Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Darn Those Genzyme Gremlins


One thing you learn quickly in the "live" TV-news business is that you're always at the mercy of the technology. Sometimes, Murphy's Law rules and there's nothing you can do about it. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. A camera battery dies right as the anchor in the studio is tossing to you out in the field, a competitor's microwave signal (inadvertantly?) interferes with yours and causes the picture to fill with static, the sound being fed back into your earpiece gets left on reverb because someone in the production booth didn't push a button. All those things and many more have happened to me and my colleagues repeatedly. It's never fun, but you've gotta get used to it.

Well, today beleaguered biotech Genzyme is getting schooled on all that.

This afternoon GENZ is holding an analyst/investor meeting and conducting a show-and-tell tour at its Boston manufacturing plant. It's the one that got contaminated last year and which the FDA will almost certainly assume temporary jurisdiction over in the near future. The stock tanked on that regulatory revelation and a subsequent analyst downgrade last week.

But, oh! The irony. At a meeting designed to convince the Street the company is well on its way to correcting a major manufacturing problem, a simple technical glitch keeps executives from conveying that message to a broader, off-site audience.

The webcast of the event started without a hitch. As the embattled Chairman and CEO Henri Termeer kicked it off with prepared opening remarks, I was sitting at my desk listening to it,  But shortly into his presentation, the audio suddenly cut out and for nearly half an hour all of the presentations were muffled and unintelligible.

Eventually, it got straightened out.

Investors only wish the manufacturing problems could have been solved as quickly, easily and inexpensively.

After the audio came back, Genzyme officials said they expect to start negotiations with the FDA soon, but that it's too early to tell how much, including a to-be-determined amount of profit disgorgement, this whole mess is ultimately going to cost in time and money. But it could cost Termeer, the longest-serving big biotech CEO, his job. Billionaire activist investor Carl Icahn is trying to get himself and three of his people on the GENZ board. And if he wins, many say heads are gonna roll.

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