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Lilly's Personal Business

Lilly
Lilly

Analyst meetings are usually carefully scripted, dry affairs. It's strictly business and rarely, if ever, does an exec open up and get personal.

In the first q and a session at today's Lilly analyst meeting, John Johnson, the head of the company's cancer drug unit and former CEO of ImClone, fielded a question about Erbitux.

In his answer, Johnson volunteered that his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer a month ago. It wasn't apropos of nothing. He mentioned it in the context of tailoring oncology medicines for particular patients.

"He (his father) doesn't want to know how many patients responded to a drug in a clinical trial," Johnson said, "He wants to know, how's this drug gonna work for him?"

I think his dad probably speaks for everyone in that situation.

Separately, I can't believe there's reason to mention Johnson's former employer ImClone and insider trading in the same sentence again, but today "The Wall Street Journal" reported the SEC is investigating allegations of shenanigans surrounding Lilly's acquisition of ImClone.

LLY Chairman and CEO John Lechleiter said all he knows is what he read this morning in the paper, which I had given to him to make sure he wasn't blindsided during our interview. He claimed the SEC has not sent the company any kind of notice about it. For the record, the WSJ said the probe is focused on the banking side of that and other drug deals.

Speaking of drug deals, in his opening statement this morning Lechleiter made it pretty darn clear he isn't interested in a mega-merger. "This is not our path," he said rather emphatically.

Later, an analyst asked CFO Derica Rice if the balance sheet could handle a $15 billion deal. He said, "Yes," but added, "That's not our intent."

Instead, Rice said Lilly's looking to do partnerships and acquisitions that "augment and compliment" its pipeline and portfolio.

And so is practically every other big drug company.

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