About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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June 10, 2010

Nativis: In Which the Distant Footfalls of Lawyers Can Be Heard

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Posted by Derek

I've received a letter from John Kingma, the Chief Financial Officer of Nativis. I reproduce it below word-for-word (Here's the PDF of the original, in case anyone would like to check):

Dear Dr. Lowe,

The scientific nature of your blog seems to have taken a turn for the worse with the negative personal attacks on John and Lisa Butters and othe rmatters related to Nativis. The comments have gone far beyond reasoned scientific debate, skepticism and criticism. In fact, the overall tone seems to have degenerated into something resembling the Internet bulletin boards of old, with personal attacks, sexual comments and statements that may well amount to libel and defamation of character.

It appears to us that that the same person, using multiple names, is responsible for many of the negative personal comments (indications are that this is a person who bears a personal grudge against John Butters, and who now seems intent on ruining his reputation and that of Nativis). It seems clear to us that you have permitted unprofessional, bizarre, and even potentially activity prohibited by law to be conducted by this commenter and others on your blog site, activity that clearly overrides the scientific debate.

No one in the Nativis family has experienced anything so outrageous and unprofessional as the content of your blog site. I don't know if the current non-scientific banter is what you intended for your blog - essentially now a forum for personal attacks. Not only have you allowed theses attacks to be posted, you have also been selective in posting (screening out) information that would be more favorable to Nativis, such as the positive pre-clinical research data that John Butters provided you, showing how drug signal therapy reduced tumors in mouse models.

Moreover, apart from personal attack comments, your blog also contains comments from a person who announced his attempts to gain access to Nativis's facility. In fact, he visited Nativis's site, posing as a representative of your blog, The Pathfinder. When he was turned away by security, he reportedly took photographs or videos through office windows. His actions were reported and encouraged on your site. His actions may well have been illegal.

We have asked counsel to take a look at what is happening on your blog and the activities by commenters promoted there, and to recommend a course of action. But everyone at Nativis would rather get past this unfortunate situation and spend 100 percent of our time advancing our technology.

In that regard, may we suggest that in the best interest of all parties that you moderate your blog, focus on the scientific debate, delete all personal attacks and prevent personal attacks from occurring in the future? That would seem fair and reasonable, while also keeping the scientific debate going.

Thank you, in advance, for the consideration. I look forward to your response.


John E. Kingma
Chief Financial Officer

Well. I suppose that the rest of this post should begin with "Dear Mr. Kingma:"

I am, as you see, in receipt of your letter of June 9. Allow me to comment on it, so that we may understand each other.

Your first objection is that the tone of some of the comments to my two posts on Nativis have "gone far beyond reasoned scientific debate". A less charitable observer might say that the claims that Nativis makes for its technology have long since occupied that territory. But I've actually tried to be charitable. Until your letter arrived, most of the criticism I'd received from readers and colleagues in the industry was that I'd been far too tolerant in my discussion of your company.

Your CEO, in addition to sending me papers on such disparate subjects as the Mossbauer effect (and offering generously to send along a large book on quantum electrodynamics), did indeed provide a graph of what is said to be the effect of your most advanced. . .well, let's call it a "therapeutic agent" in a mouse model. This does not help me as much as you seem to believe it does. Imagine some other company claiming that they can show effects in a mouse xenograft model though the intervention of invisible pink unicorns - and providing a dose-response curve as proof. Extraordinary claims, which yours surely are, require extraordinary evidence, and I don't see how you can possibly provide enough in a blog forum to convince your critics. Besides, this would be a waste of your time. You will surely be generating a tremendous amount of data in preparation for your company's IND application, and I certainly can't ask you to share all of it. Convince the FDA, and you'll have gone a long way to convincing everyone else.

Now, to your observations about my blog's comment section: I do not actively moderate it, except to occasionally remove duplicate posts. No real moderation has been needed: the tone of discussion around here is unusually civil, for the most part. It's especially so compared to the rest of the blog world and the Internet as a whole - not just "of old", but every day of the week. If no one in the "Nativis family" has ever experienced anything so outrageous as the contents of this blog, permit me to observe that you appear to have led sheltered lives.

Believe me, you will hear worse from other people as you go on developing your company's approach to drug therapy. I mean this in the best possible way, but the material that Nativis uses to explain and promote its technology does not inspire confidence in trained observers. I assume that you're well aware of this; if you're not, you should be. And that's fine - huge breakthroughs in the sciences often have that effect on people. But the problem is, nonsense has the same effect. If I may quote the late Carl Sagan on this very problem, "They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Einstein. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

Your company's claims are so startling, and so far beyond what most scientists would assume to be possible, that you truly have no alternative but to fall into one of those two categories. A red nose, a fuzzy wig, and floppy shoes are waiting for anyone who makes such claims. Your job is avoid being fitted for them. To that end, you do not have to convince me, or any random bunch of people on the internet. You have to convince the patent offices, the journal editors, and the regulatory authorities. My advice is to devote your time and effort to that task, and to stop worrying about what people say about you on blogs.

Worse things have been said on this site about other (far larger) companies; worse things are said all over the internet a thousand times a second. I certainly do not endorse the making of defamatory comments about people, but I fear that some of the very comments you might object to might not be seen that way by every observer. If I start taking down every comment that offends anyone who writes to me, there will be no end to it.

If you read my posts, you will see that I have not encouraged anyone to engage in illegal conduct. That goes for the entire 8-year archives of the blog, for that matter. I did not encourage anyone to visit your site in any way, and did not comment when someone reported that they did so. I live and work on the other side of the country from you, and my readers are responsible for their own actions. By the way, if the person you speak of did identify themselves as a representative of "The Pathfinder", as you state, then their connection to a blog called "In the Pipeline" is unclear.

As to whether some individual is engaging in a campaign of defamation against your company and your CEO, I can see no evidence of that in my blog's records. The uncomplimentary comments seem, from what I can tell, to have come in from a wide variety of separate sources - you truly have brought people together. On the other hand, some of the glowing endorsements and defenses of your company have come in under different names from the exact same IP addresses. Make of that what you will.

Mr. Kingma, you (and John Butters, and all the other officers and employees at Nativis) should be out there working to revolutionize the entire drug industry. If you can do what you say you can, that's exactly what will happen. Any scientist on the trail of something this wonderful, this huge - and potentially this profitable - would not allow anything to deter them from claiming their place in history. Go do that. I'll be overjoyed if you manage to pull it off. But having heard, after only two blog posts, from both the CEO and the CFO of your company makes me wonder about how you choose to use your time.


Derek Lowe

Comments (138) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blog Housekeeping | Regulatory Affairs | Snake Oil


1. SRC on June 10, 2010 12:45 PM writes...

OK, that tears it. They should just put Kevin Trudeau on the SAB and be done with it.

Kudos on your response, Derek. People who have the goods will usually bore you to tears with details. People who threaten skeptics to silence them generally have bupkis.

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2. anchor on June 10, 2010 12:50 PM writes...

Derek: Bravo! The people who contribute to your blog are well trained scientists (chemists, biologists and others), who have seen lot more failures on a day to day basis working for major pharmaceutical companies. We can all see and separate truth from fiction. My problem with the Nativis is that their claim is "too good to be true". I trust my other friends can chime here as well. I thank you for bringing to this forum the "guard dog" mentality and not that of a lap dog. Thanks again.

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3. MTK on June 10, 2010 12:55 PM writes...

Seems that one side effect of photonic-based therapies is thin skin.

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4. Biotech on June 10, 2010 12:57 PM writes...


I am not pharm guy although I had a pharmaceutical degree. I just moved to Boston area, if you need someone to punch this "elite", feel free to let me know. Good blog!

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5. alig on June 10, 2010 1:07 PM writes...

Dear Mr Kingma and Mr. Butters,

You have the same character as Mr. Kevin Trudeau and Mr. Madoff.

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6. Hap on June 10, 2010 1:08 PM writes...

I assume they read the blog (and the comments about visiting Nativis) and saw that someone had visited and put two and two together. Of course, what exactly that has to do legally with Dr. Lowe is...unclear.

The internet isn't moderated. If you threaten people who question your theories or actions, your threats will be readily available to anyone who wants to find out about you, which would be something the people at Nativis might want to keep in mind.

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7. Sili on June 10, 2010 1:08 PM writes...

If no one in the "Nativis family" has ever experienced anything so outrageous as the contents of this blog, permit me to observe that you appear to have led sheltered lives.
That's what I thought. Heh. Should I ask the Pharynguloids to join in the fray? Just to make your regulars look like dainty little spinsters in comparison.
and offering generously to send along a large book on quantum electrodynamics
Ooooh! Can I have it if I promise to donate to your defence fund? Blake Stacey's pushed me to have a look at the Sidney Coleman lectures, but I definitely need some notes to read alongside.
Until your letter arrived, most of the criticism I'd received from readers and colleagues in the industry was that I'd been far too tolerant in my discussion of your company.
Yah. Sorry to say it, but you tend to be too kind. But I'm sure some here will level that accusation on you for your attitude to Anthropogenic Global Warming as well. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Thanks for sharing, dr Lowe. This is growing as much fun as LaClair.

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8. bbot on June 10, 2010 1:08 PM writes...

>In fact, the overall tone seems to have degenerated into something resembling the Internet bulletin boards of old, with personal attacks, sexual comments and statements that may well amount to libel and defamation of character.

Is he unfamiliar with the internet bulletin boards of Right Now, Currently? Personal attacks have not exactly gone out of favor.

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9. RB Woodweird on June 10, 2010 1:15 PM writes...

Reality doesn't need a lawyer.

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10. Brian Baldridge on June 10, 2010 1:15 PM writes...

Fantastically measured and professional response. Let the brigands retort!

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11. RB Woodweird on June 10, 2010 1:15 PM writes...

Who was it that said "Reality doesn't need a lawyer"?

Oh yeah, that was me.

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12. Laura on June 10, 2010 1:16 PM writes...

Imagine if the more ... colorful ... bloggers over on Scienceblogs (e.g., DrugMonkey and Isis the Scientist) were to have taken up this material.

What interested ME is that you didn't receive a letter from a lawyer, in house counsel or otherwise, from the named parties, but from the CFO. I am not sure what that tells me, but it is unusual in my mind.

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13. JasonP on June 10, 2010 1:23 PM writes...

OK hold on a minute:

"posing as a representative of your blog, The Pathfinder."

No I didn't, I said it here in the blog as a JOKE, but when I stopped by I gave my REAL name to the security guard and I asked if I could stop by, ask questions and inquire about job opportunities.

"When he was turned away by security, he reportedly took photographs or videos through office windows"

No, I did not, I took a picture of the sign out front, while standing on public property.

I DID look into the window, from the sidewalk leading out, as I was walking by, to see what I could, which was little, which is what I stated all in my post.

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14. JasonP on June 10, 2010 1:25 PM writes...

"sexual comments"

Oh come on. Well...unless you think Queen Elizibeth or Captain Kirk are sexy...

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15. LF Velez on June 10, 2010 1:39 PM writes...

I teach rhetoric for a living. If the nice people at Nativis want to cut any ice at all with pharma chemists, they might start by describing their products/MOA in ways that sound more like _chemistry_ and less like light-activated homeopathy. Simple as that.

I suspect the reviewers at the FDA would prefer that as well...

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16. Anonymous on June 10, 2010 1:42 PM writes...

Derek, how does this company's technology ring with you? This sounds like the same quackery as Nativis

"Scientists have discovered a way to customize a vitamin specifically for your body based on a DNA assessment. By analyzing a persons DNA, they are able to determine deficiencies within the body and design a vitamin so you know you are getting exactly what your body needs. This is going to change the health and wellness industry as we know it." ....from a company called GeneWise

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17. RandChemist on June 10, 2010 1:42 PM writes...


Talk about missing the point. Completely whiffed if.

Some of the criticisms have been harsh, but that is my opinion.

A number of good points have been made, especially that it was not a lawyer that wrote the response. Talk about trying to bluster!

All in all, the group here is pretty calm most of the time.

Organized? Ha. Paranoid much? Seems like.

Reminds me of the nervous lawyer character done by Martin Short on SNL. "I'm not being defensive....!"

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18. dearieme on June 10, 2010 1:43 PM writes...

"... in the Nativis family..": OFFS.

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19. leftscienceawhileago on June 10, 2010 1:46 PM writes...

Sad thing is a few linkedin profiles showed that they did hire people with have legit phds...

Shows you how desperate the postdoc life is these days...

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20. J-bone on June 10, 2010 1:53 PM writes...

Somebody predicted this would happen in one of the earlier Nativis threads, can't remember who. Something about a SLAAP lawsuit or something was mentioned.

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21. Dennis on June 10, 2010 1:56 PM writes...

"I do not actively moderate it, except to occasionally remove duplicate posts."

And what a tiring and never-ending task that must be.

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22. madkathy on June 10, 2010 2:01 PM writes...

Both letters made me laugh out loud. But to be completely fair, Derek, there is a typo in your reproduction that does not exist in the original letter from Mr. Kingma ("othe rmatters").

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23. Hap on June 10, 2010 2:07 PM writes...

I think "Be careful" or someone similar said that (t