By Brady Huggett
Sara Demy, director of investor relations and business development at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, works in New York: 101 Park Avenue. She has a view of downtown ¿ a view of the emergency crews moving back and forth and the gaping hole where the World Trade Center towers once stood.
¿We can¿t reach anyone,¿ she said, referring to colleagues, friends and contacts who worked in the twin towers and the surrounding area. ¿We don¿t know. I¿ve heard that those at Lehman Brothers are OK. CIBC, we haven¿t heard. Salomon Smith Barney, the smaller banks, the smaller [venture capital] people ¿ we just don¿t know. They really haven¿t even gotten to most of the bodies.¿
Thursday marked the first day most people returned to work, Demy said. But they returned to work unsettled and found the city eerily quiet.
¿It¿s very strange here in New York,¿ she said. ¿The trains aren¿t working and there¿s a tremendous feeling of foreboding as to what we are going to find.¿
As the rescue efforts continue and the rubble is carted away by the truckloads, there are stories that provide relief and hope. Deutsche Bank, located on lower floors in the South Tower, said it safely evacuated all 360 employees. Merrill Lynch said it believes all 9,000 of its employees have been accounted for.
Throughout the biotechnology circle, reports surface that employees were out of harm¿s way. Prudential Vector Healthcare¿s staff is OK. Peter Ginsberg, a biotech analyst for U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, said his firm has reported no victims. Adams Harkness and Hill said its crew is accounted for.
¿Every person at this firm has been accounted for and is safe,¿ Craig West, senior analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. in St. Louis, told BioWorld Today, regarding his firm¿s New York analysts. ¿We are fortunate and extraordinarily happy about it.¿
Lisa Raines, Genzyme Corp.¿s senior vice president of government relations, went down in the hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon Tuesday. BioWorld Today was not able to reach all investment banks and others with offices in New York, but responses to numerous inquiries Thursday and Friday brought no other reports of casualties in the biotechnology community.
But damage has been done. The stock markets remained closed Friday for the fourth straight day, an event not seen since President Roosevelt called for a nationwide bank holiday in March 1933 and the New York Stock Exchange closed for a week. And in a financial environment already begrudging biotechnology initial public offerings and follow-ons, speculation is that ¿ even as Wall Street underwriters prepare to resume offerings this week ¿ they will be further delayed.
The SEC sustained a hit as well, as its enforcement office was destroyed when the building that houses it ¿ 7 World Trade Center ¿ collapsed Tuesday. The agency believes all New York employees are safe, but the building¿s razing wiped out documents and computer records on scores of investigations and records.
Bear Stearns canceled its Annual Healthcare Conference, which was scheduled for Sept. 14. Guilford Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Baltimore, had the review by the Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee of its supplemental new drug application for Gliadel Wafer canceled on Tuesday. The review will be rescheduled. Briefings at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics conference in Washington were canceled, to be rescheduled at a more appropriate time.
Following the attack, world stock markets slid but have since shown signs of life. With U.S. markets set to reopen today, the biotechnology sector faces an uncertain future with investors perhaps less likely to gamble.
Mike King, senior analyst with San Francisco-based Robertson Stephens Inc., who was able to verify the safety of his company¿s New York employees, said he expected an initial rash reaction.
¿Everything will be knee-jerk on Monday, and then they will sort it out,¿ he said. ¿The big companies will be viewed as a safe haven; the companies that are smaller will have a more difficult time.
¿It reinforces trends that were already in effect, but more exaggerated,¿ he added. ¿The big companies will do well, the smaller companies, the tool companies, the companies that are running low on cash, will have to get together and think more on what they need to do. In the main, people are going to be more risk averse and will require more liquidity. That will put the smaller companies at risk.¿
The United States¿ response to the attacks, King said, also will have an effect. A two-month retaliation will carry much less market weight than a full-blown war.
The country has seen an outpouring of support. Big pharmaceutical companies, so often a financial source for the biotechnology industry, have come forward with open wallets. Pfizer Inc. and the Pfizer Foundation donated more than $10 million to relief efforts in New York City. Novartis Corp. donated $3 million to the American Red Cross and is offering all available supplies of Apligraf, a skin replacement product for burn victims marketed by Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp. The product was developed and is manufactured by Organogenesis Inc., of Canton, Mass. Abbott Laboratories provided $2 million in emergency assistance for victims and their families.
But a staggered market, pushed-back news releases, delayed conference calls and a nationwide halt in business shrink in importance next to the tragic loss of human life. Even with the miraculous stories and the full evacuations, lives were lost. Bank of America, which had 400 employees in the South Tower, is still trying to account for all of its employees. BioWorld Today¿s parent company, Thomson Corp., lost an employee on American Airlines Flight 11, which hit the North Tower, and at the time of publication could not account for 15 employees based in lower Manhattan.
¿I pray they are wrong with the number of [victims],¿ BIO¿s Demy said. ¿Considering the number of people they are predicting, everyone will be affected by this, not just New Yorkers. So many people worked in that building ¿ it was a vertical city.¿
¿ Karen Young contributed to this report.