Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Genentech Drops In (Industry) Poll, New Number One!


What a week for upsets. First, the 35-game home field winning streak of my USC Trojans comes to an end at the hands of the 40-point underdog Stanford Cardinal. Then, today, Genentech's six-year reign at the top of a big industry survey is over. Boehringer Ingelheim is the new number one!

That's the prestigious ranking given to the family-owned, German drug company in "Science" magazine's annual survey of the top employers in pharma, biotech and biopharma and related businesses (for the first time two agri-bio companies make the top 10--DuPont and Monsanto ). DNA falls to number two, followed by Amgen , Schering-Plough and Genzyme . You can check out the full Top-20 list here.

Science, a well-respected, peer-reviewed journal, canvassed more than 3,100 industry people between May 2nd and June 6th of this year via email. Respondents based their opinions on things like whether they viewed the company as "Doing important quality research, being socially responsible, being an innovative leader in the industry, having loyal employees, having a clear vision toward the future, treating employees with respect, having work culture values aligned with personal values," etc. Science says Boehringer and Amgen had "extremely high ratings" across the board. While Genentech "scored top grades" in just three of the categories.

So, why did Genentech drop? For one thing, the article, written by Peter Gwynne, the former science editor at "Newsweek", cites the fact that the company has come under criticism for developing the very expensive age-related macular degeneration drug, Lucentis, while some eye doctors find the much cheaper doses of Genentech's cancer drug, Avastin, to be just as effective for the leading cause of adult-onset blindness. The company counters that Avastin hasn't been tested, proven or approved to work on AMD.

The piece details how Genentech has a science-driven culture. Earlier this year I went to the company's sprawling South San Francisco campus to do a story on the work environment. For example, besides all of the de rigueur Silicon Valley-type perks, Genentech lets its scientists spend 20 percent of their work time pursuing pet research projects, with no questions asked unless or until they're ready to present something. Officials like to boast that it was through that kind of personal research that an employee discovered Avastin. (By the way, Genentech kicks off biotech earnings season after the bell next Monday.)

Overall, Science says the employees who sent in the survey said they want their companies to be better corporate citizens, lower drug prices and--interestingly--control costs.

The new king of the hill, Boehringer Ingelheim, didn't climb to the top overnight. It was ranked as far back as 8th place in 2005. I'm hopin' it doesn't take 'SC that long to claw back to #1. As I see it, if we run the table and, of course, beat Oregon on October 27th and Cal on November 10th (both road games) they'll be right back on top. Let's see what my sports-biz colleague, Darren Rovell has to say about that.  Check out Darren's Sports Biz Blog.

Questions?  Comments?