Bristol & Genzyme Make A Big Move—Call It "Extraordinary Measures"

Bristol-Myers Squibb headquarters have moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon and Genzyme’s from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Seattle.

Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford in Extraordinary Measures
Brendan Fraser and Harrison Ford in Extraordinary Measures

Not for real, but in the movie “Extraordinary Measures” that opens today. I got to see it last night at the New York premiere.

The BMY logo appears in the opening scenes. But Genzyme becomes Zymagen. GENZ CEO Henri Termeer gets a fictional name, but the character maintains a foreign accent and a sartorial flare. Termeer is under fire in real life these days, but he’s treated kindly in the film, which portrays him as a savvy businessman and an empathetic human being.

They shot most of the film in the Pacific Northwest instead of the Northeast and New England, where the real-life story took place, to save money. But it doesn’t show up on screen. I’m not a film critic, so I will keep my opinion brief of the flick, which chronicles the fight of Amicus Therapeutics CEO John Crowley to find a treatment for the rare disease two of his kids have. It’s good. Not great, not bad, but good. And I think that people who work in the biopharmaceutical industry will like it, especially those in research, development and venture capital. Crowley, by the way, makes a cameo appearance as a VC guy putting the screws to Harrison Ford’s cantankerous scientist character.

Brendan Fraser, Kerri Russell and Harrison Ford attend the Cinema Society with John & Aileen Crowley screening of 'Extraordinary Measures'
Theo Wargo | WireImage | Getty Images
Brendan Fraser, Kerri Russell and Harrison Ford attend the Cinema Society with John & Aileen Crowley screening of 'Extraordinary Measures'

“Extraordinary” stars Ford, Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell, who were all sitting directly across the aisle from me at the theater last night.

Fraser ducked out several minutes into the movie, just seconds, in fact, before a very brief (clothes on) sex scene with him and Russell. Ford left the theater quite awhile later and Russell, in six-inch heels (although I didn’t measure,) not long after that.

I’m sure it was just an oversight, but I felt badly that The Wall Street Journal’s Geeta Anand, who wrote the book that inspired the movie, didn’t get a shout out during the introductory remarks by Crowley and the stars. She’d flown in from her current base in India for the event and had invited a bunch of friends and co-workers to join her at the screening.

Coincidentally, Genzyme announced yesterdaythat the FDA could take six months to decide whether to approve a version of the Pompe disease drug that the movie is about. The company has even created a webpage to answer questions about the story. At least one analyst hints the timing of the corporate news about the new FDA timeline may have been more than just a coincidence. In a research note to clients, Geoffrey Porges writes, “Of course cynics will suggest that this announcement is simply a pre-emptive move by the FDA and Genzyme ahead of the publicity surrounding this week’s opening of ‘Extraordinary Measures’.”

The movie isn’t as sappy as most kid disease movies tend to be. Yes, in moments, it will pull on your heartstrings. But it’s really a pretty accurate treatment of the battle between medical science and the bottom line. And in that sense, it’s extraordinary.

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