October 19, 2007

Apparently Somebody Does Know How This Works

I spoke with Bill, VP of Communications at JDRF, about my MacroGenics question. Bill is OK. He took my questions in stride with both humor and good answers. Y’all know I differentiate between serious and solemn. He dished out a joke as well as he took one without forgetting what it was all about. Bill and I had a very nice little conversation about a number of related and unrelated issues like market acceptance, bongs (Exubera), Amy’s open letter to Steve Jobs aka usability, closed loop systems, and so on.

He said they felt that the Lilly / MacroGenics agreement was, and I quote here, “Spectacular!”

JDRF has, over the last half decade or so, come to feel that there is a (and again I quote him) “Massive” distance between academic discovery and useful new products in the market. There are lot of steps to take between the university lab and the local pharmacy.

JDRF wants cures for families, so they are moving to help close some of that distance, oh sorry Bill that “Massive” distance. Bill sees the Lilly / MacroGenics deal as sign that that they have helped bridge that gap in this particular case.

In general the IDDP agreements do this by helping to fund pre trial and phase I, II, III trials where the JDRF science geeks leads them to think there is a viable treatment that needs a shot at moving from the lab to the market.

The fact that Lilly is willing to step in and do a deal with MacroGenics is seen as something that “probably” wouldn’t have happened without some JDRF IDDP funding for early steps. I got the feeling the emotion approximated picking the right horse at the track for him but with a bit more science involved in the picking. I should point out that I am not necessarily calling Bill nigh a Science Guy Geek, but I would have it I had thought of it at the time.

As a member of a family of JDRF walkers (Pssst! Hey buddy! Can I interest you in a Love Ya Mean It Pin?) I for one would like to know a little more about how these IDDP deals are structured. I will walk for JDRF, Lilly on the other hand…. It isn’t that I have anything against Lilly. They are a fine company. It is just that with two kids using Humalog, I feel I pay them enough.

I want to know little more about how this deal work. I hope there is a return of the funding dollars coming back to JDRF to support the next improvement in type 1 care or possible cure. I know that in some IDDP deals, disclosed in SEC documents, there is. There is also a point of comfort for me that when JDRF gets into an IDDP relationship they retain a right to bring the technology to market if the for profit chooses not to. So if something is a great idea, but somehow doesn’t see the light of day, JDRF can find someone who will bring it out. Conceivable, I guess generically it could be Lilly if Novo takes a pass.

Bill poked around for a little more information and emailed me this, "Each of the partnerships we have with IDDP companies does have some degree of return for JDRF if those projects pass pre-determined scientific milestones – not just the actual investments, but the grant-like partnerships, as well."

Thanks Bill. Now does this deal mean MacroGenics hit a milestone? (I’ll let y’all know what he said.)

I am fan and supporter of JDRF. I agree that there is a roll JDRF can play in bridging the “Massive” gap between academic discovery and our kids.

Yet I realize that what JDRF is doing is acting as a risk intermediary. They are taking positions on promising technology that the market place, for risk return reasons, is not willing to bet on. Now this may be the very point for me, as I have a degree in finance. To a finance geek like me (hey Bill who do you think is more of a propeller head me or you?) it is all about a return coming for taking risk.

For me supporting JDRF isn’t about monetary return but it isn’t about taking risks off of for profits that charge huge rates to pay for development risk for their products either.

We, as JDRF supporters, willing give without the expectation of financial return. The return we seek is far more prized, life without needles but that doesn’t mean I want to give Lilly’s share holders a return that is outside the risks of bringing the products to market.

That JDRF shoulders some risk, with good science and great care, which helps to bring new treatments and hopefully a cure to market, GREAT! If Lilly finds a billion dollar market for treatments – I am a capitalist I am good with that too. JDRF should get back something on the bet on the horse nobody else put something down on when it comes in. See I am a good capitalist.

Unfortunately I also read other stories in the business papers. I worry about the Enron, Tyco, college loans kick backs, sub prime mortgages and other funny money deals out there. Unless you are my favorite defense against the dark arts teacher, Mad-Eye Moony, transparency is a beautiful thing. But then even old Mad-Eye said, “Vigligance Constant Vigilance!”


  1. You know, Bennet, I had the same thoughts when I read of the agreement in the news this week. I'm glad I'm not the only one with questions, and I'd certainly like to see a little more transparency of terms from both parties. While I understand that some places that transparency may cross into "trade secrets" areas, for those of us that support the JDRF year after year, I, too, would like to be sure that my contributions are not padding a pharmaceutical company's bottom line. I pay my share to them already.

  2. I am so glad you are writing about this agreement. I hope the explanations keep coming to those of us that throughly support the JDRF and their efforts to cure type 1 diabetes. I am all for supporting the research for a cure, I am not all for padding the pocketbook of a large pharmaceutical company.

  3. I find this interesting, but would really like to have a better understanding about the relationship between JDRF and Lily. Bottom line for me is a cure, but in the meantime I think there is some accountability due to the JDRF supporters. I would love to hear more.

  4. Thank you for blogging about this deal, it is frustrating in its entirety. I would like to know when you hear more about this!

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I do think they are on the up and up but they sure hide it well.

    With millions of hard walked for dollars at issue I want to be able to point to these programs and say to a potential contributor, see that the kind of thing we can make happen, not well there something there but lord knows what it is.