Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Goodbye Genentech & Your DNA


DNA has always been one of my favorite clever ticker symbols on the biopharma beat.

Sure, GENE might've made sense for Genentech if it had been listed on the Nasdaq, but DNA was pretty good.

But after today DNA is no more. After a months-long battle for Genentech, Rochehurriedly completed its acquisition today.

So, a fond farewell to DNA. Sure, Roche says Genentech will keep its name, its culture and its hugely successful research and development unit will supposedly remain independent, but many people—myself included—wonder what the future holds for this big biotech jewel.

Genentech's management over the years has often been like a breath of fresh air. Whipsmart and oh-so-serious and diligent about the science, but casual and relaxed at the same time. On two visits to the Genentech campus as a reporter, it was refreshing to find a Google-like (although truth be told Genentech came first) atmosphere and environment compared to the stodgy, button-down feeling I often got and still get at big pharma HQs.

I hope Roche doesn't take that away. The company insists it won't.

On a personal note, when my mom had been diagnosed with metastatic kidney cancer a few years ago, I just so happened to be doing an interview around that time with Genentech's President of Product Development and former practicing oncologist Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann.

I told her my mom's situation and she volunteered to find some potential clinical trials my mom might be eligible for in the Los Angeles area. She quickly followed through.

My mom didn't fit any of the criteria and she passed away a short time later.

Reporting on companies and companies getting reporters to cover them is, to a great extent, about building and maintaining relationships. Yeah, Genentech's camera-shy CEO Art Levinsonstill hasn't given me an interview, but for the most part—until the surprise Roche bid came—the rest of his team was almost always accessible. Sure, you have your professional disagreements and run-ins from time to time, but Genentech had it all goin' on. And certainly it helped that I started covering them just as things were really starting to break Genentech's way in a huge wave of positive drug studies and launches. They had a great story to tell.

Now, it's up to Roche to write the next chapter.

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