and going on about how they should be replaced with RFIDs. One Intel employee who actually had run a hospital blood bank pointed out that those bar-codes are readable by candlelight. When lives are at stake, you do not introduce unnecessary complications into the system.
  • Intel doesn't have to spend years and hundreds of millions of dollars getting FDA approval.
  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Monday November 05, 2007 @06:53PM (#21247609)
    There's a big difference between applying tools to solve a problem (engineering) and developing those tools from observation of existing systems (science). Someone should remind Andy that the entire information technology industry is still based on understandings of electromagnetism and optics that date back more than 100 years. In contrast, we only learned about DNA about 50 years ago.

    Imagine trying to learn about computers by starting from scratch with a Core 2 Duo chip. Now multiply that by 1,000 and you have the human genome. And that doesn't even get into the more complex firmware, software, viruses, etc. of biological systems.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...