Are 'great' tweet­ers born? Or can they be made? A con­ver­sa­tion with Adam Feuer­stein.


Ar­salan Arif, Pub­lish­er

If you’re a drug de­vel­op­ment pro­fes­sion­al with am­bi­tion, you can’t af­ford to ig­nore Twit­ter. No mat­ter your opin­ion of Twit­ter as a com­pa­ny, the act of tweet­ing is here to say: short, pub­lic, one-to-many com­mu­ni­ca­tion is nev­er be­ing put back in the bot­tle. I’ve writ­ten about this is­sue be­fore, of­fer­ing a list of 300 ac­counts known to tweet bio­phar­ma-re­lat­ed news fastest. Main­tain­ing a good list of fol­lowed ac­counts, con­sum­ing your news di­rect­ly from the source, ex­pos­ing your­self to a di­ver­si­ty of opin­ion out­side your com­fort zone: that’s BioTwit­ter 101, the min­i­mum re­la­tion­ship a drug de­vel­op­er ought to have with so­cial me­dia. There’s no ex­cuse to dis­miss all so­cial me­dia with a wide brush of this doesn’t ap­ply to me. You don’t have to tweet to be good at Twit­ter.

But be­ing great at Twit­ter is an en­tire­ly dif­fer­ent mat­ter. To be great, you need to par­tic­i­pate.

Be­ing great at Twit­ter yields ex­po­nen­tial­ly more ben­e­fits. You be­gin reap­ing net­work ef­fects once like-mind­ed pro­fes­sion­als in­ter­act with you reg­u­lar­ly. With no gate­keep­ers, the play­ing field of ideas is fair­er and se­nior­i­ty mat­ters less. Your Twit­ter starts show­ing up in the first page of your Google re­sults—is there a bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion of your per­son­al brand than your own words?

Be­ing great at Twit­ter means shar­ing your ideas, and maybe even some of your per­son­al­i­ty. And it’s that last part that caus­es for anx­i­ety for some, in­clud­ing my­self. What if I don’t get enough likes? What if I say some­thing stu­pid? Or worse: what if what I say isn’t good enough?

What if you’re an am­bi­tious per­son who wants every ben­e­fit Twit­ter can af­ford a pro­fes­sion­al, but filled with anx­i­ety?

Can good “tweet­ers” be born?

This ques­tion weighed heav­i­ly on my mind back in Ju­ly 2015. It both­ered me. Years of man­ag­ing jour­nal­ists, straight out of col­lege to ones with 30+ years ex­pe­ri­ence, on­ly deep­ened my con­vic­tion that peo­ple who are great at Twit­ter are born that way. And I wasn’t born that way. So I went look­ing for an­swers: can peo­ple learn to be great?

Adam Feuer­stein Se­nior Colum­nist, TheStreet

I asked the one per­son in biotech who is feared, loved, vi­cious­ly trolled, but above all else, fol­lowed and re­spect­ed: Adam Feuer­stein.

What fol­lows is a light­ly edit­ed con­ver­sa­tion we had about a year ago. End­points was just an ex­per­i­ment back then for 200 of my clos­est in­dus­try con­tacts. I had lots of ideas to test and re­fine, and our chat con­tin­ued in­to oth­er top­ics like his dai­ly me­dia di­et and the role of read­ers in busi­ness jour­nal­ism. It’s a re­veal­ing look in­to the work of one of our in­dus­try’s es­sen­tial voic­es.


Twit­ter in­flu­en­tials

Ar­salan:    Who in­flu­ences you on Twit­ter?  And what kind of cre­den­tials does some­one need be­fore you con­sid­er them wor­thy of fol­low­ing?

Adam:  I hes­i­tate to sin­gle out in­di­vid­u­als who in­flu­ence me, or to say some­one’s bet­ter on Twit­ter than oth­ers. I tend to fol­low peo­ple on Twit­ter for a rea­son, and I would en­cour­age peo­ple to take a look at the list. Most have valu­able in­sights in­to the news of the day, or are re­al­ly fast with tweet­ing it. I don’t find a lot of val­ue in fol­low­ing some­body who’s go­ing to tweet every three months, wait­ing for some nugget.

Ar­salan:  What about peo­ple like Richard Pops, CEO of Alk­er­mes? In per­son he’s in­cred­i­bly smart and help­ful but on Twit­ter, it’s plat­i­tudes. Yet he makes every sin­gle “peo­ple you must fol­low in biotech” lists. I find that un­help­ful to folks in bio­phar­ma who just want to use Twit­ter as a pri­ma­ry news scan.

Adam:   Rich gets on those lists be­cause he may have been the first biotech CEO to get on Twit­ter. And at first he was pret­ty ac­tive. But hey, he’s the CEO of a pub­licly trad­ed com­pa­ny. Com­pli­ance rules and lawyers means he can’t free wheel on Twit­ter, ver­sus some­one like me who ba­si­cal­ly has no fil­ter and will say any­thing that he wants. Of­ten to my own detri­ment, but I will do it any­way, right? Al­so with Rich, when they did their big merg­er with Elan, his Twit­ter ac­tiv­i­ty fell off. It’s dif­fi­cult be­cause I think so­cial me­dia has moved way ahead of where Wall St. is in terms of com­pli­ance is­sues. You al­ways hear about com­pa­nies and in­vestors com­plain­ing of hand­cuffs on Twit­ter.

But back to the core of your ques­tion is: yes, I fol­low Richard Pops. Do I look to him as an “in­flu­encer” or some­one that I ab­solute­ly need to know what he’s say­ing on Twit­ter? Prob­a­bly not. Ver­sus some­one — let’s just use [$CN­CR ETF chief] Brad Lon­car as an ex­am­ple — I def­i­nite­ly fol­low him, he’s got in­ter­est­ing points of view and I want to know what he’s think­ing about cer­tain things. And he’s very ac­tive, with dai­ly pres­ence, which is a good thing to me.  Some­one else who doesn’t care about day-in-day-out stuff may not find that as in­ter­est­ing or nec­es­sary. So I think it re­al­ly is a sort of a per­son­al is­sue like in terms of what you’re try­ing to get out of Twit­ter.


Dai­ly me­dia di­et

Ar­salan:   What’s your dai­ly me­dia di­et like? What’s a must-read for you?

Adam:  Here’s how I start my day… like most peo­ple I go to sleep and my iPhone is nev­er more than an arms length away. I usu­al­ly get up at 5am, reach for my phone bleary eyed, and the first thing that I do on my phone is go to Twit­ter and check out a pri­vate list that I call Radar. It’s made up of about a dozen peo­ple who I know that if some­thing was hap­pen­ing, they’ve al­ready tweet­ed it. I may have to start do­ing some­thing right away work-wise be­cause of that news. So that’s the first thing. Then I’ll check any men­tions of me, move on to my email. That’s the first me­dia meal of the day, if you wan’t to talk about it as a di­et.

Then I’m prob­a­bly just like every­body else.  I scan the wires. What’s Dow Jones say­ing? Reuters, Bloomberg? Any­thing in the New York Times? How about the WSJ? I try to read every­thing. Twit­ter is part of that tool. It’s rare to see a rel­e­vant biotech sto­ry that hasn’t been on Twit­ter.


Be­ing a nat­ur­al on Twit­ter

Ar­salan: I think you’re a nat­ur­al at Twit­ter. In your opin­ion, are good tweet­ers born or can they be made?

Adam:   Well, in terms of be­ing a nat­ur­al, the way I think about Twit­ter is there’s dif­fer­ent ways that you can use it. I view it as a way to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple. Even be­fore I got on Twit­ter, one of the most pop­u­lar and reg­u­lar things I do is my Fri­day mail­bag col­umn. I take a bunch of ques­tions that I get from read­ers and I an­swer them. The idea is: “Hey, you have these peo­ple out there that they want to in­ter­act with you, they have ques­tions for you, so an­swer them and be good to your read­ers.” Twit­ter is just an­oth­er way of do­ing that.

Plus, you have to be kind of a hu­man be­ing right? So you want to joke around, pass along links to fun­ny things, tell bad jokes, post pic­tures of your dog ….

Ar­salan: (in­ter­rupts) …. yeah, but you’re a nat­ur­al at that stuff. Most aren’t.

Adam:   …. well, I’m a fair­ly out­go­ing per­son so that works well on Twit­ter. If you can project that on Twit­ter, use that as an ex­ten­sion of your per­son­al­i­ty, then it works. If you’re in­tense­ly shy, in­tro­vert­ed, who doesn’t like to share any­thing, maybe Twit­ter’s not for you? It does work well for peo­ple like me who are nat­ur­al sort of gos­sips. I mean, that’s what jour­nal­ists are at the end of the day, right? We like to find and ver­i­fy stuff, and then tell peo­ple about it. That’s what jour­nal­ism is. That’s what I try to do and it res­onates with enough peo­ple. For me it works.


Role of read­ers

Ar­salan:  That’s a great point, not on­ly is Twit­ter is a nat­ur­al tool in your re­port­ing ar­se­nal, it’s an ex­ten­sion of your per­son­al­i­ty.  It was pret­ty in­ter­est­ing how you said it. No doubt I know writ­ers who write as if they don’t have read­ers or act as if their re­port­ing would be com­prised if they dared con­sid­ered what a read­er had to say.

Adam:     The days of not ac­knowl­edg­ing your read­er­ship are over. There are so many dif­fer­ent ways that peo­ple can reach out to you.  I’ve been a jour­nal­ist for 25 years and I’m sort of a di­nosaur in some ways. [Ed­i­tors note: Adam Feuer­stein in­ter­views Lar­ry Page about a new start­up named Google.]

I re­mem­ber how you used to write a sto­ry and it would go in the news­pa­per (chuck­les). And you had no idea who read your sto­ry, you had no idea whether some­body liked it or not. Maybe oc­ca­sion­al­ly you’d get a let­ter in the mail a week lat­er from some­body who read your sto­ry.

If you think about it now, it’s re­al­ly weird. Like you’re al­most like walled off, right?

Con­trast that with to­day. When I write a sto­ry, I know in re­al time how many peo­ple are read­ing it. I know cu­mu­la­tive­ly how many peo­ple have read my sto­ry. I know how long they spent on my sto­ry. And you get in­stant feed­back on Twit­ter.  I get in­stant feed­back by email. I get in­stant feed­back from the com­ments that peo­ple leave un­der the sto­ry. So it’s just a to­tal­ly dif­fer­ent world to­day. Part of my job is to write sto­ries that I think are im­por­tant, that I think my read­er­ship wants. Why shouldn’t I write sto­ries that I know that read­ers want to read?

Which brings up an­oth­er way I use Twit­ter. If I see a lot of dis­cus­sion on Twit­ter about a cer­tain biotech stock or some­thing that’s go­ing on, that’s a pret­ty good in­di­ca­tion that if I wrote a sto­ry about that it would have legs.


What if you’re not out­go­ing?

Ar­salan: The crux of my ques­tion gets to the fact that if you were on Twit­ter and if you’re suc­cess­ful on Twit­ter, it re­al­ly pays or­ders of mag­ni­tude on your ca­reer po­ten­tial. It opens up a whole new av­enues for you. But for the folks who are not so much a nat­ur­al, can you add a lit­tle in­sight? Can they be­come great?

Adam:    Look, this isn’t very good for Twit­ter as a busi­ness, but if you’re the kind of per­son who just re­al­ly doesn’t want to in­ter­act and share, you can still find val­ue in Twit­ter just by fol­low­ing peo­ple. Get a lot of in­sight, some new in­for­ma­tion, but maybe you’re not con­tribut­ing. There’s still val­ue in that. I think I con­tribute a lot to the biotech Twit­ter stream and I get a lot back. I learn things. There’s peo­ple out there who are re­al­ly smart, who are on Twit­ter think­ing about things in ways that I didn’t think about. They’re an­a­lyz­ing this in a way that I didn’t think about. I try to in­cor­po­rate that in­to my think­ing. To me that’s very valu­able and you don’t need to par­tic­i­pate to get that.

Amarin CEO John Thero discussing the company's plans for Vascepa, August 2019 — via Bloomberg

Amarin wins a block­buster ap­proval from the FDA. Now every­one can shift fo­cus to the patent

For all those people who could never quite believe that Amarin $AMRN would get an expanded label with blockbuster implications, the stress and anxiety on display right up to the last minute on Twitter can now end. But new, pressing questions will immediately surface now that the OK has come through.

On Friday afternoon, the FDA stamped its landmark approval on the industrial strength fish oil for reducing cardio risks for a large and well defined population of patients. The approval doesn’t give Amarin everything it wants in expanding its use, losing out on the primary prevention group, but it goes a long way to doing what the company needed to make a major splash. The approval was cited for patients with “elevated triglyceride levels (a type of fat in the blood) of 150 milligrams per deciliter or higher. Patients must also have either established cardiovascular disease or diabetes and two or more additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Sarep­ta was stunned by the re­jec­tion of Vyondys 53. Now it's stun­ning every­one with a sur­prise ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta has a friend in the FDA after all. Four months after the agency determined that it would be wrong to give Sarepta an accelerated approval for their Duchenne MD drug golodirsen, regulators have executed a stunning about face and offered the biotech a quick green light in any case.

It was the agency that first put out the news late Thursday, announcing that Duchenne MD patients with a mutation amenable to exon 53 skipping will now have their first targeted treatment: Vyondys 53, or golodirsen. Having secured the OK via a dispute resolution mechanism, the biotech said the new drug has been priced on par with their only other marketed drug, Exondys 51 — which for an average patient costs about $300,000 per year, but since pricing is based on weight, that sticker price can even cross $1 million.

Sarepta shares $SRPT surged 23% after-market to $124.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Paul Hudson, Getty Images

UP­DAT­ED: Sanofi CEO Hud­son lays out new R&D fo­cus — chop­ping di­a­betes, car­dio and slash­ing $2B-plus costs in sur­gi­cal dis­sec­tion

Earlier on Monday, new Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson baited the hook on his upcoming strategy presentation Tuesday with a tell-tale deal to buy Synthorx for $2.5 billion. That fits squarely with hints that he’s pointing the company to a bigger future in oncology, which also squares with a major industry tilt.

In a big reveal later in the day, though, Hudson offered a slate of stunners on his plans to surgically dissect and reassemble the portfoloio, saying that the company is dropping cardio and diabetes research — which covers two of its biggest franchise arenas. Sanofi missed the boat on developing new diabetes drugs, and now it’s pulling out entirely. As part of the pullback, it’s dropping efpeglenatide, their once-weekly GLP-1 injection for diabetes.

“To be out of cardiovascular and diabetes is not easy for a company like ours with an incredibly proud history,” Hudson said on a call with reporters, according to the Wall Street Journal. “As tough a choice as that is, we’re making that choice.”

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Paul Biondi (File photo)

Paul Biondi's track record at Bris­tol-My­ers cov­ered bil­lions in deals of every shape and size. Here's the com­plete break­down

Paul Biondi was never afraid to bet big during his stint as business development chief at Bristol-Myers Squibb. And while the gambles didn’t all pay out, by any means, his roster of pacts illustrates the broad ambitions the pharma giant has had over the last 5 years — capped by the $74 billion Celgene buyout.

On Thursday, we learned that Biondi had exited the company. And Chris Dokomajilar at DealForma came up with the complete breakdown on every buyout, licensing pact and product purchase Bristol-Myers forged during his tenure in charge of the BD team at one of the busiest companies in biopharma.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Arie Belldegrun (Photo: Jeff Rumans for Endpoints News)

Ju­ry finds Gilead li­able for $585M and big roy­al­ties in Kite CAR-T patent case

A Kite deal that’s already become a burden on Gilead’s back just got heavier as a California jury has ruled Gilead must pay Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sloan Kettering $585 million plus a 27.6% royalty for patent infringement committed by its subsidiary. The ruling is almost certain to be appealed.

Kite Pharma — founded by Arie Belldegrun, now focused on a next-gen CAR-T company — has been facing a lawsuit since the day its first CAR–T therapy won approval in October, 2017. Juno Therapeutics and Sloan Kettering filed a complaint saying Kite had copied its technology. Gilead acquired Kite in June of that year for $11.9 billion.  Juno was acquired the following year by Celgene for $9 billion, before Celgene was acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2019.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

FDA ex­pert pan­el unan­i­mous­ly rec­om­mends ap­proval for Hori­zon Ther­a­peu­tics eye drug

An FDA advisory committee noted with concern a small safety database but unanimously endorsed a Horizon Therapeutics drug for a rare eye autoimmune disease that can blind patients: teprotumumab for thyroid eye disease (TED).

“It was a pretty easy vote,” said Erica Brittain, an NIH biostatistician and one of the 12 panelists on FDA’s Dermatologic and Ophthalmic Drugs Advisory Committee.

Paul Biondi (File photo)

Bris­tol-My­er­s' strat­e­gy, BD chief Paul Bion­di ex­it­ed the com­pa­ny — just ahead of the $74B Cel­gene deal close

Paul Biondi, who orchestrated billions of dollars in deals for Bristol-Myers Squibb over the 5 years he’s run their business development team, has exited the company. Biondi left last month, according to a company spokesperson, in pursuit of another — unspecified — external opportunity.

After 17 years with Bristol-Myers Squibb, Paul Biondi, Head of Strategy and Business Development, decided to leave the company to pursue an external opportunity. The company wishes him well in his new endeavors. Bristol-Myers Squibb  is actively searching for Paul’s successor, and will make an announcement, as appropriate.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Arie Belldegrun at UKBIO 2019. Shai Dolev for Endpoints News

Kite Phar­ma's ex-CEO con­tra­dicts founder as CAR-T patent tri­al heats up, with con­flict­ing val­u­a­tions

Two days after Kite Pharma founder Arie Belldegrun told a federal courtroom that a meeting he had with a Memorial Sloan Kettering executive wasn’t about licensing their immunotherapy patent, Kite’s ex-CEO Aya Jakobovits said it was.

The admission came Tuesday during cross-examination in a patent infringement case that features two of the biggest cancer biotechs and some of the most well-known names in American medicine.

Jakobovits initially said she was not in attendance, didn’t know it was going to happen and didn’t know what took place, according to Law360. But then the plaintiff’s lawyer handed her a document – whose contents were not publicly revealed – and asked again if she learned after-the-fact that the meeting involved a potential patent license.

“Yes,” Jakobovits eventually said.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

On the heels of promis­ing MCL da­ta, Kite hus­tles its 2nd CAR-T to the FDA as the next big race in the field draws to the fin­ish line

Three days after Gilead’s Kite subsidiary showed off stellar data on their number 2 CAR-T KTE-X19 at ASH, the executive team has pivoted straight to the FDA with a BLA filing and a shot at a near-term approval.

In a small, 74-patient Phase II trial reported out at the beginning of the week, investigators tracked a 93% response rate with two out of three mantle cell lymphoma patients experiencing a complete response.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 67,600+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.