Corante

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: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Emolecules
ChemSpider
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
PubChem
Not Voodoo
DailyMed
Druglib
Clinicaltrials.gov

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
Kilomentor
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
ChemBark
Realizations in Biostatistics
Chemjobber
Pharmalot
ChemSpider Blog
Pharmagossip
Med-Chemist
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
SimBioSys
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Business|Bytes|Genes|Molecules
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Depth-First
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa


Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
FuturePundit
Aetiology
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Sciencebase
Pharyngula
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net


Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
GruntDoc
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine


Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem


Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Instapundit
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus


Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« More on Alex Denner | Main | Riding to the Rescue of Rhodanines »

December 5, 2011

Naming Your Company After Yourself

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

This morning's post got me to thinking - are there any examples of modern biopharma companies that have taken the name of their founder and come out well? Back in Ye Olde Days, that was the default setting, of course, as it was for most companies. If you founded an industrial concern, you either named the thing after yourself, or called it something dead-on obvious like The American Rubber Gasket Company. There's no telling what people would have thought in 1882 if you'd decided to call your company some. . .made-up word instead.

But I'm trying to think of a successful last-name-of-founder drug company in recent years, and I'm drawing a blank. Am I missing something, or should we put this on the list of potential warning signs?

Comments (60) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Industry History


COMMENTS

1. alig on December 5, 2011 12:19 PM writes...

Much easier to have a clean field for trademarks if you use a made-up word

Permalink to Comment

2. Robert Bruce Thompson on December 5, 2011 12:26 PM writes...

Well, it was 1892, but George Eastman named Eastman Kodak both for himself and with a made-up word.

Permalink to Comment

3. weirdo on December 5, 2011 12:41 PM writes...

Dr. Reddy's?

Permalink to Comment

4. milkshake on December 5, 2011 12:43 PM writes...

Companies named after their founders: Janssen Pharmaceuticals is (was) a legend. In a more recent example, Draper laboratory next door from our company is apparently doing swell on defense-related research, they were even hiring medicinal chemists recently for some government contract research. And of course Strem chemicals. (Aldrich counts too - one of the founders named it after his girlfriend). And then there is the old Merck family and the Pfizer family.

The proliferation of letter X in biopharma names these days is cringeworthy!

Permalink to Comment

5. MTK on December 5, 2011 12:44 PM writes...

Derek, I don't think you're missing a thing here.

Permalink to Comment

6. weirdo on December 5, 2011 12:47 PM writes...

And in the "too early to tell" category, we have Dart Neurosciences.

Permalink to Comment

7. bbooooooya on December 5, 2011 12:51 PM writes...

Hollis Eden....No
Mannkind.....No
PTIE (lead drug Remoxy...).....nope
Oclassen Pharma did OK (buyout by WPI)

Another warning sign, in my experience, is biotechs that change names. As far as I know, the only one to succeed is Gilead, which started life as Oligogen. I'm sure there must be others, but I have never actually come across.

Permalink to Comment

8. Industry Guy on December 5, 2011 12:55 PM writes...

uhhh...Boehringer qualify?

Permalink to Comment

9. Myma on December 5, 2011 12:58 PM writes...

Alza
after Dr Alejandro Zaffaroni the founder himself

Permalink to Comment

10. Oscar on December 5, 2011 1:03 PM writes...

Strem?

Permalink to Comment

11. geezer on December 5, 2011 1:08 PM writes...

Kosan Biosciences (Chaitan Khosla & Dan Santi). Acquired by BMS in 2008. Not sure if that would be hailed as success or not.

Permalink to Comment

12. Dave on December 5, 2011 1:14 PM writes...

Search engines love made up words, particularly ones that are not phonetically near any real words, thus giving you a small leg up in marketing. Most names, on the other hand, have absolutely horrible search-ability.

Permalink to Comment

13. noname on December 5, 2011 1:18 PM writes...

Sugen:

Schlessinger + Ullrich + GEN.

They invented Sutent and got bought by Pharmacia

Permalink to Comment

14. MTK on December 5, 2011 1:21 PM writes...

I believe Boehringer was founded in the 1800's, so I wouldn't call that recent.

I think we're talking in the last decade or two.

It's certainly more en vogue these days to come up with a new word somewhat related to what you're doing than naming it for yourself.

It makes a lot of sense to given how people use search engines. If you're working in antivirals it's certainly going to be a lot easier for people to find you if your name is Virallus than if it's Williams Pharma, or whatever your name happens to be.

Permalink to Comment

15. newnickname on December 5, 2011 1:25 PM writes...

After reading the first Harry Potter books I wanted to name a biotech "Snape Pharmaceuticals" but he turns out to be a good guy at the end (I am told; I haven't read them all). I'll have to go with "Voldemort Pharmaceuticals" instead. It will attract lots of VC as it's something they can easily identify with.

Do acronyms count? PARS (a small Boston biotech, now defunct) was from the initials of its four founders' last names. Maybe that's why they are now RIP.

Not a drug co but used to make drugs, Waters (now a part of Millipore) was named after Waters.

Permalink to Comment

16. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on December 5, 2011 1:32 PM writes...

MannKind

Permalink to Comment

17. CMCguy on December 5, 2011 1:34 PM writes...

I wouldn't think VC/Boards would allow this practice these days since when they decide to replace the CEO/CFO later its hard to disassociate the person from the company. I recall there were many small start-ups in the 80s and 90s that bore founder/family names but not sure who may have survived and/or changed names.

Permalink to Comment

18. The Devil wears Pfizer on December 5, 2011 1:46 PM writes...

Don't know if this counts but how about Glaxo...

Before Girolami, wasn't it just called Laxo...?

Permalink to Comment

19. tomb on December 5, 2011 1:51 PM writes...

Concert Pharmaceuticals. Roger Tong.

Permalink to Comment

20. pete on December 5, 2011 1:52 PM writes...

A little tangential - but here in the Bay Area a number of years back, a Japanese Biotech popped-up called "Y's Therapeutics".

At the time I pictured a Shogun founder. But in reality I believe the "Y" was intended to convey the shape of an antibody.

Permalink to Comment

21. Nick K on December 5, 2011 2:18 PM writes...

Rexahn Rharmaceuticals, after founder Carl Ahn.

Permalink to Comment

22. Jon on December 5, 2011 2:22 PM writes...

I see Ys and I think JRPG. Which also probably wasn't what they were going for, unless you're making a game about our plucky bench chemist going against upper management MBAs.

Permalink to Comment

23. armadillo on December 5, 2011 2:59 PM writes...

@21: RUH ROH!

Permalink to Comment

24. newnickname on December 5, 2011 3:03 PM writes...

Also not a Drug Co, but biotech related: Some of you in the Boston area might use the services of a local scientific glassblower named "Xxxxs Glass". The owner is not Xxxxs but Yyyy. I asked him why it isn't called "Yyyys Glass" and he told me that his lawyer told him NOT to name a company after himself to avoid all kinds of possible headaches down the road. There is another Boston area scientific glassblower that IS named after the founder; they make quartz harmonicas, too.

Permalink to Comment

25. Adam Feuerstein on December 5, 2011 6:03 PM writes...

Derek -- I have always viewed any modern bio-pharma company named after a founder as a very large red flag (see: Al Mann -- Mannkind)

A corollary to this rule: Be wary of anyone who names a drug after himself. (Rubitecan -- Joseph Rubinfeld, Supergen)

Permalink to Comment

26. milkshake on December 5, 2011 6:15 PM writes...

Who cares about some lousy company or drug name - one day I shall name a reaction after myself...

Permalink to Comment

27. Anonymous on December 5, 2011 6:26 PM writes...

Tanox, bought by Genentech...the founder (Tan) and her Chinese astrology sign (Ox)

Permalink to Comment

28. Student on December 5, 2011 6:34 PM writes...

If you're naming after yourself, you are trying to shape everyone's vision of you (legacy).
If you name it after something else you are trying to project your vision.

In an industry where creativity and ingenuity must trump numbers (company size, profits, etc.) for success, I think we can see why legacy companies don't stick around long. You might be able to push widget making but you can't with drugs.

Permalink to Comment

29. CMCguy on December 5, 2011 6:38 PM writes...

#25 Adam Feuerstein I am curious as to why you consider this "a very large red flag". I can't say I myself am favor of naming after an individual mainly because success will depend on much more than a single person. At the same time this makes more sense than many of the made up "catchy sounding pseudo related to what we do" tags that get thrown out today. Historically the Abbott's, Lilly's, Merck's, Welcome's, etc. all had responsible people who took extra care to have meaning reputation associated with the name whereas now does not always appear to be a passing consideration.

Milkshake I think that getting Name Reaction has been the dream of most Synthetic Chemists however with modern search tools not sure has same value this one held.

Permalink to Comment

30. Anonymous on December 5, 2011 8:11 PM writes...

Cook Pharmica in Bloomington founded 2004.

Permalink to Comment

31. french chem on December 5, 2011 8:37 PM writes...

Remember two french compagnies = Pierre Fabre and Servier !

Permalink to Comment

32. Anonymous on December 5, 2011 8:40 PM writes...

How about Roche. Oh, I forgot they don't count because they layoff talent and retain a lot of unknown with limited to no track record!! If the Hoffmann's only knew what was going on over in Nutley NJ........

Permalink to Comment

33. Anonymous on December 5, 2011 9:39 PM writes...

Chiesi from Italy

Permalink to Comment

34. Sisyphus on December 5, 2011 11:01 PM writes...

Michael Scott Paper Company.

Permalink to Comment

35. MolecularConductor on December 5, 2011 11:43 PM writes...

Alcon

Permalink to Comment

36. Anonymous BMS Researcher on December 5, 2011 11:46 PM writes...

As Derek notes, in olden times it was common for company founders to name companies after themselves. In the 19th century two guys named Bristol and Myers started a partnership, and a guy named Squibb started his own eponymous pharma company. In the 20th century, B-M merged with Squibb to form BMS.

Permalink to Comment

37. Indy on December 5, 2011 11:50 PM writes...

Alexza: Another company founded by Dr Alejandro Zaffaroni

Permalink to Comment

38. Prabhdeep on December 6, 2011 12:08 AM writes...

Ranbaxy! Named after the founders - Ranbir & Gurbax

Permalink to Comment

39. Vince on December 6, 2011 12:14 AM writes...

I was working for Logicon when we were bought by Northrop Grumman. In a fit of imagination, they renamed us Business Unit #5. We promptly requested business cards with Borg designations.

Permalink to Comment

40. David on December 6, 2011 1:42 AM writes...

A very informative and often very funny blog - congratulations, Alex

Permalink to Comment

41. PharmaFTE on December 6, 2011 2:52 AM writes...

Glenmark, named after the founder's two sons

Permalink to Comment

42. A Nonny Mouse on December 6, 2011 2:53 AM writes...

How about Glenmark named and Mr Glenn and Mr Mark, 2 brothers who have since had a falling out. "Mr Mark", the younger brother has since fallen out with his sibling and set up another "Glenmark".

Permalink to Comment

43. PharmaFTE on December 6, 2011 2:55 AM writes...

@ A Nonny Mouse: First! :-)

Permalink to Comment

44. A Nonny Mouse on December 6, 2011 4:13 AM writes...

Met "Mr Mark" in India and saw the paracetamol plant in Goa which was to supply paracetamol tablets to the UK supermarkets- interestingly, I had a pack of paracetamol in my bag which I had brought from the UK all the way back to where it had been produced!

Permalink to Comment

45. schinderhannes on December 6, 2011 6:07 AM writes...

@26 Yo milkshake, please name it "milkshake rearrangement" and not after your real name, otherwise we´d never find out.
Reading your blog you are on my shortlist for people that might actually achieve their goal!
Good luck!

Permalink to Comment

46. Jerry on December 6, 2011 6:31 AM writes...

Certainly not recent, and it's been a few years since they've been involved in pharmaceuticals, but:

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

Permalink to Comment

47. Anonymous on December 6, 2011 6:48 AM writes...

Johnson and Johnson (Robert, Jim and Ed Johnson)
Janssen pharmaceuticals (Dr. Paul Janssen)
Eli Lilly (Mr. Eli Lilly)
Bristol Myers Squibb (William Bristol, John Myers and Ed Squibb)
Abbott Labs (Aallace Abbott)
Procter and Gamble (William Procter & James Gamble)

Permalink to Comment

48. RB Woodweird on December 6, 2011 7:05 AM writes...

When can we look forward to the founding of Lowe Tech?

Permalink to Comment

49. A Nonny Mouse on December 6, 2011 7:08 AM writes...

#51

Forgot my old employers

Boroughs Wellcome

Permalink to Comment

50. Larry on December 6, 2011 8:27 AM writes...

Wilson Greatbatch (now known as Greatbatch on the stock exchange). Not a biotech but makers of the implantable pacemaker and batteries.

Permalink to Comment

51. milkshake on December 6, 2011 10:34 AM writes...

@48: My friend works for a firm named Dames and Moore. Every times he hears the name of his employer an image of escort service springs up.

Permalink to Comment

52. Junius Ponds on December 6, 2011 11:34 AM writes...

Miltenyi Biotec was founded in 1989 and named for one of its founders. It may not be prominent enough for you since it only has a German-language Wikipedia page, but it's one of the most essential suppliers for immunologists.

Permalink to Comment

53. Junius Ponds on December 6, 2011 11:38 AM writes...

Specifically on drug companies ... the "Coulter" half of Beckman Coulter was founded a mere 53 years ago, and they claim to be some sort of drug company.

Permalink to Comment

54. NJBiologist on December 6, 2011 12:28 PM writes...

@48 RB Woodweird--After a fashion, it's already happened. In the cartoon "Get Fuzzy", the main character graduated from Lowe Tech. You can find their t-shirts on the internet, so it must be a real school.

Permalink to Comment

55. Anonymous on December 6, 2011 3:02 PM writes...

And a compound of note: Rimonabant, named after inventors Rimona and Barth.

Permalink to Comment

56. anon on December 7, 2011 2:32 AM writes...

Milkshake - spot on about the reaction

NJ Biologist - I got get me one

Permalink to Comment

57. anon2 on December 7, 2011 4:39 AM writes...

Axel Ullrich is actually famous for that:

Sugen, see #13

Axxima was his second venture (I think it went bankrupt somewhen in the mid-2000s during the german biotech drought and parts were acquired by GPC, now Agennix) and

U3, the third one, was acquired by Daiichi in 2008 and

Kinaxo, now part of Evotech

Permalink to Comment

58. DSM on December 8, 2011 9:01 AM writes...

Piramal has been quite successful

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piramal_Healthcare

Permalink to Comment

59. Secondaire on December 9, 2011 2:13 PM writes...

This reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my labmates in grad school.

Me: Do you have [some obscure reagent here]?
Him: No, but I do know someone who does.
Me: Who is it?
Him: Guy named Aldrich. First name, Sigma.

Permalink to Comment

60. Anonymous on December 26, 2011 4:55 PM writes...

Almac Discovery - named after Almac's inspirational founder Sir Allen McClay and based near Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Permalink to Comment

POST A COMMENT




Remember Me?



EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO A FRIEND

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):




RELATED ENTRIES
The Worst Seminar
Conference in Basel
Messed-Up Clinical Studies: A First-Hand Report
Pharma and Ebola
Lilly Steps In for AstraZeneca's Secretase Inhibitor
Update on Alnylam (And the Direction of Things to Come)
There Must Have Been Multiple Chances to Catch This
Weirdly, Tramadol Is Not a Natural Product After All