Here's what I wrote on my return:
"The major impression I have of Novazyme is movement.Have you ever seen one
of those stop-motion films of a flower bursting into bloom? It was just like
that. It is a place where things are happening, not one at a time but in
parallel and at great speed. Everywhere, people are working away. Every
conceivable nook and cranny is put to use to store equipment or consumables
or has been commandeered for lab space. Here, a high grade facility - there,
an office - there again, walls are being knocked down and a new facility
I have never seen so many people all working on Pompe's disease. There were
more here, I think, in one place than were at the AMDA conference for
researchers in Bethesda, which pulled in people from all over the world.
Like Trae a few weeks back, Randall and I spoke at one of their regular
'Lunch and Learn' meetings, where they invite a speaker to talk about an
aspect of Pompe's. This struck me as a very good idea and illustrative of
the Novazyme approach and corporate culture. But I'm getting ahead of
myself - the detailed stuff can wait for the interview transcript.
As you know, some work has already been presented regarding Novazyme's
product. A question I had when I went over was how solid was the scientific
base for the company. This is dealt with in the interview but I'll give my
opinion here. From the evidence I saw, yes, they have something special -
astonishing, in fact. Obviously, what we saw was a company presentation and
not a peer reviewed paper, so caveat emptor, to an extent. However, I think
it is unlikely that the wool was being pulled over our eyes. Two reasons for
Firstly, they were incredibly open - to the extent of showing us information
on their costs (yes, we signed a non-disclosure agreement but all the same,
it's a gesture of trust).
Secondly, and most importantly: John Crowley. He's one of us, remember, and
his motivation is certainly not to make money.
So, interesting times ahead.
I hope that little taster will last you until the interview transcript:-)
Lastly, a few riders on all of the above:
Those are my own views - I'm not presuming to speak for Randall.
I'm making no judgements about which company has the best ERT product - just
noting that it is now very much a two horse race.
The transcript of the interview referred to was published on the IPA, AGSD-UK and AMDA websites and can be found in the AGSD-UK's Pompe's Bulletin (now a glossy full-colour production).
In retrospect this was astonishingly naive. Particularly so when the above is read in conjunction with The Cure. From that book we learn that what we were told about the intention to hold a clinical trial was false; John Crowley had already decided to sell Novazyme. In fact discussions had already taken place at Genzyme HQ. So what the heck was the point of it all?
What makes me particularly uncomfortable is the thought that my enthusiastic report and the associated interview might have, in however small a way, been have responsible for nudging Genzyme into the disastrous decision to buy out Novazyme. Note the section below, in particular:
IPA: Gaucher disease? You’re really planning to compete with Genzyme’s big product?In retrospect, it kind of looks like a signal doesn't it?
Novazyme: the decision isn’t driven by a desire to go head to head with Genzyme. We believe that we have a product which will be an improvement on Cerezyme (the Genzyme ERT for Gaucher) and which may help patients with difficulties that product does not help.
Hindsight is a great thing. Before we move on though, it is worth taking a look at the evidence presented to us that we found so convincing at the time.