Genentech Struts Its Stuff


So, during a late-morning break at the Genentech analyst meeting guess who came over to say, "Hey"?

None other than the man himself, Chairman and CEO Art Levinson. He mentioned that he reads the blog and especially liked "My Madoff Moment" post of a couple months ago.

He also complimented me on my work and, most importantly, regarding my campaign to get a sit-down interview with him he said, "Maybe someday."

Hope springs eternal.


I'm at what could be Genentech's last annual investor and analyst meeting. In the future, this could be Roche's show if the Swiss drugmaker pulls off its hostile bid to buy all of Genentech.

Based on my quick scan of the Manhattan Mandarin Oriental banquet room there are between 200 and 300 people here. There are several chairs in the wings that are empty, though. Plus, you never know how many folks are listening to the webcast especially on a day like today when a snowstorm in the northeast could be keeping some people at home telecommuting.

Genentech rather hastily moved up the date of the meeting by a few weeks so that it could spin its case before the Roche tender offer expires in about a week-and-a-half.

Chairman and CEO Art Levinson opened the meeting by touting the company's scientific and financial track record, the successful corporate culture and its bullish forecast.

For example, the company expects to post a compounded annual earnings growth rate from 2010 to 2015 of 16 percent.

Roche and Genentech have very different views of what the financial future looks like and, therefore, disagree on what DNA's worth.

But Levinson said, a bit cockily, "We welcome a debate on this with anybody, anytime, anywhere."

Few, if any, are expected to tender their shares for the $86.50 Roche is offering because they're holding out--and, in a sense, rolling the dice--on important test results expected next month on Genentech's Avastin for earlier stage colon cancer.

If they knock the ball out of the park, some analysts say the stock's gonna soar and maybe go out of Roche's price range. The use of Avastin in that patient population is estimated to potentially add another $1 billion to $2 billion in annual sales.

But others say the importance of the study--given the backdrop of the Roche situation--is being overblown.

Levinson didn't specifically handicap the results of that study, but when he showed a graphic of the company's drug development pipeline he made this candid assessment: "Obviously they're not all gonna work, but we have a very good track record."

However, the company's oncologist rock-star head of product development, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, laid out seven reasons why the study could turn out well.

Genentech execs, employees, investor and, of course, patients and their loved ones hope it's a lucky seven.

Questions? Comments?