Thursday, May 08, 2008

Where Does Pharmion Go From Here?

In a recent interview with the Star-Ledger, New Jersey-based Celgene (NASDAQ: CELG) Chief Executive Officer Sol J. Barer, Ph.D. provided some insight as to the integration plans for Pharmion products and intellectual capital. Following is a portion of that Q&A.

Q: Celgene already was expanding its presence abroad. What does adding Pharmion do for you internationally?

A: We have a sales force all over Europe right now. We have a very good infrastructure that's very leveragable. We're selling Revlimid, and doing very well right now. With the Pharmion integration, we're adding thalidomide, which is approved in first-line multiple myeloma (in Europe). Revlimid is approved in relapsed or previously treated multiple myeloma. We also have a marketing approval for Vidaza, the first therapy that will show a survivability advantage in patients. Rather than partner, what we do is retain the value for our shareholders by building our own infrastructure - clinical, regulatory - around the world. We'll use distributorships in certain countries or certain regions.

Q: What happens to Pharmion's operations? Will you keep any presence in Colorado?

A: We're going through the integration planning process. We're looking at as many positions and many levels and all the products. We're very impressed with with a lot of people there, at all levels. As you combine two commercial, public entities, you don't need two CFOs, you don't need two CEOs -- thank god. There's clearly going to be overall consolidation. What we're going to try to do is retain as many of the people that are motivated and excited to stay with Celgene.

Q: A year ago, you said you might be looking for bigger quarters around Summit because the company was growing and you disliked satellite offices. What are your plans now?

A: We'll have multiple sites. (Pharmion) has a major clinical site in Kansas City, which we'll keep. We'll probably be adding a building or buildings here on-site. We've gotta live with the fact that there'll be multiple locations with the major company we're becoming. I'm pleased to say the sun never sets on Celgene, to borrow a phrase. It's difficult. We're used to addressing the company all at once, and now that can't happen. If it's 7 o'clock in the morning here, it's 9 at night in Japan but 4 in the morning in California. So when we try to have meetings, we try to move them around.

Q: Even before Pharmion, Celgene seemed to be stepping up its licensing and partnership deals. Will that continue?

A: A lot of these are driven by specific opportunities that often are difficult to predict. There will be a period of time subsequent to the Pharmion acquisition where a lot of integration will go on. While that will not affect the smaller deals, it probably will affect the larger collaborations, which would be a lower priority while we're integrating the new company.

Q: How has your job changed in the past year?

One of the big challenges is really, as we grow, to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit, the almost family atmosphere that's characterized Celgene through the years. I think that's been important to our success. I view that as one of my greater challenges.

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