Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Taste test for underwater cheese

From the BBC,

A story about some lost Cheese. Now I will eat dinner.

What I want in a Tech transfer web site

I am on a roll, so here is my dream for all tech transfer web sites, including some hair pulling and ranting.
  • Make it Google searchable. Index everything. Keep allowing it to be indexed. I wanted to make this points 1-10, but that still wouldn't have made this post big enough.
  • List what you have. Why would you hide stuff? There is no advantage here. I won't tell people some stuff we are looking for (unannounced company directions) and I can't talk to everyone on the planet anyway. SO - by keeping it secret I won't find it. Neither will anyone else. By making it findable you may end up with multiple bidders. There are worse problems to have.
  • List the Patent numbers or Application numbers for a technology if they are already out there. One of the first things I want to know is what is the IP status. If the Application isn't published yet, just say Application filed. I don't want confidential information, but pretending that I won't or can't do a search of the USPTO or ESPACE is just nuts. That isn't protecting you, that is annoying me.
  • List the publications that the inventor has. Links direct to pubmed are appreciated, but even just knowing that I need to find five papers is fine. I want to make sure I have seen everything before I waste your time. If we aren't interested, you have saved both of us time. If we are, you have made the deal go faster as when I ask that question you can say "nothing beyond what is on the web site" which I have probably already read and circulated through our R+D and marketing folks. For sites that don't do this, it takes longer for me to get through this stuff and find everything and that just hurts both of us.
  • Did I mention Google?
  • How about Yahoo?
  • MSN? I use google, but if you make it work in any of them the others will word as well. Just make it findable!
On a side note. There is no such thing as the "go to" University. We are getting stuff from everywhere on the planet (metaphorically....really mostly North America and Europe right now). There is no state in the US that we haven't talked to someone from (Idaho?maybe not. North Dakota, Yes). I don't think there is a University in Boston we haven't spoken with, but the same is true for Chicago and Edmonton. You, if you are not at a "big" school, are not out of the game. If you make it findable, I don't care where you are I will try and talk to you. I dont waste time going web site by web site by web site, as even if I tried to do that with "top tier" Universities ONLY, I would still not have enough hours in the day to sleep or do the rest of my job. So I don't hand search any of them and pray I don't miss anything. Fingers crossed.

...to get in touch with me...

As I have said a couple of times recently, I didn't actually expect anyone to read this blog. So, I didn't set up an email that isn't instantly identifiable as me (my name being spelled out kind of giving it away).

I have no real interest in revealing my name or who I work for, so there is the problem. I probably won't check another email (work and personal being the two I have now) so if I did set it up I probably wouldn't look at it with any sort of regularity. Right now, when you post I get an email, so I see that a post occured, but I don't really want to do anything about it from that email address.

For now, I can communicate through comments. If that doesn't work for you, put that in the comment and I will set up an email address with a throw away name and just check it for a couple of days to complete a conversation.

...More about tech transfer offices...

So I started writing this blog less than a week ago, really just to let some steam off. I didn't think anyone, other than my wife, would actually read it. Suprisingly (at least to me), some people showed up and posted some comments. Right now, the sum total of two (2) are here. Not a stampede or enought to inflate my ego (if possible) but definatly greater than zero (0). I would assume that these folks showed up via the power of search engines.

This means that my less than 7 day old blog with, statistically speaking, zero(0) readers is more able to be found than the technology on most tech transfer web sites. I, by doing essentially nothing, am more findable than the technology that I need to find to do my job.

This boogles my mind. Stanford, which spawned google, is not well indexed. I can take a descriptive paragraph from their web page and paste it in to google and get no hits. I can take the subject and boil it down a bit (thus broaden it) and not get back their page. Making it tighter gets me fewer hits, but still doesn't get me the page. This means that even when I know what I want, I can't find it.

I am picking on Stanford here just to make a point, not becuase I think any of the other sites are any better. I rarely get Tech transfer offices to pop up in my google hits. I can find the inventor by using google with some search terms of stuff I am looking for, contact them, and then from there may make it to the tech transfer office. Alternativly, knowing where the person works I can look up the tech transfer office (Google not so useful for even this, have to be an AUTM member really to get that done) and contact them or search their site. Most sites seem to brag that they don't list all their technology and that I should contact them in order to see if they have what I am looking for. The only problem with this is that I am likely not in your time zone (random chance as I travel a lot) and it is probably late at night when I do a search or have time to call. So then I have to make a note to call you. That gets pushed down the priority list and I don't get to it for awhile. This doesn't help either one of us.

Another part of what I said above really gets to how tech transfer offices say people come to them. For the most part they say their leads come to them via the inventor. Of course they do. Read the paragraph above. I can't get direct to you as I can't find your site. If I haven't been to a universities site before, or they have moved it since I last was, they are really hard to find. There is no direct way to get there from the front page of a university web site unless you know where you are going. They are all called something different (tech transfer office, licensing office, knowledge transfer office.... blah blah blah) so you may get it wrong on first shot. SO - the only way, reliably, to get in is via the inventor. You have their name, can look up a paper or google them, and get the contact info. From the tech transfer offices point of view, we got to them from the inventor. Why can't I find the site in Google? Use Meta tags in the header of your web site in order to cover all the names that I list above and any others you think of.

So, there is my soap box for today. This came to a head as I just plain couldn't find anyone to talk to at this University this week. I gave in and just called the main operator. They directed me to the facilities department. This is garbage. Someone at the University filed the patent, so must be able to license the thing. The inventor is on vacation, so currently they are no help.

....and yes I was dealing with contracts all day, so all numbers shall be spelled out with a (0) following them.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Tech Scouting as a job...fun in Business Development

Part of my job is finding new technology for my company.

SO - I get a ton of emails every day from people (university tech transfer offices, professors, other companies) trying to get me to take their stuff off of their hands in exchange for a pot of money. I would say that 900% of what I am offered is really COOL stuff, but for which there is no way on earth to sell it or make it in to a product. All 5 people on the planet who could use/buy that already have it and possibly participated in developing it. To them, it is obviously the most important bit of technology on the earth, and we should pay dearly for it.

University tech transfer offices protect me from most of the inventors, but I was on the phone the other day with one and the question was "Why don't you want my stuff", and my response was "We don't think we can sell it and make money, but I do agree that it is really clever and pretty cool". His response was "Hah, I will take it and crush you like bugs", which I can respect. If he does, I will feel like a twit, but I can't say I wish him the best of luck. I am not trying to be a jerk, but I am also not trying to accumulate as much useless technology as I can for the highest price possible.

The amount of stuff that is USEFUL is very small. Some USEFUL is COOL, but not all. Most COOL is not USEFUL. Where USEFUL is defined as something that either is or can become a product and COOL is defined as something where I go "OOOOOHHHHH, shiny shiny" Example of NOT COOL but VERY USEFUL is tissue culture media. Invitrogen sells an absolute ton of the stuff, which in this business defines USEFUL. I have rarely (ever?) heard someone go "Tissue Culture media is SO COOL...oh my god!!!!!!!!" PCR, when it came out (and even today, but now somewhat deadened to it by the passage of time) was both COOL and USEFUL. I don't have a good example of COOL but not USEFUL, as by definintion not many other people would know what I was talking about.

Much of cool is a subset of the term used by an excellently foul mouthed professor in the department I got my Ph.D. in. To whit "Molecular Masturbation" which referred to the desire of people to put up slides showing how they had been particularly clever at cloning something and had done some very neat, and long, steps to get a construct built. The thing was, what they had wasn't particularly more useful than what they had started with but at least it had taken them a long time to make it. That had to be good for something.

Or maybe I missed something.

Those talks rarely had any data in them.

Southern CA vs Mass.

So, I was recently on a trip in Chicago. Hot and Humid.

I talk to people in Boston, Hot and Humid (except in winter when it is -300)

I realize I really like southern CA.

Northern CA is nice to, but it makes Southern CA look like a cheap place to live.

Used to live in Boston (biotech...not a lot of places in the country to live)... and I hated both summer and winter. Spring, when we had it. NICE. Fall, I am a big fan of.

Maybe makes me less of a man, but I can admit to thinking the leaves when turning were beutiful.

the MpX 220 sucks camel balls

I have an MpX220, and I have updated the firmware 2X so far and it still sucks camel balls.

It shuts off when I am done with a call, unless I hang up before flipping closed the lid. Sometimes it just shuts off becuase it is bored. I can think of no other reason. I have now trained myself to check on my phone occasionally just to make sure it is on, which is a bit stupid. The device should work the way I do, not the other way around.

It loses track of time. Sometimes it just decides that it is last year now. Once it decided it was 10 years from now. That would be less annoying if it didn't change the month and day and time as well, as I can keep track of what year it is. The rest.... not so good at.

At my work, I go to the basement and I lose signal... that is fine. When I come back upstairs I would expect it to get back the signal... Thanks for playing. Won't repick up signal unless I shut it off and turn it back on.

I don't know if the problem is the phone, which would be motorola's fault, or the software which would be microsofts fault,

So I want one of these.... moto Q as that is obviously the answer. The problem is that it runs Microsoft sofware as an operating system as well....and it's a Motorola. SO - the fact that my current motorola running a Microsoft operating system makes me unhappy should mean that I should learn from my mistakes. Fat chance of that happening, as I do suffer from "shiny shiny" syndrome, and must have new toy.

So, here I am. I love the way the MpX220 sync's with Outlook, as I now have the same contacts/phone numbers on my Phone, Palm, and outlook. This rules. I will never be able to tolerate a phone with less than this ability. BUT - it can't be counted on to actually behave as it should, so I don't trust it.

And now I want it's grandchild.

These folks can kick your ass.... no matter who you are

Hyenna Man

Photo's from Pieter Hugo that are all good.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Biosource and Invitrogen

Strategically, looks like a good buy, but BioSource, if I am reading the financials right, is barely profitable. This makes the price a bit off, but they obviously weren't bought for the short term shot in the arm of cash.

$680,000 in Q1 '05

losses overall for every previous year. I hope, and acutally find likely, that they were doing something to burn all that money. I am too lazy to read, but it looks like they wrote something off that made them not profitable last year. If they hadn't they would have squeezed out a profit. SG&A is really big.

In other news, this puts Invitrogen on the map as far as antibodies and ELISA's.

Scoble tells a bit of the kryptonite lock saga from the kryptonite lock side.

I think this shows the danger of blogs (and the power, as those are just two sides of the coin).

Blogs have an immediacy. I think, in this regard, they are like 24 hour news channells. You can rely on both to tell you very quickly that SOMETHING has gone on...MAYBE. You just know there is some sort of disturbance, but you don't neccesarily know what the disturbance is. The early reports will be wrong (or not...). The ones that aren't wrong, will crow about it later, and in borrowing a page from the news media will, with exceptions (similar to the news media) not talk about the misses.

A great whack of the blogosphere is like this site, which I don't think anyone reads and is for me to just type things in to so that I trap my thoughts....People just putting their musings out there and maybe some other people reading them. It is possible that news is found here, but I would be pretty shocked! Opinions, you will find here. Knitting instructions, you should look elsewhere, but I don't doubt that such sites exist.

?A communication medium? Yes, just like Press Releases, web pages, giving seminars at scientific meetings, flyers, sponsorships of meetings/groups, sales people and chanels, and any other way that the company talks to and hears from customers. No better or worse than any of the above, just different. Where the blogosphere gets in trouble, is for faulting companies for not paying attention to THEM, even if the company thinks (as Kryptonite did) that the other chanells of communication are more important and need to be dealt with more immediatly. For them, as they say in the interview that Scoble points at, it was judged that dealing with dealers was more important. They did that. Sales seem OK, so they must be doing something right. Faulting them for not paying attention to the Blogosphere is wrong. They payed attention to what they thought would help the customers first and formost. Apparently they thought that was dealers and not Blogs.

The come back to this is "It would only take a few minutes", which I think ignores the way larger corporate web sites work, and the legal review that statements from the company would (and have to ) go through. You don't just put up a quick note saying "We screwed up", as you would then expect to see that in a law suit against you later.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Invitrogen buys Biosource

$130 Million for Biosource

Approx 44 million in revenue.

Those are some decent multiples.

Makes playing in this space a bit harder!

Monday, July 25, 2005

WSJ online

1 year ago I got the Wall Street Journal online by using airmiles. I worry that the airlines won't be around, so I burn air miles on essentially anything that is interesting to me.

I don't read it much.

I really know I should, and that there is stuff there that I should care about, but there really doesn't seem to be. I would say that they get the big picture really well, but when it gets time to get details about deals or the goings on of a particular market, the WSJ misses.

So... my subsciption runs out this week and I won't be renewing.

Google vs MS maps

Google is in color (at least of my house). MS is Black and white.

Google has the 8 yr old housing complex on it. MS doesn't.

Google zooms in further on my house (all the way, vs 1 click up on MS) (And no I don't know wha that means, but it (to my untrained eye) looks better on the google side). I *think* the resolution of the pic is better, but maybe it being in color just fools me.

Google, when given the address of my house, gets the right house. MS puts me at the other end of the block on the other side of the street.

That said, the fact that I can even write the last paragraph with a straight face tells you where things stand today. MS misses by 5 houses (and I can tell that from the picture they show me).... bummer. Even last year I didn't think that would be possible. I was still digging around random NASA web sites to get pictures of the neighborhood I lived in.

Yes, MS is in "beta" etc... disclaimer disclaimer disclaimer. How ofter do I have to go back to see if I like what they are doing? If google isn't broken why will I look around? This makes me wonder about what they are thinking.

Maybe not enough people try these things in the early stages and so they don't worry about people getting set in their ways. Maybe the splash isn't big enough? One can make all the jokes you like about MS not getting things right until the third release, but it seems like with this they should be getting it right faster.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The way I see blogging.

Blogs have to take the place of something. I have x hours per day to select what to do with. I have to go to work. I live in southern California, so I have to sit in traffic. I choose to play with my daughter and talk to my wife. The rest of the time is up for grabs. I read a lot of newspapers (online, but still...) and other web sites (Slashdot, ESPN, Groklaw) to see what is going on with the world. Then I have free time in which I play computer games, work around the house etc....

SO, where do blogs fit in to this. I subsribe via FeedDemon, to places where the people either entertain me or inform me. I don't look to blogs to help with with current events for the most part, as they are in general just repackaging the content from the original sources, and I am already reading that. Can I read it all? No, but most of the content sites are just redistributing the AP newswire anyway for the beginning, and after that it is all Op-Ed anyway so I don't have to waste a lot of time with that.

Rober Scoble, amongst many others (Hugh - cluetrain manifesto etc...) , has blogs as a conversation with customers. Could be... but I don't really look at those with any sort of unbiased eye. Most of the breaking stories will come from other sites, not from internal folks who could lose their jobs. After that they are just marketing sites and I can get my spin from any number of places besides them. Many of these folks trot out the Kryptonite lock debacle as an example of how not to do things. Have to say though, that if you look at the financials, that Kryptonite wasn't affected by the whole thing so I don't think Blogs have the power that is advertised.

Others (and I am being a bit lazy here, so not cites) have blogs as replacing news media. This is, I think, totally bunk. I can see blogs wiping out the Op-Ed pages, but I don't think most people on the planet would notice if that happened. I want to know the bias of my reporters, and I want the info NOW. An individual blogger can be in 1 place to see things. What if they aren't where the action is? Then they are just re-packaging primary sources. I would rather read the primary sources. Looked at this way, the "Old Media" is just a 'feed collection' from reporters around the world. Oh yeah, in general they spell check well too. One can argue about "old media" getting stories mangled and reporting bogusness, but I don't see anyone tracking individual blogs for their accuracy so I don't really know how to compare them. As long as you are willing to admit that everyone, 'professional journalists' included, are biased and you understand the bias's then you can sort of work back to what might have happened.

So, in the end, what do I see? I see a lot of blogs being done because people like doing them. I see a lot of people reading some of them and them coming and going over time. I see some people making some money off of them and the rest of the people just having a place they can write and have the world see it. I don't see the whole world media order being stood on it's head. At the end of the day, it is just another outlet for people like me to read stuff that might be interesting, informative, or funny.

Interesting Valuation....

Why, when I can look at all your financials up to the end of last month, would you ask for 4X last years revenue when I can see that your revenue is tanking this year and you will go from solidly in the black to just going to break even? Am I supposed to take you seriously? Do you think we will start the conversation with that number? I must be missing something in this M+A game, bucuase from what I am seeing, a lot of people are nuts.

I realize Invitrogen has a lot of money and can buy at those multiples, but I have to say that at least they have the sense to buy companies that are growing not shrinking.

Takara - Clontech

I guess someone had to buy them, and I am pretty sure that every company in the US had a look and put in low bids. In retrospect, it is obvious that it had to be someone outside the US looking to build a base here and to use a known brand name.

Lot of money though....

First Post....


First post.