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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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May 29, 2012

GSK and Immune Response: Not Quite An Amicable Divorce

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Posted by Derek

Update: Immune Response Biopharma CEO David Buswell has left a detailed comment to this point, pointing out that it was his company that ended talks with GSK, and not the other way around. See here for the details.

GlaxoSmithKline has decided not to pursue further development of a potential vaccine therapy for multiple sclerosis, dumping former partner Immune Response BioPharma. We get that sort of headline all the time in this business - deals come, and deals go. What we don't get are press releases like these. The full unaltered text:

"Immune Response BioPharma, Inc. has the first MS Vaccine a first in class and best in class multiple sclerosis drug which restores deficient FOXP3+ T-Regs. GSK has no approved MS drug and probably will never have one they are busy wasting their shareholders money on HGSI and a Lupus drug with poor sales, we don't need them or to give away our blockbuster drug for MS to them which we believe will become treatment of choice" IRBP CEO Mr. Buswell

"IRBP values NeuroVax north of a billion dollar of annual sales once approved. We will find a solid partner or raise capital on our own, we don't need GSK which has zer0 experience in multiple sclerosis or auto-immune diseases. GSK is a joke and seems very ignorant on how multiple sclerosis drugs work and how to develop one, we gave them a chance to develop NeuroVax but their management appears to be very poor. We have decided to terminate any collaboration or development with GSK. GSK is a loser in the MS market and will continue to be a loser" IRBP CEO Mr. Buswell

Y'know, in his way, this CEO is a breath of fresh air. Everyone thinks these things in such situations, but not many people put them out on the PR wires. This release seems to have transcribed directly from Mr. Buswell's (no doubt heated) statements at the time, which I'm sure accounts for the take-a-breath grammar. I'll follow NeuroVax's progress with interest to see who has the last laugh this time. . .

Comments (47) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | The Central Nervous System


1. PPedroso on May 29, 2012 6:50 AM writes...

"GSK is a loser in the MS market and will continue to be a loser"

The trolling is strong in this one... This just made my day! :D

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2. MTK on May 29, 2012 7:10 AM writes...

That's a press release, not just some off the cuff remark noted by a reporter?


If I were on the Board of Immune Response I'd can Mr. Buswell pronto. You can't have your CEO releasing public statements like that.

a) It hurts your chances of signing another deal if he's around.


b) If that type of undisciplined behavior is acceptable in the CEO what does that say to any employee in dealing with people internal and external to the company?

I will you grant you it's funny, but good God, if I was working for Immune Response I'd be embarrassed, even if I thought every word he said were true. And if I were an investor, I'd be very worried about my investment.

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3. anon the II on May 29, 2012 7:12 AM writes...

I think it's kind o funny that Derek got a double post, just like lots of those in the comment section do.

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4. MTK on May 29, 2012 7:23 AM writes...

I guess Mr. Buswell can do and say whatever damn well he pleases. According to the Immune Response website he's the COO, CFO, acting CEO, and Board Chairman.

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5. ToughChoices on May 29, 2012 7:26 AM writes...

An intemperate outburst if ever there was one. Actually, Mr Boswell appears to overlook GSK's preeminent position in vaccines which provides one of its strongest revenue streams. Perhaps he'd also like to know that Moncef Slaoui was intimately involved in a real breakthrough in malaria vaccine development, ( To suggest Moncef and quite a few others don't know quite a bit about basic immunology is, frankly, risible! Good look to Immune Response BioPharma, MS is certainly an area of unmet medical need but such rebarbative comment from their CEO will do little to enhance their product's prospects. I'm sure those who made the call at GSK had good scientific reasons to justify it and Mr Boswell's response may just convince them that they made the right call.

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6. Anonymous on May 29, 2012 7:30 AM writes...

Good 'look' to ToughChoices when the next round of redundancies hits GSK House

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7. overthetop on May 29, 2012 7:37 AM writes...

Sounds like somebody is a sore loser. It's about time GSK dropped duds like this. Usually GSK has a knack for picking and sticking with real losers.

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8. Nick K on May 29, 2012 7:43 AM writes...

ToughChoices (Agilist and several other names) is just the GSK troll, ever ready with a sycophantic post. Incidentally, why does he always refer to the senior managers by their first names?

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9. myma on May 29, 2012 7:49 AM writes...

He left off "and a ninny ninny boo boo too".

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10. Cromulent1 on May 29, 2012 7:51 AM writes...

Rebarbative. I plan to use that three times in conversation today. Excellent.

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11. ToughChoices on May 29, 2012 7:54 AM writes...

Amazing! You state something even mildly favorable to GSK and you're accused of being a shil/troll/pr type, etc, ad nauseum! Do you expect all comments to be negative and objurgatory, #8? As for use of first names, that's pretty standard at GSK as it is at many companies and is testament to a generally open, science-driven, non-hierarchical company!

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12. Anonymous on May 29, 2012 7:56 AM writes...

We all know GSK has made some, ahem, 'interesting' choices for partners over the last few years but did they really work with this outfit? Really?

Stick this Buswell character into google along with the company name and you come across come interesting stuff!

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13. qetzal on May 29, 2012 8:06 AM writes...

What kind of PR person posts a direct transcription of their CEO's ungrammatic, spittle-flecked tirades as a press release? And also manages to misspell "zer0"?

What do you want to bet Buswell is acting PR Director, as well as acting CEO etc., and released this himself? He sounds like a royal pain to work with. I'd hate to have been the person at GSK who had to manage that partnership. (Much less an employee at IRBP!)

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14. partial agonist on May 29, 2012 8:15 AM writes...

If this is how this guy is to outsiders and for public display, it is not hard to imagine that he must be about 10-fold worse to his day-to-day co-workers. Note to Immune Response BioPharma employees: It isn't worth putting up with that (crap).

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15. PPedroso on May 29, 2012 8:19 AM writes...


Probably we will be something along this lines:

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16. anon on May 29, 2012 8:20 AM writes...

He talks about MS, you talk about vaccines. Maybe you're both right, but your rebuttal isn't relevant.

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17. ToughChoices on May 29, 2012 8:23 AM writes...

Derek's post opens with "GlaxoSmithKline has decided not to pursue further development of a potential vaccine therapy for multiple sclerosis...."
Seems invoking the GSK vaccine defese is highly germane in this context!

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18. Anon the III on May 29, 2012 8:24 AM writes...

Well, it certainly made me chuckle more than another press release that came out this morning, which we won't discuss on Derek's blog...

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19. Jumbo on May 29, 2012 8:39 AM writes...

Derek: You left out the most important sentence - "Immune Response BioPharma, Inc. Terminates Blockbuster MS Drug NeuroVax Partnership Discusions (sic) With GSK." GSK isn't giving up on a partnership. It is giving up on the NEGOTIATION of a partnership. IRBp is complaining about the deal negotiation process; they haven't even concluded the partnership! So what alternative partner do you think would even negotiate with this CEO?!? My word.

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20. anon2 on May 29, 2012 9:07 AM writes...

Sounds like a guy who has just lost his girlfriend to his arch enemy, and now does not have anyone left to take to the prom.

GSK may have learned something about negotiating price in potential deals over the last few years (that is the least they should have learned), and may no longer be as gullable as they have been in the past...well maybe some of the time they have learned. Also, this may be an indication for biotech valuations coming down to reality, better reflecting any one's opportunity for achieving approval and registration and making profit. The "self-importance" seen within many biotechs, particularly those with very limited portfolio missing reality, simply reflects their need to compete with Wall Street and the likes of Apple...maybe they now need to rewind, and consider Facebook.....

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21. Rick Wobbe on May 29, 2012 9:14 AM writes...

Anon the III, 18, If you're talking about the press release I think you're talking about, it's worth discussing because it is a good example of the kind of news that can be easily misinterpreted as bad news. Hopefully, investors in the company that cannot be named are smarter than that. Other blogs have picked it up.

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22. watcher on May 29, 2012 9:14 AM writes...

Involving "divorce" in this title makes it so much more dramatic in sugggesting that a marriage already had already taken place. Not the case there was not even a formal agreed-upon "engagement" by both partied, let along their parents!

Discussions around potential deals come & go all the's just that when one party can't manipulate the other adequately, most of the time they don't lash out so strongly in response, even though they probably do carry similar sentiment.

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23. watcher on May 29, 2012 9:14 AM writes...

Involving "divorce" in this title makes it so much more dramatic in sugggesting that a marriage already had already taken place. Not the case there was not even a formal agreed-upon "engagement" by both partied, let along their parents!

Discussions around potential deals come & go all the's just that when one party can't manipulate the other adequately, most of the time they don't lash out so strongly in response, even though they probably do carry similar sentiment.

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24. anchor on May 29, 2012 9:30 AM writes...

re•bar•ba•tive (r-bär b-t v) adj. Tending to irritate; repellent and I learned new vocabulary today!

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25. Hap on May 29, 2012 10:00 AM writes...

Someone needs to take away Mr. Buswell's crayons and Fisher-Price laptop and cell phone. I would also consider a new babysitter/homework helper who actually has a working command of (polite) English grammar.

If my CEO popped off like this, I wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry - since I couldn't update my resume while doing either, it probably wouldn't matter.

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26. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on May 29, 2012 10:47 AM writes...

From the company website:

"Mr. David Buswell is founder of Immune Response BioPharma, and is Chief Operating Officer, CFO, President & acting CEO and is Chairman of the Board of Directors. Mr. Buswell holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business & Commerce from the University of Mary Washington, and a Master’s degree MA in Management & Leadership from Liberty University."

It even provides links to the graduating class list from each university to, uh, prove that he actually graduated from each (no Yahoo! debacle here!).

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27. Anon the III on May 29, 2012 11:10 AM writes...

Rick, 18, I completely agree, and thankfully the market seems to be coming round to that point of view. Still, best to avoid those sorts of snafu in the first place;)

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28. JPZaragoza on May 29, 2012 11:13 AM writes...

Take a look at the company's creepy website. Go to stock info ( see that they contend the fair market value of the company is $2.5 billion. What do these guys smoke? Being involved with this company erases your credibility.

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29. Vader on May 29, 2012 11:26 AM writes...


This ain't a divorce. It's your blind date who you dropped off at her door after a thoroughly miserable dinner and movie suing you for palimony.

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30. Anonymous on May 29, 2012 12:04 PM writes...

"GSK is a loser in the MS market and will continue to be a loser"

Exactly 5 years ago, GSK set up a research center in China to work on MS, Parkinson's and Alzheimers. According to the GSK product pipeline on their website, they do not have anything in development for those three diseases that was developed internally. And now we know that they were in conversations with this guy at IRBP who has a degree from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Oh, and they're (still!) developing an in-licensed small molecule integrin (VLA4) antagonist for MS. Really? Seriously?

So, can anyone refute his statement? They wouldn't be on the top of my list if I wanted to partner a MS drug.......and neither would IRBP. The fact that these two companies were in negotiations speaks volumes about both their management teams.

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31. Nick K on May 29, 2012 1:18 PM writes...

@ToughChoices: Touch a nerve, did I? You're remarkably thin-skinned for a PR shill....

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32. weird guy on May 29, 2012 1:44 PM writes...

Thumbs up for the language that Mr. Buswell used. I wish in academia people were more like that, just get up after a talk and say "your research is BS"

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33. My 0.02 on May 29, 2012 2:58 PM writes...

@26 and 30,

Are we sure that Mr. Buswell is not related to the people who started Nativis pharma?

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34. OrphanReceptor on May 29, 2012 3:42 PM writes...

Thanks for that, it really made me laugh. Losing one's cool in public like this is of course a definite no-no but I can well imagine that dealing with GSK MBA types is enough to stretch anyone's sanity to breaking point. Someone mentioned earlier about the use of first names for senior managers @GSK. That was certainly the case when I was there when everyone talked about "JP" and "Tachi" as though they were our best buddies! "JP" even gave us an extra holiday called a "JP day" almost every year for our "great work". Alas, many of us got the sack while enjoying our JP day, JP certainly had a sense of humour.

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35. partial agonist on May 29, 2012 4:51 PM writes...

"...Master’s degree MA in Management & Leadership from Liberty University"

If you haven't seen it yet,
google Bill Maher Liberty University

Maher noted that Liberty teaches "creation science," and the idea that earth was created 5,000 years ago. "This is a school you flunk out of when you get the answers right," he joked.

Much as conservatives believe gay marriage cheapens their own vows, he said "I think a diploma from Liberty cheapens my diploma from a real school".

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36. Anonymous on May 29, 2012 6:14 PM writes...

It looks like immune response biopharma is a rehashing of an older pump-and-dump stock scheme, originally collaborating with Pfizer. The company filed for bankruptcy, and then miraculously, a company with almost the exact same name and many of the same board members reformed, tou