All My Clones—Episode 31: Biotech Spring Break
If you missed previous episodes of the biotech-themed soap opera "All My Clones," click here to read the beginning of the story.
Odessa stalked the halls of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, the four-inch heels of her black crocodile Luciano Padovan boots keeping cadence with the furious froth of ideas tumbling through her brain.
The J.P. Morgan Gene Pool
She had come to the conference with one crucial mission — to identify a boyfriend (or at least a quality sperm donor) for her favorite venture capitalista, Edna St. Vincent. But so far, finding a great boyfriend candidate was going about as well as finding a great IPO candidate — nothing but frozen tundra.
All the years of road show lunches and closing dinners had converted many of the formerly studly analysts and buy side guys into what appeared to be middle-aged boozers with wrinkled suits punctuated with those over-colorful Herms ties.
Odessa pondered: Maybe she needed to consider the progeny that might result from gene mixing with Edna. Some of the dominant traits in Edna's family, like very tall brothers, might counterbalance the deficits in the candidate pool.
"That Paul Silver is really cute, though only 5 feet tall. And the M.D., CEO and entrepreneur credits show he's got the IQ genes," mused Odessa. "I wonder if she'd give it a try? After all, biotech is risk, as are marriage and children. I could get better odds in Vegas."
Odessa decided to put the search on hold while she tried to figure out which party (or maybe parties) she would hit that night in her flowing Rick Owens asymmetric zipped jacket. This year, there seemed to be more parties than conference attendees.
But Susan Ledbetter, CFO at ParaGen Therapeutics, had warned her about the recession-induced party style dominating the scene this year — way too many people trying to cram into smaller rooms with very little food.
Huge lines of lawyers, bankers and biotech execs, plus the usual hangers on, were snaking out onto the streets around Union Square. Lisa Burns, still holding court on the top floor of Neiman Marcus, was using what felt like armed guards to screen folks trying to enter her soire.
As Odessa stood by the clock in the St. Francis lobby, pondering the party choices, she saw Sam Westerman — recently released from his five-year stint in federal prison for insider trading — forging a path across the carpeted maze. His eyes lit up as he registered Odessa on his investor radar.
"My dear, have I got an investment opportunity for you!" exclaimed the tanned Westerman. "I'm looking for a mere $50 million — and I already have a bead on a big chunk of that. Interested?"
"Sam, Sam, Sam," said Odessa, as Westerman kissed her hand and then both cheeks. "Are you behaving yourself?"
"I'm trying, really trying," said Sam. "Let me tell you about my new company — you'll love it! A new paradigm!"
Great, Odessa thought, Just what we need — a 'paradigm.' But the only audible comment was, "OK, Sam, come see me back East next week. I want to know what you're trying to pull off this time — and who you think will pony up the cash."
"I'll see you there, Odessa. And you'll never believe who has committed to a stake in this. It's the deal of the century!"
That settles it, thought Odessa as she headed out of the St. Francis. The only antidote to that interaction is Rick Beleson's 14th retirement party. Maybe he'll do his biotech rap again!
A Biotech Bachelor's Market
The next morning, Odessa wandered down for the 8 a.m. presentation in the Grand Ballroom, still thinking about Beleson in his William Fioravanti suit, rapping about Chiron.
As she surveyed the room, Odessa found herself feeling more discouraged than ever in her search for the perfect BioBachelor for Edna. Some of the folks propped up in the corners of the room looked terrible, as though they had been up carousing all night. As she inched her way to an empty seat, several of the suited attendees were reeking of alcohol.
Odessa pulled out her Gresso Black Aura phone with the African Blackwood and 18-carat gold case, and tapped out a text to Susan. "OK, so maybe there are no presentations this year that require intact brain cells. But more dead neurons have been left in San Francisco hotel rooms this week than when the plastic surgeons' conference happened to coincide at the Hilton with the X Games."
The Gresso buzzed with Susan's reply, "Hey, all partying is because they are all afraid they'll lose their jobs. But I'm cautiously optimistic about the market despite the dead neurons. We need to stay focused, and accept that there are no easy picks in this market."
"Cautiously optimistic," mused Odessa. "I like the sound of that."
"Excuse me," a deep voice sounded from the chair next to her. "I couldn't help but notice the 200-year-old Blackwood on your phone."
Odessa looked up and saw the answer to her match-making prayers. It was Charles-Henri Laboutin, the entrepreneurial scientist turned CEO. Odessa ran through his list of attributes: brilliant, good looking in the "French" movie star way, knows how to cook fabulous meals, really good with wine and, most importantly, always reminds her of her favorite shoe designer! Edna was saved from a life alone!
Stay tuned for future episodes of "All My Clones" to find out:
- So just who IS Westerman getting $50 million from?
- Will Charles-Henri go along with Odessa's and Edna's scheme to improve the gene pool?
- Does his Black Diamond VIPN titanium smartphone out-trump Odessa's Gresso?
- Will investors ever return to being more interested in the company presentations at J.P.Morgan than the parties?
- Could Odessa in fact retire if she got a dollar for every time someone came up and whined about the dearth of decent deals?
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