Occasionally -- when the bosses will let me -- I take a day to network, learn and maybe pick up a story idea or two by attending a biotech or healthcare investment conference. Many firms put on the events for their clients and they often invite reporters to hang out. They like the publicity if we file from or mention the conference.
If nothing else, the conferences are usually pretty helpful in terms of making or renewing professional contacts, staying up to date on a company's pipeline or milestones, and picking up nuggets here and there.
When I was first invited to attend one in Manhattan Friday, I originally sent regrets because I thought I'd be traveling back from L.A., where I covered Amgen's shareholder meeting this week.
But when my schedule changed, I accepted the invite to Leerink Swann's Healthcare Investment Bank "Conquering Cancer with Novel Therapeutics: Roundtable Conference."
The PR guy told me a couple of sessions during the day would be "closed" to me. It wasn't clear what the closed sessions were all about, and so my curiousity was piqued. I'd never encountered that before.
Investment conferences usually feature private one-on-one meetings of company execs and investors that are obviously off-limits, but not "closed" panel discussions -- at least, not that I'm aware of.
When I got there this morning and picked up the agenda, I saw that the three closed sessions were all so-called "Expert Panels," with doctors and biotech execs talking about "Novel Targeted Agents for Cancer," "New Developments in Liquid Tumors," and "New Developments in Solid Tumors."
All stuff that could be helpful and educational for a reporter--especially the week before many of the study results come out for the upcoming ASCO conference.
But two Leerink spokespeople told me that doctors (from The Cleveland Clinic, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and New York's St. Vincent's) appearing on the panels representing a group called MEDACorp, a research division of Leerink, had a problem with reporters -- or as one of them put it, "someone outside the investment community" -- being in the room. They claimed it would stifle the discussion.
Execs from publicly-traded companies including Ariad, ArQule, Array BioPharma, Celgene, Kosan, Cougar Biotechnology, Cell Genesys, Poniard, and Medivation are also on the panels. By barring a reporter from hearing them speak to a group of investors could there possibly be a Reg FD issue?
The rest of the day's agenda was boilerplate, PowerPoint company presentations which I can access on the web anytime.
I decided to leave and write this blog. Either invite the media and let 'em in or don't invite 'em at all.
Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com