BOSTON ‑ After crisscrossing the exhibition hall and three Boston zip codes yesterday for my citywide BIO 2012 reception scavenger hunt and finding a belly full of German sausages, Chinese dim sum, French pastries, Japanese sake and Irish whiskey to compliment a head full of the day’s diverse lecture topics and a mini-marathon of orthopedic proportions, I retired to my hotel room and fell into a outlandishly fitful sleep that I’ll just call “A Nightmare on BIO 2012 Exhibition Street.”
It started off innocently enough, as I passed by the New York pavilion – “Whadda you lookin’ at? Take a friggin’ ink pen and move on! I’m workin’ here! You’re blocking the aisle – I got customers.”
On to the California booth . . . “Trade your business card for a free sample? It’s the legal medi-juana right here. All you have to do is say the magic word: glaucoma! And chase it with our patented CIRM stem cell martini!”
The China pavilion was easy to spot, as it keeps getting bigger every day – by about an 8 percent growth rate! Its emergence was pushing the Japan pavilion just enough to put their backs against the East wall and the Europe exhibition area into the general vicinity of the toilet. And if the conference exhibition hall doesn’t close precisely on time at noon Thursday, China’s spread could even start shanghaiing the U.S. state pavilions. All this respect without a single company in top 50 biopharma list?
The reimbursement lobbyists, drunk with power, had just taken over Regulatory Row and evicted the FDA from its booth, when I overheard this FDA conversation:
“Let’s set up over there – in the vacant obesity market space. I don’t believe they will be coming this year, since we burst their bottom line bubble.
“Dr. Labyrinthine, would you get together with Dr. N. Terminable and Dr. Persnickety to draw up a guideline to facilitate the pathway to the new location? We may have to petition BIO to extend the conference another few weeks while we meticulously plot the most efficacious course of action.”
People were looking for the Amgen booth, but there was just an empty space on the exhibition floor where it was the day before. No, it wasn’t the bio-rapture – Novartis had just pulled off the most bullish takeover in history, acquiring Amgen in the middle of the convention, and having the Teamsters move Amgen’s booth inside theirs.
Then, exactly 200 years to the June 18 declaration that made the War of 1812 official – all Bio-Hell broke loose as Revolutionary War II was ignited . . . Novartis’ bold move had lit the biopharma fuse. The Big Pharma Immortals had had enough of playing nice and finally turned on one another in a donnybrook the likes that hadn’t been seen in Boston since the 2004 Red Sox-Yankees American League Championship Series.
They flooded BIO’s registration booth with emergency registrations for all their lawyers, black ops fixers, etc., assembling the strike teams to battle outright for supremacy in ruling the new millennium biopharma world. BIO, of course, set a new attendance record that would easily offset the damages to the convention center.
The regulatory overlords tried to stop the madness, but it was only then they finally realized “because I said so” and “I’ll think about it” were no longer effective weapons.
Well, this started the Great Biopharma War of 2012. By the time the large molecule dust had settled, there were only 13 colonies, errr, booths left. Into the broken concrete floor, they staked RXBIG battle flags that bore the rugged symbol monickers of JNJ, PFE, ABT, AZN, LLY, GSK, BMS, RHHBY, NVS, SNY, MRK, TEVA and TKPHF. Rebels such as Bayer, Novo Nordisk and Boehringer Ingelheim went underground until they could breach the $15 billion-plus large-cap war chest list).
The rebels tried to take the Underground Biopartnering Railroad to seek asylum behind the BRIC Wall, but were met at its perimeter by government forces, armed with compulsory licenses, in litigation formation, under a sign that read “Bring us your tired (personnel), your (cash-)poor (R&D) – but be prepared to leave your IP at the border!”
Meanwhile, the Immortals began negotiations to explore the benefits of merging into one international corporate behemoth, named BioPharMonster Inc., that would hold the health of all humanity hostage.
The Pharma Un-Civil War was a reality, as the seductive forces of biotechnology had done what the competition, regulation and consumer frustration had been unable to do for more than a century: unhinge pharma’s cool.
The floor space (as well as the market space) had been pharma-fied, but there was a small skirmish that was still garnering attention, as several generics makers were mounting a nominal attack on the big pharmas from the rear, with the cry, “Give me biosimilars or give me death!”
In the end, Pfizer, patently fighting off a $10 billion bad mood, still emerged as the revenue victor despite the offensive charge financed by Novartis’ cache of 15 approvals in 2011.
Roche’s booth was afire, but Roche just unshackled Genentech in the clinic by commissioning its biotech enforcer to run amok: “We’ll need to replenish our arsenal and war chest, so, “Genentech, SMASH!”
Wake up, Michael – it was only an allegory! Still, I dread sleeping tonight, lest I suffer a relapse in the forecasted heat wave that starts tomorrow!
No litigation allowed – it’s only a dream, right?