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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Art of Journalism

Bill Moyers recently quoted a mentor of his: "News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity."

Does science truly have a journalistic style publication? Does anyone report on the ebb and flow of information being put forth by scientists? Xconomy sponsors the "Biotech is Back" conference. The WBBA organization holds an annual meeting. "This intense program will be a celebration of our successes, and a discussion of the industry’s current challenges and coming opportunities locally, nationally and globally." One of the speakers is the CEO of Eli Lilly who took control of Washington's largest biotechnology and fired the vast majority of its employees in 2007.

This is of course an example of publicity. The public relations groups include WBBA, Xconomy and the governor. They are the leaders. Who could report on their activity? Objective journalism should come from somewhere but who could gain access into these leaders and tell the story of what they do? This is science and the leaders have set up a system that excludes the sharing of information.

It would go something like this: WBBA hosts annual meeting. Guest speakers include governor Gregiore and the CEO of Eli Lilly. In 2007 Eli Lilly gained complete ownership of Cialis, and promptly shut down Icos operations and laid off Icos personnel, except for 127 employees working at the biologics facility. Icos was the largest biotechnology company in the state of Washington at the time of the acquisition, and employed around 700 people. In December 2007, CMC Biopharmaceuticals A/S, a Copenhagen-based provider of contract biomanufacturing services, bought the Bothell biologics facility and retained the existing 127 employees.

In addition to the layoff of Icos employees, other aspects of the acquisition were equally controversial, such as assertions that Icos was being sold too cheaply and that conflicts of interest existed. The latter related to Icos senior executives, who – despite poor stock performance, in part from failed clinical development programs and an inability to successfully license drugs over the preceding years – were to be massively compensated upon a successful acquisition.

Senior executives at Icos received cash payments worth a combined $67.8 million for selling the company to Eli Lilly. Icos chairman, chief executive, and president Paul Clark received "a 'golden parachute' worth $23.2 million in severance pay, cashed-out stock options, restricted stock awards and other bonuses for retention and closing the deal." Nine senior Icos executives received similar packages, each worth more than $1 million.

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