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in their own words: the real Sequenom story from April 2009

so I finally ran across the Sequenom, Inc. Q1 2009 Earnings Call Transcript from April 29, 2009 via another Google Finance Discussion message.  first and foremost, it looks like the SEC investigation may not be as bad of an omen as i’d initially thought..

We have alerted the SEC and we will keep them apprised of our actions. We have also informed the FDA and will continue to follow any recommendations they may have for us.

but on the other end of things, parts of this discussion between director, president/ceo, and cfo of sequenom with a bunch of analysts.. are rather amusing

Bob HodgsonBlackRock, Inc.

Maybe I guess as part of your investigation, clearly these people, these four people, one or more of them had some kind of financial incentive to falsify or otherwise quote mishandle the data. The question is what the ties are there and trying to figure out how much money you guys are going to burn. In fact, you may in fact have some liability on this with respect to if there was any patient activities that were based upon the results of these tests.

Harry Stylli

I believe you are speculating. Okay? On both the employee aspect as well as the patients. No data was revealed to patients. For example, we were in a clinical study mode where the patient identity is blinded. The information is not used for that patient. Patients were simply supplying us with a tube or two or three of blood anonymously, okay? Now as to the other points that you are trying to get to, again, I don’t want to reiterate this, but really I believe a lot will come to light once the independent committee concludes its actions and reports.

feelings are hard to figure out in text, but a response like that clearly shows the guy flustered.

but in general, looks like they’re looking for about a 1000 new samples (or were at that point, who knows what’s going on now), and are attempting to validate their trisomy 21 test by looking at more markers, with a commercial test aimed at being released Q4 of this year. hmm… let’s see what data you have in your peer-review submissions first…

the analysts continue to harass and get the truth out…

Jerry KalmatosTrifund

Yes. Hi. Thanks for taking the question. My question surrounded similar questions from before. You really didn’t answer them but most of the data, would you used the word “mishandled”. Would you say that “falsified” is too strong a word? Were there mistakes made scientifically on the assay part of it? Or do you think data was falsified on purpose? What exactly do you think happened?

Harry Stylli

I would like to answer those questions, but again, I have got to respect the other committee until it concludes its analysis.

and, as an ending note, before my 400 word limit copyright issue thing expires.. looks like they still have their original goals in mind, which is still, in my mind, ridiculously cool, if it works, and if its more accurate at diagnosis than screening:

Harry Stylli

We are actually very confident about our core technology. And we just believe we have had a little setback here. We always like to leave the door open to interesting ideas. We are interested in developing noninvasive prenatal tests or diagnostics irrespective of the technology type. But I want to reiterate that we are very confident about the potential of our core cell free fetal technology.

sure sure. it may not be truly “diagnostic” in the way medical professionals think diagnostic, but if it exists as an unhappy medium between AFP screening and prenatal diagnostics, its still another medium, another option, and more options aren’t always a bad thing.

shoutout to Seeking Alpha for providing the transcript. link to the original page is up top.

sorry about the comments!

so i’ve been judiciously ignoring the “spam” comments i get. turns out over half of them are legit, so if it looks like i haven’t been approving your comments, it’s not because i have a deep-seeded grduge on you from a past life.. it’s cause wordpress thinks it’s spam. no harsh feelings, right?

23andMe not-a-BLIMP! (apparently it’s a Zeppelin)

23andMe Blimp! Just look at it!

23andMe Not-a-Blimp! Just look at it! (not my pic)

So on my way to work today, driving across from 880 to Westbound 80, avoiding the Bay Bridge toll plaza, I saw a pair of chromosomes from my onramp in oakland that I knew immediately belonged to the 23andMe logo. Nevertheless, these were on a not-a-blimp! I tried to take a snapshot on my phone, but sadly, resolution wasn’t so great and  the not-a-blimp was out of my driving trajectory, but a quick search online and lo and behold, there definitely is a 23andMe not-a-blimp!

Talk about aggressive marketing! This is taking the DTC part of personal genomics waaayyyy beyond what I had expected. Sure, trendy spit parties at fashion week that make the Times is one thing, but a not-a-blimp to harass SF commuters? C’mon. Personal genomics is not something that can be sold as a simple commodity. The procedures, risks, and implications of it can be serious, and by advertising the service as though it was a movie or typical commercial product is tricking those that are less genetically literate (unfamiliar in complex genetics) into thinking that this is just  for fun.

According to Alex Hall, CEO of Airship Ventures, via ChubbyBrain

While blimps can also do advertising, the Zeppelin is 50ft larger than any of them and can provide unique promotional opportunities…

I can only speculate how much this costs in advertising. Sure, the previous contract was with Disney-Pixar promoting UP, very appropriate, especially in the Bay Area. But personal genomics?

http://www.airshipventures.com/tours-promos.php

Airship Ventures even has a time-lapse Youtube video they just posted of the application of the 23andMe logo that was uploaded yesterday.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mho_x9Z1Na8

UPDATE:

After a bit more digging, and not to be offensive, there’s something strangely incestuous about the relationship between Google, 23andMe (which you already knew), and this Airship Ventures company. A relationship that involves founders, mothers, board members (i.e. 23andMe cofounder’ s mother, back in october of last year, writes a travelogue promoting Airship Ventures (links below). Airship Ventures’ major investor is 23andMe’s first listed board member, which for once, isn’t all that surprising… So that’s where this is coming from..

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/esther-wojcicki/the-return-of-the-zeppeli_b_138961.html

via:

http://valleywag.gawker.com/5071678/google-founders-journalist-mother+in+law-writes-blimp-infomercial

Update:

Apparently the difference between a Zeppelin and a Blimp is whether or not there is a rigid, internal structure. The former, which is the case mentioned here, is rigid, wherease a blimp is, well.. floppy ( that word’s for you, Beth).

YETANOTHERUPDATE:

you can track the zeppelin!!! in case you actively wanted to be visually spammed by the zeppelin….

http://www.airshipventures.com/tracking.php

via 23andme’s facebook page: which is.. having a contest for best picture of the zeppelin to get fifty-buck discounts? really, whatchu gonna do 23andme when its some 15 year old kid that wins the contest? oh yeah, they don’t have restrictions on age, despite established NSGC positions about childhood testing

Prenatal and childhood testing for adult-onset genetic conditions should always include genetic education and counseling. Genetic counseling for clients considering such testing should include exploration of the psychological/social risks and benefits of early genetic identification from both the parents’ and child’s perspectives. When possible the child should be involved in the decision about whether or not to be tested. Other issues discussed should include the possibility of discrimination in insurance, education and employment for the child or family in both the immediate and more distant future.

Categories: publicity, Uncategorized Tags: , ,

a sad day for the frugal student traveller

i just received the following email from Southwest Airlines that tugs at my financial pursestrings, infuriates the i-want-the-best-deal aspect of my existence, and is deprivilegizing my travel choices:

As an active participant in the College Rapid Rewards program, we wanted to make you aware of some changes effective July 15, 2009.

The College Rapid Rewards program will be discontinued, and new enrollments will not be processed. However, as a current Member, you will continue to earn bonus credit through October 15, 2009.

Beginning October 16, 2009, all former College Rapid Rewards Members will earn Rapid Rewards credit at a standard rate, consistent with the general program.

Despite this change, there are still lots of ways to earn credit as a Rapid Rewards Member, both in the air and on the ground! Just visit RapidRewards101.com for information about Rapid Rewards Preferred Partners and ways to get to an Award faster than ever.

We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to seeing you onboard soon!

Your Friends at Rapid Rewards

no more are the days where, because of interviews, i can rack up a free round trip in a matter of months! no more are the days where i feel like just cause i’m young and have to fly home for breaks, am i getting treats (like free drink tickets and the occassional free flight). no more are the days when..
oh. now i’ll just be like everyone else and earn my free flights more slowly. i’m almost out of the age range anyway, so perhaps this is a timely notice.

forget i started ranting 😉

(btw, a recommendation to people going on GC or job interviews.. DEFINITELY sign up for flight rewards programs before you make your trips – so you can start building up your miles! in my 6 years of school away from home, i’ve already received three round-trip rewards flights!)

one of these days…

someday, I hope I have the courage to send out senseless surveys to the professional genetic counseling community asking them things like “what shoes did you wear to work today” or “how many journal articles, would you say, are currently piled on top of your desk”, then in an Onion-like format (in a medium such as this blog), make some pseudo-science comments like, prenatal genetic counselors are more likely to wear flats, but have an association with a large number of journal articles sitting on their desks, which is perhaps due to the stressful environment that their clients create, an enviornment that is not conducive to heels. this oppression of …

just a thought.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: