In 1984, biologist Maurice Hilleman - a Lasker award winner, a recipient of the National Medal of Science, and a man who had pioneered more than a dozen vaccines - found himself out of a job. Hilleman, who had worked for 27 years at the West Point, Pa.-based Merck Sharp and Dohme Laboratories, was a senior vice president and director of vaccine research at the pharmaceutical company. The fact that he was one of the firm's most productive scientists and that he didn't want to leave his post didn't matter.

Likewise, biologist Marvin Weinstein, formerly vice president for microbiology and DNA research at Schering-Plough Corp. in Madison, N.J., found himself unemployed nine years ago. Weinstein, who had joined the company in 1956 as a bench scientist and worked his way through the ranks, was a corporate executive as well as a scientist.

The problem? Both Hilleman and Weinstein had reached...

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