The Secret Show

By Gil Roth | April 4, 2012

Shaving cut with Occam’s Razor

I arrived at this year’s Society of Toxicology annual meeting in San Francisco primed to bring back a great multimedia recap, with plenty of photos and video from the exhibit hall, and lots of perspective from attendees and exhibitors about the shape of the business. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Moscone Center: I discovered that it’s very difficult to get people to talk on the record at that event.

I was perplexed the first day when, after extended wrangling with marketing and PR staff, I was repeatedly rebuffed in my attempts to shoot “from the booth” video interviews. Similarly, most of my requests for short interviews about the event fell on deaf ears. It was only the second year I’d attended SoT, but after more than 15 years of covering trade shows, I'd never seen this level of press-shyness.

The second morning of the event, I arrived a bit early and heard the pre-show PA announcement. The speaker mentioned, “Two people were seen taking photos from the exhibit hall floor, and security has been alerted. Also, if you’re approached by someone saying they're shooting a documentary for SoT, please be advised that they are not legitimate, and report them to security.”

That’s when it hit me; if I applied Occam’s Razor, like in That Simpsons Episode, I’d come to a logical conclusion: The RAND Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, are forcing exhibitors to go without publicity in a fiendish plot to eliminate business magazines!

But then one of my cancellations stopped by my booth and told me that there were concerns about being targeted by animal rights protestors, since companies at SoT are in-volved in some way with animal testing models.

I decided that this was a plausible explanation, albeit a less exciting one. Still, it allowed me to get more background conversations in, and to build up a better grasp of the tumult working its way through the preclinical CRO industry.

Which I’ll need, since our Preclinical Outsourcing columnist, Steve Snyder, is departing this issue, after seven years of writing for us. You can find his farewell column here, but I’m hoping he’ll come back for an occasional feature; as I learned during SoT, there’s a lot going on in the preclinical space, and we need to make sense of what it means for the rest of the outsourcing industry.

That said, I’m not convinced there isn’t a conspiracy afoot. Given the concern about protestors and subversives and the sensitive business of SOT’s constituents, isn’t it a bit suspicious that this year’s conference was located in San Francisco of all places? I still remember the commando-style level of protesting that took place when BIO was held in San Francisco back in 2004. (Now that I think about it, it seems like that was a more protest-y time overall in America, today’s Occupy Wall Street offshoots notwithstanding.)


P.S.: We'll have some video up from SoT soon. And if you're looking for Society-approved photos from their annual event, you can find them here.

In Memoriam
Jeffrey McGinnis, of McGinnisPR, died in March. He was a good friend of the magazine, and one of the most pleasant people I’ve had the opportunity to meet in Contract Pharma’s 12-year history. We’ll miss him dearly.

What I’m Reading
The Drug Industry’s Blind Alley
Matthew Herper, Forbesonforb.es/GXSr1W 
Comment: A short piece recapitulating an analyst’s note dissecting a Nature Reviews Drug Discovery article on how new drugs get discovered. It’s illuminating and depressing at the same time. (UPDATE: And subsequently demolished by former Pfizer R&D chief John Lamattina over here.)

Ferenc Karinthy – amzn.to/HxGNLo
Comment: A strange Hungarian novel about a linguist who gets on the wrong plane on a trip to a conference and winds up in a country he can’t identify, where he can’t decipher the language or figure out a word anyone is saying. Sounded like heaven to me, but I can understand why people wouldn’t enjoy that.

Paintballing with Hezbollah
Mitchell Prothero, VICEbit.ly/H0Ezrh
Comment: Our former Capitol Comments columnist, now a photojournalist based in Beirut, writes about a “friendly” paintball match with a paramilitary group. Hijinks ensue.

What are you reading?
Let me know — at gil@rodpub.com, www.goodreads.com/groth, www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1775433 or www.facebook.com/contractpharma — and the first respondent each issue wins a prize!

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