Greetings from New York, where our Pharmaceutical Strategic Outlook conference is in full swing. Here are a few of the highlights so far:
- Merck's Chief Strategy Officer Merv Turner. Entertaining (as always) in his discussion of the key metric at Merck: ITPS (it's the pipeline, stupid). Our Pink Sheet Daily coverage of that Big Pharma M&A panel focuses on Merck's commitment to continued business development activity despite the Schering-Plough acquisition--think Cardiome alliance. You can find it here. Noteworthy also was that much of the discussion diverted to the growing importance of China in the health care universe (in part since Turner had just returned from his latest scouting trip there). Our favorite part of the panel, though, was when Credit Suisse analyst Catherine Arnold pointed out during a discussion of the merits of Big Pharma diversification that Pfizer, as a result of the Wyeth acquisition, could now diversify into follow-on biologics. "I'd advise against it," joked Turner, who is the architect behind Merck's own FOBs strategy. (He also gave a cheer when a majority of our high-caliber audience, in an interactive voting session, chose FOBs as one of the most sensible routes out of the fug for Big Pharma.)
- David Mott. We'll let Reuters do the heavy lifting here, but suffice to say that the panel on running stand-alone biotechs within pharma drew a lot of interest. And not just because the ex-MedImmune CEO recalled an interesting conversation with Roche's Franz Humer that in retrospect could raise eyebrows. See the Reuters story here. We also sense some degree of tension in the Millennium-Takeda tie-up (or stand-off, perhaps?). But what do we know?
- Health Care Reform panel. What did we learn? Don't be afraid of comparative effectiveness--embrace it! Unless of course it becomes part of FDA's decision-making process. (After all, you want to make drugs that are better than those of your rivals, right?) And the exclusivity period for FOBs might matter less than people think--instead of focusing on how much exclusivity will be in the bill that gets through Congress, said the panelists, how about thinking a little about what actually happens when that exclusivity expires.
Today's panels feature activist shareholdes, heads of pharma discovery (reminding us why pharm still does discovery), and the future of primary care. We'll try to tweet a bit more today too, so look for us on Twitter: @invivoblogchris and @invivoblogellen.