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Monday, October 30, 2006


I watched a documentary this weekend called In this film two young men started a dot-com business in the mid 90s that was suppose to simplify the process of dealing with government agencies. It was a good idea. You shouldn't have to lose half a day of work to renew your drivers license or to pay a traffic ticket. They obtained millions of dollars in investor money. They hired hundreds of employees. They created a nationally recognized name, In the end however, they failed.

The most relevant part of the movie to the Cargo Cult Scientist came when the business was starting to unravel. The 28 year old technical executive was having trouble with the head software engineer. They called an emergency meeting to discuss the disconnect between the product and the executive staff. The engineer pointed out that he needed specific directions in how to design the software, not just "make a fantastic website".

As we now know the dot-com era was a bust. Everyone was selling a fantastic website but few actually had one. The Cargo Cult Scientist can use the lessons learned to apply to the biotech business. Biotech companies are selling fantastic cures for disease. The Cargo Cult Scientist has sat in on many meetings where the product was discussed. The leadership was concerned quite often at the rate of advancement of the science. They wanted RNAi to work. They wanted antibodies that bound with high affinity and stopped a protein from working. They wanted a cure for cancer and it just wasn't happening. What do you do when the drug development program that was started by executives (and is being sold by executives) begins to look like it might not work?

Todays example of a fantastic cure being sold by an executive staff come from GSK.

LONDON, England and RIXENSART, Belgium, October 30 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Mathematical model projections predict that vaccinating all 11-13 year old girls with Cervarix(TM), GSK's cervical cancer candidate vaccine, has the potential to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer by up to 80%, based on available clinical data.[1] The projections model was constructed in two stages. In the first, vaccination with GSK's cervical cancer candidate vaccine -- which has shown excellent protection against the two most cancer-causing HPV types, 16 and 18[2] -- accounted for a projected 74% reduction of cervical cancer in France. This constituted the base-case analysis of this model.

In a further analysis, the model incorporated preliminary evidence that GSK's cervical cancer candidate vaccine has been shown to provide substantial protection against pre-cancerous lesions beyond that expected from HPV vaccine-types 16 and 18.[2] When this additional protection is added to the model, a further 6% reduction is predicted, making a total reduction of 80% of cervical cancers.[1] These findings were presented today at the International Society of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research 9th Annual European Congress (ISPOR) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

This is the equivalent to telling investors that your govworks dot-com is going to mean big bucks. The scientists now have to develop a product that has been sold as a drug that will prevent 80% of cervical cancers. We'll call this American Airlines 80, departing from CervicalCancer Norms. Arriving???

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