Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

No ASCO Fiasco!

I'm happy to report that I'm scribbling out this blog from the air-conditioned comfort of the convention center in Orlando. It's the first time in my six or seven years of covering ASCO that the organization has let CNBC broadcast live from inside. And, guess what? No one seems freaked out about it.

PR folks and execs who worked with me at previous ASCOs are all reminiscing about days spent outside schvitzing, getting rained on and breathing in the exhaust from the parade of ASCO shuttle buses. No more.

The only time I might spend outside today will be poolside later at my hotel.

So, we've been rockin' and rollin' with the breaking news punches, quickly rescheduling interviews we had set up due to everything else happening in the world today. It's an extraordinary newsday and fortunately, all of the PR people and execs have been flexible and understanding about our airtime constraints.

In a way, it's a good thing that this is what everyone agrees a relatively quiet ASCO. With Genentech's colon cancer study of Avastin missing its mark and the company having been taken over by Roche, this year's ASCO doesn't have the investor/trading mojo of years' past. Some folks think it could just be a retrenching year.

Speaking of Genentech, I'm told the recently ousted CEO Art Levinson was here, sans bodyguard. And so was the company's former head of product development, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, soon to be Chancellor of UC-San Francisco. She just came by our camera position to say, "Hi." Desond-Hellmann was an ASCO CNBC interview mainstay. This year we're talking to the guy who took her place, Dr. Hal Barron.

And one more ASCO nugget before I try to scarf down some lunch and prep for our afternoon coverage. This morning AstraZeneca and Merck announced they're hooking up to combine two experimental cancer drugs. It's a unique "two is better than one" deal they think could speed development. So, how did it come about? An AZN exec told me a MRK scientist was in the audience of an AZN data presentation at another scientific meeting. After hearing the results, he thought the two drugs might work well together. The scientist reached out to AZN and there you go.

Business development can happen anywhere, I guess.

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