Friday, April 11, 2008

The Day AFter

Okay, a day of reflection, buzz -- and two articles in the Boston Globe on the Millennium buyout. One leads from the front page & is a pretty neutral news item. But in the business section is a second piece that works on the theme that genomics was overhyped and has under-delivered. And who hyped it? "Nobody did more to raise those unrealistic expectations than Mark J. Levin"

Oh, really? Okay, I'll confess to not being a neutral bystander. I like Mark. He inspires you. He's also down-to-earth. He's genuine. And yes, he did tout genomics in general and Millennium in particular. But William Haseltine at HGS and Randy Scott at Incyte were hardly shrinking violets. J.C. Venter would never be confused with J.D. Salinger when it came to media access. Drs. Collins, Hood & Lander were hardly silent.

The article is actually a strange mix. It actually starts out with some balance, with an academic commenting how much genomics has forever altered basic biology. There are blurbs from Steve Holtzman (credited in the article as being a key architect of Millennium's business strategy) and Nick Galakatos (whose MLNM employment goes unmentioned), both sobered up but still convinced (as I am) that genomics continues to make an impact on medicine.

The article also repeats the canard about Millennium's drugs not being from genomics. Yes, the two marketed cancer drugs (Velcade & Campath) have very little to credit to genomics (not that we didn't try with Velcade!). On the other hand, unremarked is the pipeline of compounds that Takeda is presumably paying a lot for -- most if not all of those have some genomics heritage, though it is fair to say none of them can only trace back. That's the complexity ignored in articles such as this: genomics has perhaps failed to revolutionize drug discovery, but it has certain become many of the threads in the warp & woof of the drug discovery loom.

The other question that goes unasked is who exactly collaborated in hyping genomics? Hint: remove the silent 'e' & you get Glob. During Millennium's rise the Globe was remarkably charitable to Millennium, with many glowing pieces & routine coverage of every little deal on the front page of the business section. Only well after the genomics bubble burst did that cozy relationship noticeably cool, and indeed through stories such as the failed AnorMed acquisition attempt it seemed to be gone. Perhaps we in the genomics companies were hawking moonshine & snake oil, but the Globe certainly wasn't digging under then. Now, of course, they feel the need to bend over backwards the other way.

1 comment:

Steve Murphy MD said...

I am certain that this was not moonshine and snake oil.....but it does speak to how careful we are not to overhype or oversell the potential. Several testing companies now stand to do the same thing.