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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Web Site

The Cargo Cults of biotechnology need to be looked into. What are the forms that must be followed in order to convince everyone that you have a legitimate business? Remember what Feynman said about the cargo cults in his speech. He described the cargo cult airports and said, "They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land."

Today I want to describe "the form" of a biotech cargo cult. What does every company have to set up so that it looks like a proper biotech company.

You start with a website. The website describes the company (Cargo Cult). Each website must have:

A mission statement: A brief one or two sentence statement that cuts to the core of why the company exists. Companies have recently moved away from claimiing to be world leaders in their field since everyone was doing it. Now the statements must explain to the investor what the main focus of the company is. Medivations claim is to identify early stage technologies and develop them efficiently. They of course use more words but a statement should show some pizazz.

About Us: This section of the website introduces everyone to the management team, the board of directors, and the scientific advisory team. They also describe the origin of the company here. It is important to have a large collection of PhDs and M.D.s who worked for other bigger companies in important positions. The board members must be on several boards of important companies or institutions. Listing failed companies does not seem to hurt since most companies fail.

Pipeline: There should be at least 4 drugs in the pipeline. The more the merrier. Each drug is put on a chart that lists it's indication under its name. To the right is a bar that indicates the stage of the drug development. At the top of the page is the stages from pre-clinial to FDA approval. Follow the bar up to the top of the page to see how close the drug is from approval. That is to say, how close the airplanes are to the airport.

Investors: Most biotech companies will have only investors as customers. They are buying a dream that one day there will be a product. In order to deal with the grumblings of the investors as the products fail to come through as promised, they have a special site to keep them abreast of what is happening. You also put up the ticker for the investor here.

News: The news section is a place to say whatever you want to say about the progress of the company. Most companies will use this site to announce upcoming conference calls, clinical trial results and scientific meetings where they will be presenting. It's important to post something at least once a month lest people think nothing is going on at your company. This is the beauty of scientific conferences. It provides cubicle scientists to get out and talk about what they think is happening in their labs and clinical trials.

The web page is a window for the world to see the airport. There is no actual footage of the airplanes landing but all of the forms are there to make one believe that they are on the way. If you have chosen science as your career, and you find yourself working at one of these airports, you will soon start to see what cannot and will not be shown on the website. You will find out at the company meetings that the siRNA experiment has no negative controls. You will see the 300 mice sitting in formaldahyde, abandoned due to the obvious lack of efficacy of the drug spoken of so fondly on the pipeline section of the web page.

The website is the first form. I haven't even mentioned the smattering of white lab coat wearing people on the website or the pictures of scientific equipment. This will be discussed in the next post where I will describe the physical setting of the biotech company. I will describe the buildings that house them and the people who mill about inside. I will describe... the airports.

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