Saturday, January 21, 2017

O/T -- "What Democracy Looks Like," With Over 500,000 Strong In LA; 500,000 In DC; and 250,000 In Chicago Alone...

It has been an important day. NYC is now reporting over 400,000 reliably. And with many other cities breaking well above the RSVPs (and expectations) by significant margins (Denver at 40,000 and Nashville at over 15,000), my quick interim tally is around 2.7 million nation-wide, which eclipses yesterday's inaugural by a factor of at least five-fold. Here's about a minute and half in 4K, from a gorgeously-warm, peaceful, hopeful and often hilarious day in Chicago:

Be excellent to one another. Best sign: "If I form a corporation for my uterus, Mr. Trump -- will you please STOP regulating it?"


Friday, January 20, 2017

Merck Settles (By Paying BMS High Hundreds Of Millions) Pembrolizumab Patent Fights With BMS and Ono

Well, as we predicted, there will be no trials in either New Jersey federal court, or the federal courts of Delaware.

Here's the latest news:

. . . .Merck & Co. Inc. will pay $625 million and royalties to Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and Ono Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. to settle patent litigation over Merck's cancer drug Keytruda, the companies said Friday afternoon. As part of the settlement all patent litigation will be dismissed, and the companies have granted certain patent rights to each other.

Merck will pay royalties on global Keytruda sales of 6.5% between 2017 and the end of 2023 and 2.5% between 2024 and 2026, with the royalties being split 75/25 between Bristol-Myers and Ono. Merck said the $625 million payment would be recorded in its fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 results, but excluded from its non-GAAP results. In their lawsuit against Merck, Bristol-Myers and Ono, which made cancer drug Opdivo, said its Keytruda sales infringed on various of its global patents. . . .

More when I am back from L.A. . . .


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trivial Courtroom Cleanups: Next Status Conference On Federal NuvaRing® MDL Is Set For April 18, 2017

From 11:35 AM CST, to a little after the noon hour, on Wednesday, there was an all hands status conference in the Eastern District of Missouri federal district courthouse, related to these Merck (legacy Schering-Plough) NuvaRing® putative federal products liability proceedings.

Now you know, and the next one will be in three months' time:

. . . .IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that a status conference set in this matter on April 18, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. in Courtroom 16 South. . . .

The parties shall file a proposed agenda no later than April 14, 2017. . . .

Onward. [This is an automated (entirely unmonitored) robo-post; it was experimentally-generated by a self-written routine, while I am likely off the grid, for one reason or another. The macro/algorithm collects federal filings I monitor and makes automatic posts from them. Please excuse transcription, auto-insertion and/or syntax glitches. Grin.]


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

In Which A Former Hassan Protégé's M&A Non-Disclosure Decisions... Draw A Stern Rebuke, At SEC -- Causing A $15 Million Civil Fine...

This breaking SEC enforcement news should come as no surprise, whatsoever -- not to our regular readers, at least. This afternoon, by agreed order, the SEC has imposed a $15 million civil penalty/fine on the company then run by this former Fast Fred Hassan protégé. The charge (and agreed infraction)? Failure to timely and adequately disclose the status of ongoing M&A negotiations.

Sounds. . . familiar, doesn't it? Indeed it does. . . . Here's a bit -- from the agreed SEC "cease and desist" order, of this afternoon:

. . . .On June 27, 2014, after receiving the Tender Offer on June 18, Respondent’s chief executive officer sent an email to Company A’s chief executive officer, setting up a call to speak. They spoke on July 1, 2014 about a potential acquisition of Company A by Respondent and agreed to meet in person. On July 29, 2014, Respondent proposed to acquire Company A for $180 per share, subject to the satisfactory completion of due diligence. This was the first time that Respondent had made a proposal to purchase Company A for a specific price. . . .

Respondent never disclosed or otherwise amended its June 23, 2014 Schedule 14D-9 to provide shareholders with information about its negotiations with Company A. . . .

Now you know. Some things just never change. But some things. . . do. Smile. . . .


Is 45 To Be Believed? If So, Good For Pharma -- Or... (Maybe) Not So?

Even if we are to believe 45 -- about his desire for health insurance "for everyone" (and high-quality, but magically rainbow like "cheap" health care delivery, as well!), it is quite unclear that Congress (Speaker Ryan in particular) will ever send him a bill that achieves all (or even most) of that.

If Congress does, and 45 signs it, then he will have essentially taken the HRC 1994 model, and implemented it. And that will be very good for pharma and bio-science companies, here in the US. However, ALSO if he is to be believed, he wants to force pharma to negotiate on price with the US governmental payers. Again, that is something Congress may not allow him (as the Congress is still beholden to PhRMA lobby money). But if 45 achieves that, again, he will have implemented an old 1994 HRC plan -- and that will be decidedly bad news for pharma, and life science companies in the US.

So -- we return to the opening question: what to believe? Should anything Mr. Trump says about health care payment and policy, here in the early days -- be taken seriously? I suspect not. But I also suspect the Congress will be politically unable to repeal -- without a "replace" -- for the 20 million only recently newly-insured people in the US. Here's a bit -- do go read it all at PennLive:

. . . .In an interview over the weekend, Trump appeared to promise something similar to Obamacare, or even more expansive, regarding how many people will be fully covered. . . .

"We're going to have insurance for everybody," Trump told the Post in a telephone interview late Saturday. "There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it, you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us." People covered under the law "can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.". . .

Will HRC see her ideas -- from 23 years ago -- essentially enacted? We shall see. I for one am unlikely to take anyone's word alone very seriously, throughout 2017. Except possibly Speaker Ryan. It seems to me that he will ultimately be the gate-keeper on the oddly misshapen Zoo that is the Trump Administration. Onward. I'll be on the West Coast (with clients) -- after tomorrow night, so the blogging forecast calls for. . . light coverage. Smile. . . .


Saturday, January 14, 2017

[U] From NASA -- For Monday...

UPDATED Sunday morning: I write on a King Weekend entirely unlike any I've seen in a generation.

This is a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Day weekend that saw the President-elect choose to deride-by-tweet Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a senior Congressman whose skull was fractured by police during a civil rights march, in Selma, Alabama with Dr. King -- over a half century ago. In fact, after Rep. Lewis exercised his right to resist the President-elect's legitimacy (citing the Russian influence concerns), and said he would not attend the inaugural, Mr. Trump insulted him as a man who is "all talk, talk, talk — no action or results." Recall here that as Rep. Lewis was being beaten on the bridge in Selma, to win us all the freedom of our full civil rights, Mr. Trump was dodging the draft at a privileged private school, in upstate New York. [And that was only when Trump wasn't discriminating against people of color -- in his father's rental empire. Talk? Meet action. . . .] This is also however, a weekend that saw Jennifer Holliday decide she could not be part of any endorsement of 45, or his policies -- and after first waffling a bit -- declined to sing on the night before the inaugural. So, I still remain optimistic.

I am optimistic because Rep. Lewis's book has sold out in stores around the nation, in response to 45's hateful, demeaning rhetoric. I am optimistic that people will simply turn off their TVs on Friday (as Cher has asked by tweet) -- as ratings are the only numbers 45 seems to value. I am optimistic that the crowds arriving by over 1,200 buses cleared into DC for Saturday next -- for the Womens' Protest March -- will dwarf the crowds delivered by those 200 buses cleared for the inaugural itself, on Friday.

I think Dr. King would say this is a time for peaceful, non-violent action -- but a time for action, no doubt.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

BMS Vs. Merck (Keytruda®) Patent Spats: Delaware Federal Ono Litigation Status Conference Now Reset To February 23, 2017

Separately (but of greater import), I'll note that Keytruda® has been granted FDA accelerated review (with a May 10 expected action date) -- in lung cancers, in combination with chemotherapy. And that is good news; however, 45-Elect just said that drug companies are "getting away with murder" -- on drug pricing (in a live press conference in front of the world; not by late night tweet) -- and that is the pharma related bad news, of the morning. Expect more of that sort of mercurial (unthinking) volatility in remarks -- from the incoming Administration. [He may very well be a bigger threat to Kenilworth's revenues and business model -- than HRC ever was.]

In any event, here's the full text of the Ono Delaware order, of this morning. [Background on that litigation, here.]

. . . .The teleconference with Judge Thynge set for 1/17/17 at 10:00 AM Eastern Time has been rescheduled to 2/23/17 at 11:00 AM Eastern Time. Plaintiffs' counsel to initiate the teleconference call. Ordered by Judge Mary Pat Thynge on 1/11/17. . . .

Now you know. And I can scarcely imagine a more stark contrast, planet wide, than that seen in Chicago last night, compared to the press conference this morning. What has become of. . . statesmanship? I simply shudder to think -- how must the world now see us?


Monday, January 9, 2017

Off-Topic: Meryl Streep -- Patriot And Hero

If 45-Elect thinks she is "over-rated" -- that is all I need to hear. It makes me all the more eager to see what she had to say.

Do watch the Washington Post's annotated version. It is excellent.

. . . .Streep accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award — basically a lifetime achievement award — but didn’t say much about her career. Instead, she spent the minutes allotted to her to speak critically of the current political climate and Trump, although she did not mention the president-elect by name.

“There was one performance this year that stunned me,” she said. “It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

“It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. . . .”

Onward now on a warming Monday here -- looking forward to BHO 44's farewell address tomorrow, and a DePaul Vs. Marquette matchup this weekend. "Hidden Figures" tied "Rogue One" on a snowy weekend for most of the nation, as the top grossing film, too. . . Smile. . . .


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Minor Update: New Italian Research Suggests Ebola May "Hide" -- And Replicate -- In Host's Lungs

First: this is no cause for alarm. It was already known that the virus could reside in a dormant fashion in a host's eye fluid, and semen, long after being undetectable in the blood.

But this will help WHO's pandemic response teams, for the next time there is an Ebola viral outbreak, in human populations. Thankfully we now have a working vaccine -- for rings of contact -- as they emerge.

So there is much to be hopeful about. But we should not kid ourselves -- there will be another outbreak -- that's how evolutionary biology works. Per MedPage Today -- do go read it all:

. . . .A healthcare worker recovering from Ebola virus in Italy showed evidence of persistent viral infection in his lungs days after the virus was no longer detectable in his blood, researchers reported.

The case study, appearing in the journal PLOS One, represents the first direct evidence of potential replication of the virus in the lungs, suggesting that the respiratory system may play a more significant role in the pathogenesis of Ebola than previously recognized.

It also suggests the possibility of respiratory transmission of the virus, wrote Mirella Biava, of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome, and colleagues.

"The presence of viral replication markers here reported adds some support to this possibility, although the evidence is far from being conclusive, due to the absence of recovery of infectious virus in respiratory secretion," the researchers wrote. . . .

[We should hope that there will be no mutation of the basic viral structure or function, in animals, in the mean time that renders the vaccine ineffective -- as to any new strains.] To be clear -- there is cause to be optimistic here as well, as the approach Merck and NewLink employ for vaccination is to insert, in a genetically engineered simian "container", some of the killed virus. Should the virus re-emerge in a mutated fashion, Merck ought to be able to insert that sample into a new batch of the vaccine simian "containers" -- and see similar efficacy. So we will keep a positive thought, here -- as well.

Now, I will have to settle for watching our outgoing President's farewell on TV, Tuesday. The lines for tickets in Chicago -- in sub-zero wind-chills this morning, no less -- were staggering. So it goes; an era that started together -- will end. . . together, in a continued chorus of "Yes, we can". Smile.


Friday, January 6, 2017

A Very Cool (IBM Sponsored) AR iPhone App -- "Out-Think Hidden": Free Downloadable!

I am keenly aware that much of the Middle-South is struggling with a freakish winter storm tonight, but if it is safe to do so, I highly encourage you to get out and see "Hidden Figures" -- it opened nationwide, today.

If you have youngsters about, I encourage you to download the free "Outthink Hidden" App from Google Play or the App Store. Then, as I did out my office window this afternoon, at right, you can render 3-D statues of the heroes of NASA's early "S.T.E.M. on Fleek" programs -- any place you tape up the little OCR code blocks -- and hear, read and watch all about them, while connecting their pioneering work, to that of space science more generally. IBM and its diversity initiatives are to be credited for this tie in. [There! Now there's something you can do, without ever leaving the warmth of home and hearth, this weekend. Smile. . . .]

Additionally, and non-trivially, while binge-watching the NBC series called "Timeless" -- I saw a generally very strong Season One episode (called "Space Race") featuring none other than Katherine Johnson, as the mathematics hero -- yet again. In this one (in an alternate 1969) she is needed to save Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong, from disaster on the Moon's surface. Do watch it on demand under that link -- when you have a chance.

But most of all -- please encourage all your youngsters, boys and girls, black, brown, yellow and white -- to become interested in the sciences. They will dream up, and then create, the futures we can't even imagine tonight. We need them. We need them all. With gratitude, I wish you safe and light travels then this weekend. I'm out!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

[U] Off Topic -- But I Cannot Remain Silent: The Abject Failure Of 45's "Leadership" -- Prior To His Inaugural, Even

UPDATED: 01.06.2017 @ 9 AM EST -- This was expected, at least by me. Woolsey is a solid intel policy wonk. So, a consensus intel report is soon to be released in DC -- in which the operatives of the Russian government thought responsible for the DNC e-mail leaks (and for the ultimate transfer to Julian Assange) will be named. And so, the man the President-elect had tapped to run his national security portfolio for him has. . . resigned, even prior to the inaugural. Amid tension over the president-elect’s vision for intelligence agencies, R. James Woolsey Jr. said he did not want to "fly under false colors. . . ." Expect to see more of this, as true patriots stand to be counted. [End, updated portion.]

True -- I did fiddle with my masthead overnight (see thumbnail at bottom), and in truth, I have had Senator McCain's hearings on in the background all day, in the office. [It has been over a decade since I ran a blog that touched on national security matters. Even so, I cannot just look the other way at key moments, in our republic's history, on this topic. We may disagree about certain matters of national security and methods of gathering intelligence, but we should never disparage the patriotism of our intelligence officers, in Langley, Virginia -- or in the field.]

That said, I thought this would all have sorted itself out, by now. But it has not. Director Clapper is right: "A dose of skepticism is healthy. But disparagement -- is not."

The notion that the incoming President would take a Wiki-Leaker at his word, alone -- when it is painfully obvious that said Wiki-Leaker cannot even credibly guess at who might have been the conduit through which he received the DNC e-mails, is in itself jaw-slacking.

But it is quite-nearly treasonous for 45 do do so, in the face of unbiased, credible, and consensus views of our entire intelligence community -- those with assets deployed across the globe -- with access to many more sources and methods than Julian Assange would ever have, as a simple "drop-ship point" -- for what were almost certainly Russian government sourced bulk e-mail deliveries.

Let me say that again -- the incoming President is inclined to take the word of a "drop ship recipient" of a hack -- a man holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, working alone -- INSTEAD of the CIA, FBI and NSA. [Where on Earth is 45's patriotism?]

In this matter, the notion that 45 would continue to give V. Putin any "benefit of the doubt" is. . . disgusting. Senator McCain (a man whose other politics I've long disagreed vehemently with -- but a man whose patriotism is absolutely beyond reproach) would be right to call that wrong-headed enough to be "treasonous". Here endeth the sermon.


USPTO, On "Cabilly" Patents: Merck Loses One Inter-Partes Review -- But Is Allowed To Join Another...

Back in November, we reset the table on this series of patent disputes, related to the basic methods, and composition, of the immuno-oncology treatments now revolutionizing solid organ tumor therapies.

The USPTO's PTAB has just issued its long awaited inter-partes review decision. It held that Merck's standalone petition on the '415 (or "Cabilly I") patent had been previously considered, and so denied it. However, the body allowed Merck to join a pending inter partes review filed by Amgen (and others), on the so called Cabilly II and III patents. That means this part of the wrestling match simply awaits another US PTAB decision, likely to be issued later this Spring.

So, once again, we wait for decision(s) on these fronts -- in a perhaps $20 billion a year oncology revenue market, in the US alone. These same basic issues are also the subject of several pending federal suits in Delaware, and California. Here's a bit from the latest US Patent and Trademark Appeal Board decision (a ten page PDf file):

. . . .Although Petitioner may have sound reasons for raising art or arguments similar to those previously considered by the Office, the Board weighs petitioners’ desires to be heard against the interests of patent owners, who seek to avoid harassment. See H.R. Rep. No. 112-98, pt.1, at 48 (2011) (AIA proceedings “are not to be used as tools for harassment or a means to prevent market entry through repeated litigation and administrative attacks on the validity of a patent. Doing so would frustrate the purpose of the section as providing quick and cost effective alternatives to litigation.”). All of the challenged claims require an immunoglobulin molecule. As Patent Owner notes (Prelim. Resp. 20), Axel is the only asserted reference that discloses an immunoglobulin molecule, i.e., an antibody. Axel was explicitly considered by the Office during reexamination of the ’415 patent. . . .

We determine, therefore, that Axel, the only reference that Petitioner relies upon to disclose an immunoglobulin molecule, was previously presented to, and considered by, the Office in the same substantive manner as Petitioner now advocates.

Moreover, as noted by Patent Owner, Petitioner in the instant proceeding filed a second Petition (IPR2017-00047) seeking joinder with IPR 2016-00710, which was instituted on September 8, 2016. Prelim. Resp. 28. We have instituted trial in IPR2017-00047, and joined it with IPR 2016-00710, concurrently with the instant decision. As Petitioner has agreed to abide by the Scheduling Order in IPR 2016-00710, a final written decision will be entered in that case well before a final written decision would be entered in the instant proceeding. . . .

Now you know -- we will (of course) continue to monitor this. We would expect an update in the material litigation section of Merck's forthcoming 2016 Year-end SEC Form 10-K. We begin our walk in, under cloudless but frigid skies -- as wind-chills hover near minus ten. But our hearts -- they be warmed. . . as a quick trip out to L.A.'s sunshine, looms for later next week. . . smile.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

UPDATE: Federal Propecia®/Proscar® MDL -- Revised "Bellwether" Likely First Trial Dates

I still think one of the the federal bellwether cases will go to trial first, but the distance on the time line, between the similar New Jersey state cases -- and the federal ones -- is closing in a bit, to be sure.

I've not reworked my earlier graphic now just yet -- and will both set out the operative bit from the new order, just entered overnight -- and attach the full four page PDF, here:

. . . .The parties will make their designated experts for all four cases available for deposition between July 20, 2017, and October 1, 2017.

Motions. All motions to exclude or limit expert testimony pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and all dispositive motions shall be filed as follows:

Opening Briefs: October 20, 2017;

Opposition Briefs: December 1, 2017; and

Reply Briefs: December 22, 2017.

The Court will hold a hearing to consider these motions on a date to be determined later. Total briefing for each parties’ Daubert briefs shall be limited to 50 collective pages per side for opening briefs, 50 collective pages per side for opposition briefs, and 25 pages per side for reply briefs.

Other Dispositive Motions. Each party shall be entitled to request motion practice, including dispositive motion practice, pursuant to the Local Rules and consistent with this Court’s Individual Practices. Nothing in this Order shall prohibit the opposition party from arguing that the motion is premature and/or untimely.

Final Discovery. The parties shall complete any remaining discovery within 60 days of the start of trial.

Trial Schedule. The Court anticipates that the First Bellwether Tranche shall be trial ready by March 2018. Following the entry of all orders disposing of all Daubert motions and dispositive motions, the Court will issue a scheduling order governing all trial related obligations, including the specific date for commencement of trial. . . .

At some point tonight, I'll get a revised tabular graphic up, on all of this -- but for now (my other) duties call. [There really is nothing like old school turn-tables and real vinyl, for playing the older and wiser cuts. . . . smile.]


UPDATED | Space Science: New Programs' Discovery Press Briefing -- From NASA This Afternoon, With Video...

I'll listen in today at 4 PM EST (3 PM local) -- and let you know what we learn.

This is (for me) what real space science should be all about -- the discovery of. . . the undiscovered. Let us hope it will continue under the new administration:

. . . .NASA will discuss the results of its latest Discovery mission selection during a media teleconference at 4 p.m. EST on Wednesday, Jan. 4.

The briefing participants are:

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington
Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division in Washington
Principal investigator(s) of the selected mission(s)

To participate in the telecon, media should email their name and affiliation to Dwayne Brown at or call 202-358-1726 by 3 p.m. (EST) Jan. 4.

Members of the public also may submit questions to be answered during and immediately following the briefing using #AskNASA.

The Discovery Program was founded in 1992 as an innovative way for NASA to explore space, calling on scientists and engineers to design missions that unlock the mysteries of the solar system. These cost-capped missions are led by a principal investigator and managed for NASA’s Planetary Science Division by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. . . .

[With credit (and kudos) here, to the gifted graphical artist who created the Van Gogh "Starry Night" version of NASA's wordmark -- Bernard Eisen.]

UPDATED: here are the two missions, in a one and a half minute NASA explainer:

And now, smiling broadly -- on a cold but bell-clear Tuesday morning walk in. . . all is well with my soul. Do not let Ms. Burress's off-message remarks dissuade you from seeing the sublime "Hidden Figures". That movie deserves your patronage -- trust Pharrell here. Smile.


Monday, January 2, 2017

[U] Slight Proposed Adjustments To Federal Propecia®/Proscar® MDL Schedule: Now Two Trial Tranches?

UPDATED | 01.05.2017: Later rulings analyzed here. The plaintiffs' executive committee lawyers are asking the court to at least consider starting with two of the original three bellwethers by September of 2017, but allowing the later added one (Finn) to slide to a "trial ready" date of January 2018. [Latest prior update, here.]

Specifically, they note that many of the same activities -- by some of the same law firms -- are also occurring in the New Jersey state proceedings, taxing all involved. Here's the four page proposal, as a PDF filed at year end -- and a bit (from the footnotes) -- relevant to my conclusion that the first federal bellwether trial will occur at least 90 days ahead of the state ones:

. . . .Additionally, the PEC notes that the Parties are also engaged in case-specific and expert discovery in the New Jersey consolidated proceedings. The PEC makes this observation because Lead Counsel in that case are members of the PEC and PSC in this Multi-District Litigation.

In other words, although not set forth in detail here, the Parties are collectively engaged in the same case-specific and expert discovery work in the New Jersey litigation which trails this case by approximately ninety (90) days. The fact the Parties are simultaneously engaged in these two cases explains, in part, the allocation of work in this MDL (i.e., certain firms were primarily tasked with MDL work, while others were primarily tasked with overseeing the New Jersey consolidated proceedings). . . .

Now you know. . . And now, onward -- still thrilled by the graceful, understated arc of the story-telling, in the historical drama "Hidden Figures". So much more enthralling than the dry narrative of the book, truth told. Smile. . . .


Sunday, January 1, 2017

With The Arrival Of A New, "Lower Sciences IQ" Administration -- NASA's Chief Scientist Has Announced She's Leaving...

It may just all be an uncanny coincidence -- but as I revel in all the "STEM on Fleek" wonder that is the screen adaptation of "Hidden Figures" tonight (do go see it when it opens nationwide later this week -- it will win Oscars!) -- it strikes me that this quiet departure is due in no small part to the arrival of a President who denies climate change, and ignores basic security briefings. In short, an "evidence light" President. I might not decide to just stick around blindly -- to see what he does to the space science budget, either.

Of course, we are likely to read -- within weeks -- that she has taken a high profile role at an elite academic institution, or in private industry. Here's the bit of the article out tonight:

. . . .It appears [NASA's chief scientist, Ellen] Stofan officially left her role on or around December 20th, with NASA quietly confirming that in an interview it posted on Tumblr. The space agency has merely said that Stofan is “departing for new adventures,” which doesn’t tell us much. She has a long history with the space agency, and was appointed NASA’s chief scientist in August 2013.

The big question now is what NASA has in store for the coming months, namely what it will do in Stofan’s absence and whether it already has a successor planned. The departure happened just before the new presidential administration comes into power, and the many questions surrounding that — about NASA’s future and the budgets it will get, that is — leaves a big question mark to conclude the year. . . .

Now you know. I'll try to resist seeing these departures all as part of a larger (and rather bleak) narrative, but it is sensible to believe (I think) that this departure might be read as a lack of faith in the incoming Administration. We will hopefully have a less jaundiced view in the coming days (as more information becomes available). Yes -- that I will hope.


For Now, Merck Need Not Widely Disclose Details Of Former HQ Sales Contract

For over seven years, we have followed the would-be (and actual) HQ moves made by the legacy Schering-Plough executives, and subsequently, for at least five, the correlative moves -- by Merck executives.

The latest chapter here -- in the ongoing battle over preserving essential services (schools, trash pickup and plowing, as examples) inside Readington Township, New Jersey has been over whether the public should be allowed to see the basis for the $124 million tax assessment (the highest tax assessment in the township) -- that belonging to Merck's former HQ site. For now, a New Jersey tax court has ruled that the details of the sale -- since scuttled -- need not be made public.

So we will keep an eye on this. For now, here's the bit, from -- as of this New Year's morning:

. . . .The Oldwick Road property has a three-story, hexagonal building with 1,747,632 square feet of office space, to underground parking garages, a 25,200-square-foot childcare center, a separate three-story 220,000-square-foot office building, two other parking garages and a 67,035-square-foot central utility building.

Merck offered the property for sale in October 2013. Merck then moved its headquarters to Summit, then, a year later, relocated to Kenilworth. Prior to moving to Readington, Merck's headquarters was in Rahway. . . . Readington was seeking the terms of the sales agreement so it could defend the $124 million assessment because, in New Jersey, assessments are based on purchase amounts. . . .

But Merck objected to turning over the sales agreement to the township because of its confidential provision. . . .

It matters a fair bit that the sale did not close. Obviously, once closed, the public land title and tax records will shed much light on a given buyer's identity and various other specifics. But that didn't happen, here. And it is true that Kenilworth would be put at a disadvantage -- in future efforts at marketing the property, if the public knew details -- of each failed sale.

So, onward -- as ever -- into 2017, with Merck still paying the taxes -- on this behemoth. To the movies, then. . . and smiling of sublime space science -- in copper colored hues. . . .


A Poem At The New Year...

Off to see a pre-release screening of the movie "Hidden Figures" in a few hours, with all the college kids here.

But as is my usual way, I've been reading poetry, on new year's day. . . and this one called to me (with only the slightest of edits) -- so here it is, in full:

New Year’s Day

Kim Addonizio

The rain this morning falls
on the last of the snow

and will wash it away. I can smell
the grass again, and the torn leaves

being eased down into the mud.
The few loves I’ve been allowed

to keep are still sleeping
[to teh south of me]. Here in [Chicago]

I walk across the fields with only
a few young cows for company.

Big-boned and shy,
they are like girls I remember

from junior high, who never
spoke, who kept their heads

glowered and their arms crossed against
their new breasts. Those girls

are nearly forty now. Like me,
they must sometimes stand

at a window late at night, looking out
on a silent backyard, at one

rusting lawn chair and the sheer walls
of other people’s houses.

They must lie down some afternoons
and cry hard for whoever used

to make them happiest,
and wonder how their lives

have carried them
this far without ever once

explaining anything. I don’t know
why I’m walking out here

with my coat darkening
and my boots sinking in, coming up

with a mild sucking sound
I like to hear. I don’t care

where those girls are now.
Whatever they’ve made of it

they can have. Today I want
to resolve nothing.

I only want to walk
a little longer in the cold

blessing of the rain,
and lift my face to it.

Onward then -- as 2017 will be better than this, for certain. I will make it so.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Yet Another "Star" Has Passed -- But Not From Hollywood, This Time -- This One Founded And Ran Batavia's Fermilab

The world-renown particle physicist Dr. Edwin Goldwasser has passed -- his niece has confirmed. He was 97. This man, though quiet and unassuming, made the United States the envy of the particle physics world in the early 1970s -- by overseeing the build of Fermilab's particle accelerator -- at the time the largest and most powerful on the planet. [It would take a long row of volumes to explain all the ways his accelerator project in sleepy Batavia, Illinois changed our understanding of quantum particles -- but their tracings appear in faint yellow, over his head at right.]

His time on this pale blue dot leaves us all a gift: he was a staggeringly powerful science vessel -- fostering a life-long legacy of achievement, in the physical sciences in and around the U of I. [The photo at right captures this I think, in his eyes -- while on his daily bicycle commute -- there appears an enigmatic genius. And he was that, indeed.] Here's a bit, from the New York Times obit (do go read it all):

. . . .Dr. Goldwasser, who was long associated with the University of Illinois, helped pioneer the use of powerful particle accelerators in American physics. By smashing subatomic particles together at high energies, the machines deepen scientists’ understanding of the most fundamental aspects of nature.

He was named deputy director of what was then the National Accelerator Laboratory in 1967 and given the task of constructing the most powerful accelerator in the world on farmland outside Chicago. The lab, which would later be known as Fermilab after the physicist Enrico Fermi, began operations in 1972.

"His biggest impact was Fermilab — creating the most forward-looking laboratory of its day in the United States," said Barry Barish, a physicist who performed experiments in the early days of Fermilab before becoming the director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. . . .

This year -- more than most -- I've profoundly felt the weight of these many passings. Perhaps because I see a less-hopeful, buoyant world for the next four years. Or, perhaps, because it increasingly settles in on me -- that one day, I too will be at the head of that line.

But for now, let us enter 2017 thinking of all the gifts these passing luminaries left behind for us: in their music, the arts, their films and yes -- in the sciences. Pax tecum, Dr. Goldwasser. Smile. . . .


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2017: Looking Forward -- For At Least Some "New Hope" -- Expanded Medicare Part D Drug Coverage Likely To Continue, Under Mr. Trump

If he remains even remotely true to his word, and the elite GOP folks in Congress don't stupidly mess things up, there is a strong possibility that the highly popular Medicare Part D expanded drug cost coverage program will continue in 2017 and beyond.

With PhRMA solidly touting it (why wouldn't it? -- as this leads to more drug-price coverage) -- and with most people saying it works well, at an acceptable cost -- I think even the elite Republicans will avoid tinkering with it. Here's a bit from the PhRMA blog, overnight, on it all:

. . . .Part D expanded coverage to millions of Americans who previously didn’t have access to comprehensive prescription drug coverage. Prior to implementation of Part D, fewer than 6 in 10 Medicare beneficiaries had comprehensive prescription drug coverage. Thanks to Part D, that number has increased to 9 in 10 Medicare beneficiaries. And in 2016, there was an average of 26 Part D plan choices available to beneficiaries in every region. Learn more here.

Part D continues to offer affordable prescription drug coverage with monthly premiums remaining relatively stable and substantially less than original projections for 2017. And the generic utilization rate for Part D beneficiaries has steadily increased each year, from 84 percent in 2013 to 86 percent in 2015. The program also keeps costs low for taxpayers, with total Part D costs coming in $349 billion less than the initial 10-year projections. Learn more here.

Part D helps beneficiaries live longer, healthier lives with nearly 200,000 Medicare beneficiaries having lived at least one year longer since Part D was implemented in 2006. And the average increase in longevity for beneficiaries is 3.3 years. This improved health also helps reduce other health care spending through fewer hospitalizations and a reduction in nondrug medical spending for Medicare beneficiaries. Learn more here. . . .

Now, as many already likely detected/observed, the title to the post this morning pays homage to the star on the masthead -- another one whose passing has arrived all too soon. Even so. . . "Punch it, Chewy!" She's catching a ride out, via hyper-drive. . . Onward -- on a clear cold morning, to the trains. . . smile. Tryin' to get that mo jo back. . . .