Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Novo CEO Just Says "No"

At the UN's Climate Summit in Copenhagenthere's a lot of talk about reducing CO2 emissions. Coincidentally, the Danish capital is headquarters to Novo Nordisk , whose CEO is setting an example about cutting down on greenhouse gases in the environment.

Lars Rebien Sørensen, President and CEO of Novo Nordisk
Source: Novo Nordisk

Lars Sorensen runs the world's biggest diabetes care company with a market value of more than $33 billion. So, you'd expect a guy like that to have a chauffeur-driven car or limo haul him around. I know Copenhagen is a big bike city, but you'd still think a muckety muck like Sorensen wouldn't join the hoi polloi. Au contraire. I haven't seen him do it, so I can't vouch for it, but when I recently sat down with Sorensen for the first time, he told me that he rides his bike to and from work every day—around 10 miles each way. He claimed that the company car sits in his driveway. I'm not one to fawn over CEOs, but how cool is that?

Sorsensen didn't say he's making some kind of green statement by using pedal power, but that he does it to stay in shape. And he hopes it sets an example for his employees about healthy living.

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Big time CEOs are accustomed to all of the accoutrements that come with the job. Check out almost any big company's SEC filing and you'll find a pretty sizeable expense for the executives' car service. It's refreshing that Sorensen eschews at least some of the corporate perks. After my interview with Sorensen at a New Jersey hotel he had a flight to catch to Europe at nearby Newark Liberty Airport. I assumed a black car would be waiting outside the lobby doors to whisk him away. But when I went outside to retrieve my car and pay for parking at the booth inside the garage, guess who was standing in line in front of me? Yep, Sorensen. His handler had left and there he was paying his tab and getting into his rental car to drive himself to the airport.

Sorensen's company is waiting for the FDA to make a decision on whether to approve a key drug. It's a once-a-day injection for diabetes. Meantime, Eli Lilly, Amylin Pharmaceuticals and Alkermes are waiting for the FDA to make up its mind on a similar once-a-week diabetes shot. The trio this morning announced new test resultsshowing the once-a-week drug lowers blood sugar and weight more than the current twice-a-day form of the drug called Byetta.

Waiting on the FDA

In a research note to clients this morning, Bernstein analysts say the FDA decision on Novo's drug Victoza is "imminent." If or when the approval comes through, we're hoping to do a live interview via satellite from Copenhagen with Sorensen. But we'll probably make sure he gets to the studio in a car. He can put the bike in the trunk and pedal back to work afterwards if he wants, but I'm not willing to take any chances that he won't make it on time under his own power.

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