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Biotech On The Big Screen

Usually I wouldn’t devote a blog to a biotech with a market value of approximately $86 million. But when your personal story goes Hollywood—as in mega-watt stars like Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser playing the lead roles in the movie—then you get a blog.

Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford in Extraordinary Measures
Source: extraordinarymeasuresthemovie.com
Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford in Extraordinary Measures

The flick “Extraordinary Measures” opens January 22nd. I saw a trailer for it on CBS (CBS Films is behind “Extraordinary”) the other night during the “Kennedy Center Honors.” The movie chronicles the fight of John Crowley to find a way to save the lives of his two young children with the rare, genetic disorder Pompe (pom-pay) disease. He founded a company called Amicus Therapeutics , which I have mentioned before has what I think is an unfortunate ticker symbol: FOLD. It’s a nod to Amicus’ drug technology, but I think for most people it has an automatic negative connotation, especially as a stock name.

Anyway, the movie’s coming out at an interesting time. An effective drug for the disease made by Genzyme is at the periphery of that company’s recent manufacturing problems. According to CNBC’s stock statisticians, those issues have made GENZ the biggest loser of 2009 in the Nasdaq 100. The stock’s down 25% this year. Crowley, by the way, used to work at Genzyme.

When I went to Genzyme a couple of weeks ago to interview Chairman and CEO Henri Termeer about the company’s recent troubles he spent several minutes with me beforehand, off camera, in the C-Suite conference room passionately talking about Genzyme’s Pompe drug. I haven’t verified his anecdotes, but he claimed that in Europe there have been instances where parents have tied or handcuffed themselves to hospital doors to try to gain access to the drug and that kids have died while on their way to receive the treatment. He pulled out a graph that showed how nearly every little one who gets the drug lives, while all who don’t die quickly.

Crowley’s story has a happy ending. His kids are alive. I don’t know how Termeer’s story is going to end, but I suspect the next chapter will be written in 2010.

Happy New Year.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman