But this is exactly what the drug companies should have been doing, putting the basic and clinical scientists under one roof. It's lamentable that they need to have special retreats for bringing these folks together. The reason why this part jumped out at me was because I have just started reading Jon Gertner's great new book about Bell Labs. Many reasons contributed to the institution's phenomenal success, but one notable factor was the concentration of the purest and the most applied scientists under one roof. The firm's pioneering research director Mervin Kelly carefully planned the physical layout of the lab so that everyone, irrespective of specialty or research level, was a stone's throw from everyone else. That way even the purest mathematician was forced to interact and learn from the most hands-on engineer. Research and manufacturing were geographically indistinguishable. There was a very long seven-hundred foot corridor with open offices and labs on each side. It was impossible to walk down the hall and not learn something from someone working in a very different field.That formula still seems entirely relevant, especially when research has become highly complex and multidisciplinary, and it just seems relatively unproductive to hold special workshops and retreats so that the pure folks can talk to the applied folks. Sure, retreats and workshops can help, but as Bell demonstrated, there's nothing more productive than having the guy who wrote the book on spinal cord injury surgery just down the hall from the guy who wrote the book on dopamine antagonists. Startups and small companies can do this to some extent but they certainly don't have Big Pharma's resources.
Image source (Update: As a commentator points out, the photo is not from Bell Labs but from Allied Chemicals. I can imagine the corridor at Bell looking quite similar though).