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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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June 4, 2012

By Any Other Name

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Posted by Derek

Over at Xconomy, Luke Timmerman asks why any biopharma company would go to the trouble and expense of changing its name. There are several reasons (such as having chosen a lousy name to begin with), but he's right that most company names don't mean much before or after a change.

He also has a poll of some name changes, asking if they were upgrades or not. The first on his list is my nomination for the Worst Company Name: AbbVie, which is what Abbott decided to call its pharma business as it spins that out on its own. I just can't say enough bad things about that one -it's meaningless, for starters, and that double "b" looks like a misprint. The b/v consonant combination doesn't exactly roll off the tongue; the "Vie" is silly for a company not based in France (or at least selling something that's supposed to be French), and I've never been a fan of InterCapitalization. Other than that, I guess it's fine.

So here's a quick question: what's the biotech/pharma company out there with the worst name - well, other than AbbVie? Is there anyone who can beat them? Boring doesn't count. We're looking for actually harmful. Nominees?

Comments (66) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Drug Industry History


1. Electrochemist on June 4, 2012 7:42 AM writes...

Biogen Idec - too many strange words is never enough
Abraxis BioScience - "Black Magic" ?
Cubist - The Picasso's of pharma?
Replidyne - sounds like the name of a dinosaur
Allergan - I've never liked this; sounds like an antigen
Ego Pharma - transparent, if nothing else
Galderma - sounds like cussing with a southern drawl

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2. Justin Peucon on June 4, 2012 7:44 AM writes...

Cephalon gives me horrible headaches.

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3. Rick Wobbe on June 4, 2012 7:53 AM writes...

Nektar, sounds like the brother of Reptar from Rugrats, or the black stuff that sticks in the creases of my neck after I've spent a hot day working in the garden.

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4. ppp on June 4, 2012 7:53 AM writes...

Ferozsons Laboratories sounds acceptable for a company based in Hungary. Being the firm based in Pakistan, is there any sense in the "zs" crash?

On a different yet related topic, would you sign lightheartedly a contract with Lupin Laboratories?

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5. MolecularGeek on June 4, 2012 7:55 AM writes...

Back in the day, Texas Biotechnology Corporation renamed themselves Encysive a few years before they got swallowed up by Pfizer.

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6. silverpie on June 4, 2012 8:01 AM writes...

Umm. what business does a site called Xconomy have talking about *other* entities' weird names?

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7. Justin Peucon on June 4, 2012 8:18 AM writes...

Cephalon gives me horrible headaches.

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8. Anonymous on June 4, 2012 8:24 AM writes...

Boehringer Ingelheim - It is quite difficult to write without mistakes!

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9. Curious Wavefunction on June 4, 2012 8:31 AM writes...

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Ah! Very good. Would you mind telling me what name you DID change it to?
Igor: Then you won't be angry?
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I will NOT be angry.
Igor: AbbVie someone.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] AbbVie someone. AbbVie who?
Igor: AbbVie... Normal.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: [pause, then] AbbVie Normal?
Igor: I'm almost sure that was the name.

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10. Anonymous on June 4, 2012 8:34 AM writes...

Johnson & Johnson. It's redundant. Should just be called Johnson.

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11. Chemjobber on June 4, 2012 8:48 AM writes...

I believe that InterCapitalization also bears the unfortunate name of CamelCase.

(Is this a good opportunity to tell the world that the site is called Chemjobber and not ChemJobber?)

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12. Myma on June 4, 2012 8:53 AM writes...


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13. RD on June 4, 2012 9:03 AM writes...

I don't know about name changes but the day that the corporate overlords sent out an email proudly announcing that they had removed the people figures circling a heart from the corporate logo was the day I knew the company had plans that probably didn't include us.

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14. Expat on June 4, 2012 9:09 AM writes...


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15. Quintus on June 4, 2012 9:12 AM writes...


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16. AndrewD on June 4, 2012 9:24 AM writes...

I do not know about awful names, but I once caused much hilarity in a very senior meeting when I asked for the maiden name of a newly renamed company we were discussing.

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17. qetzal on June 4, 2012 9:52 AM writes...

I don't know about worst, but I always thought one of the most pretentious was MannKind (founded by Alfred E. Mann).

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18. Matt Jarpe on June 4, 2012 9:53 AM writes...

They have since folded, but you have to wonder when Nephros Therapeutics changed their name to RenaMed, did they realize that without the InterCaps they were renamed renamed?

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19. Anonymous on June 4, 2012 9:54 AM writes...

There is a company out there that sells TLC plates called Analtech. Didn't anybody mull that one over before finalizing it?

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20. Carl-Bear on June 4, 2012 9:59 AM writes...

Don't know much about bio/pharma. I'm in telecommunications; pretty much everyone thought "Verizon" was ridiculous. And WorldCom spawned a series of prophetic "WorldCon" jokes. People actually asked if LDDS was the Mormons' phone company.

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21. Nekekami on June 4, 2012 10:00 AM writes...

Oooooh, that whole "worst name" is sooo depending on culture and language.

I live in Sweden, and we find some danish names childishly funny....

For example, in 7th grade, I had a teacher from Denmark whose last name was Langballe.... Pretty normal in Denmark...

However, in Sweden, Lang is fairly similar to Lång, which means long.... And balle is a swedish slang word for dick.... Now imagine presenting yourself to a bunch of 13 year olds for the first time...

Then imagine all the danish companies with a variant of Balle in the name....

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22. Flow Monkey on June 4, 2012 10:17 AM writes...

Rib-X Pharmaceuticals is a good one.

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23. flem on June 4, 2012 10:24 AM writes...

Sandoz - good name for a sleeping pill but not a company

worst Brand name: AcipHex unless of course named by AnalTech

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24. VIrgil on June 4, 2012 10:26 AM writes...

I guess my biggest problem is when the name says absolutely nothing of historical/cultural/scientific importance about the company.

Key example... Innovative Biopharma (aren't they all?)

Another pet peeve is Radical Therapeutix (not to be confused with Radikal Therapeutics).

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25. milkshake on June 4, 2012 10:29 AM writes...

There used to be Shaman Technologies in SSF but it went belly up after problems with attracting investors...
There is Poniard (which means ancient shank-like dagger, or to shank someone) but to me it conjures up a picture of a corral at a dude ranch full of very small ponies

From the building blocks suppliers, I love ButtPark.

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26. Anonymous on June 4, 2012 10:38 AM writes...

If we can expand the entries to chemical companies, I would nominate "Butt Park,Ltd"

for reasons that are self explanatory

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27. newnickname on June 4, 2012 10:54 AM writes...

Did you ever work at a company with an unpronounceable, unspellable, meaningless name? Did you ever try to place an order or leave a message for a call back with a person who has no idea how to look up ZzyzympHerxaptaph in their Customer list, especially since your company pronounces the "Zzyz" as "Frex"? Do you know how much staff time that wastes? (Pipeline doesn't waste time; Pipeline is a daily boost!)

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28. Placebo on June 4, 2012 11:11 AM writes...


When I first saw this I thought, "Either this is April 1 or this is a typo." Wrong on both counts.

Who signed off on this name?

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29. Indy on June 4, 2012 11:26 AM writes...

Terrapin Therapeutics (now Telik)

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30. Anonymous on June 4, 2012 11:39 AM writes...

People can profane anything.
Nothing is wrong with Arcenal FC.
But every ManU fan calls it ArseAnal.
So please leave Analytical Technics alone :)

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31. Drug Developer on June 4, 2012 11:48 AM writes...

#5: I agree with you: "Texas Biotech" had wonderful alliteration and meant what it said. "Encysive" - meh.

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32. Chrispy on June 4, 2012 11:53 AM writes...

Spaltudaq -- since changed to Theraclone...

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33. Rock on June 4, 2012 12:30 PM writes...

Speaking of capitalization, I recently had to reference a paper from a small company in Germany called "biocrea". That is right, no capital B. In addition, the name itself is pretty bad.

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34. marcello on June 4, 2012 12:30 PM writes...

Molecumetics was a company that shut down almost 10 years ago...
I don't think I met any vendor or collaborator that could pronounce or spell that name without mistakes....

It was supposed to be derived from "Molecular Mimetics".

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35. Hap on June 4, 2012 12:57 PM writes...

I don't have anything against Prof. Verdine, but Warp Drive Bio is a good candidate, even though it lacks InterCapping. Unless the company's making drugs containing dilithium, or using plasma, the name's not really representative; it also seems to have enough hubris to raise property insurance values in the surrounding neighborhood (by the possibility of repeated lightning strikes).

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36. weirdo on June 4, 2012 1:27 PM writes...

Well, Derek was asking about unnecessary NAME CHANGES, not just bad names. And not due to mergers. But just plain old name changes, for no apparent reason. The press release usually has the phrase "to more accurately reflect the company's mission".

My nomination is Theravance (used to be Advanced Medicine).

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37. startup on June 4, 2012 1:40 PM writes...


Prince John: Such an unusual name, "Latrine." How did your family come by it?
Latrine: We changed it in the 9th century.
Prince John: You mean you changed it TO "Latrine"?
Latrine: Yeah. Used to be "$hithouse."
Prince John: It's a good change. That's a good change!

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38. Hap on June 4, 2012 2:17 PM writes...

No - while the referenced article discusses the dumbest/most harmful name changes, Dr. Lowe asked what the company with the worst name was. We didn't all misunderstand.

Theravance isn't meaningful, but I assume the neighbors were happier about it than Advanced Medicine, another name that seemed designed to instigate divine responses to hubris.

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39. Bunsen Honeydew on June 4, 2012 2:26 PM writes...

@ 35. Hap
I'm givin' er all she's got, captain but I cannot synthesise (note the British spelling) any faster! If I scale up the chromatography any further back-pressure will be overwhelming, the injectors will gonna blow and the column will explode!

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40. Anonymous on June 4, 2012 2:40 PM writes...

here is a good one with plenty of silly chemical names

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41. milkshake on June 4, 2012 2:45 PM writes...

@36: Poniard used to be called NeoRx, the name change came after the original company run out of funding

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42. David Formerly Known as a Chemist on June 4, 2012 2:50 PM writes...

Neurons R Us (seriously)

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43. Hap on June 4, 2012 3:18 PM writes...

Why not just "I can haz neurons"? Or maybe "Smrt Cells" (yes, I dropped the "a" intentionally)?

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44. The Iron Chemist on June 4, 2012 3:24 PM writes...

Another vote for AnalTech (a favorite of my inner Beavis).

Another goodie is BrainBits. The name is quite appropriate; they sell chunks of mouse brains. Although I think they've diversified into rat brains now too...

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45. hn on June 4, 2012 4:36 PM writes...

Exelixis. "It's spelled..."

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46. Not Me on June 4, 2012 6:07 PM writes...

I vote for Synovion.

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47. Ted on June 4, 2012 6:36 PM writes...

I remember a mid-90's interview with "Molecular Geriatrics."

I think Pfizer sucks. More to the point, I also think their name sucks...


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48. Secondaire on June 4, 2012 9:47 PM writes...

@#39 - I laughed until I just about cried. Brilliant.

I have to go with consensus and say AnalTech. Although I do love their high-load prep-TLC plates so very much.

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49. Protestant Cardinal on June 5, 2012 3:27 AM writes...

I used to work at a Pharmacia-turned-Pfizer site outside Milan, which was subsequently sold to the Vatican (!) There was a poll as to the new name and I submitted the following:

1) GenItalia (unfortunately turned out to be taken already...PowerGen had an Italian subsidiary...)
2) Genuflex Corporation

Sadly, none of these were accepted, and the new company was named "Nerviano Medical Science" (yes, without the final -s, subsequently added in change).

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50. james on June 5, 2012 7:21 AM writes...

Gilead makes me think of the dystopian future totalitarian America in Margaret Attwood's novel 'The Handmaid's Tale', Osiris sounds evil and archaic (perhaps because of the number of Egyptian gods/SF-horror crossovers), and the company called 'Galena', if they've named themselves after Galen of Pergamon, could surely have found a more up-to-date-with-current-medical-paradigms handle.

But - re: 30 - the football club are actually called Arsenal, not Arcenal. Like a military arsenal, y'know?

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51. CR on June 5, 2012 12:32 PM writes...

@13. RD on June 4, 2012 9:03 AM writes...
"I don't know about name changes but the day that the corporate overlords sent out an email proudly announcing that they had removed the people figures circling a heart from the corporate logo was the day I knew the company had plans that probably didn't include us."

Along the same lines as RD, not a name change. But, I remember when Sanofi purchased Aventis and we were having a town hall meeting about the "new" name, nothing original about Sanofi-Aventis. However, they went into great detail about the "S" and the "A" not being capitalized (sanofi-aventis) which would signify how unpretentious the new company would be, how easier they would be to work with...blah, blah.

My initial thought was...I believe it IS pretentious to take a proper noun and UNcapitalize it.

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52. Welease Woger on June 5, 2012 2:31 PM writes...

I'm going to have to go with The Medicines Company. (Kinda like The Car Company for an auto maunfacturer, or The Meat Filler Company for Taco Bell)

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53. David Young, MD on June 5, 2012 9:59 PM writes...

#3 I agree. Nektar. Sounds too much like Ishtar, arguably the worse movie ever made!

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54. Anonymous on June 7, 2012 4:29 AM writes...

Nacalai Tesque in Japan has a nmae that is meaningless in both Japanese and English, and is a bit of a brain teaser when trying to work out the pronunciation from the spelling.

Orcrist Bio is named after a sword in a fantasy story (however, its product line does not appear to demonstrate any praticular efficacy against orcs or goblins).

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55. JR on June 7, 2012 12:26 PM writes...

Pfizer foists a new entry into the ring: Zoetis
which sounds like "Otis" and somehow looks like a toe fungus

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56. cd on June 7, 2012 12:28 PM writes...

4: Ferozsons Laboratories sounds acceptable for a company based in Hungary. Being the firm based in Pakistan, is there any sense in the "zs" crash?

Feroz is a Persian name, which might explain the company name - "Feroz Sons".

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57. BeenThere on June 7, 2012 3:15 PM writes...

Oh, I'm late to the party, but all you have to do is look at any day's Bioworld. Here's some from the June 6th issue:

BioInvent. (hopeful)
ERYtech. ( pronounced erie tech)
Aeterna Zentaris. ( in the constellation of...)

Problem is, everyone thinks we come up with these goofy names.

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58. BeenThere on June 7, 2012 5:43 PM writes...

Oh, I'm late to the party, but all you have to do is look at any day's Bioworld. Here's some from the June 6th issue:

BioInvent. (hopeful)
ERYtech. ( pronounced erie tech)
Aeterna Zentaris. ( in the constellation of...)

Problem is, everyone thinks we come up with these goofy names.

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59. Phillip on June 8, 2012 4:01 AM writes...

Interestingly, Analtech had a consultation with their customers online a few years ago as to whether they should change their name. Everyone voted no, because the slightly amusing name made them easier to remember - it actually strengthened their branding!

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60. Phillip on June 8, 2012 4:08 AM writes...

They even made a comedy video called 'The adventures of Ana L'tech'

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61. Anonymous on June 8, 2012 5:11 PM writes...

How about Camitro, named after its VC-supplied CEO, Camilla O.

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62. Jonadab on June 9, 2012 5:27 PM writes...

When it comes to picking bad corporate names, chemistry companies have nothing on technology companies. Qualcomm. Trolltech. Red Hat. Lenovo. Verizon. Vodafone. Nextel. Accenture. The list goes on and on. Hospitals are even worse, especially since 99% of them *ought* to just be called [name of city] Hospital and have done. No no, that simply won't do, we've got to call it Avita Health Systems or Summa Health or some jazz like that.

But I think the worst ever, in any industry, is probably Aquent.

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63. anon on June 11, 2012 5:51 AM writes...

Any name that is pronounced as 'pee' followed be the last half of the word discovery is pretty bad.

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64. Anthony on June 12, 2012 12:32 PM writes...

@59 - my wife wonders if they have a reputation for being particularly meticulous, based on one possible reading of their name.

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65. LambdaEyde on June 17, 2012 5:47 PM writes...

GlaxoSmithKline is stupid. Outside of the pharma/biotech world, "PriceWaterHouseCoopers" has to be the most repulsive company name in the history of mankind. Their logo looks like someone puked up a bowl of alphabet soup...

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66. Jay on June 18, 2012 10:17 AM writes...

Sandexis appeared shortly after Pfizer closed the Sandwich site.

I think it's pretty tacky, at best.

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