Elise Wang, an analyst at Smith Barney Citigroup, the successor to the firm for which Mott once worked, said his candor has allowed him to "corner a certain level of credibility in the market, and a lot of people are willing to be patient because of that."
"Although he has these challenges ahead of him, I get the sense that there's a certain level of faith in David and his team," said Wang, who does not own MedImmune stock, though her firm does.
David Mott, left, Lois Top, Franklin Top and Wayne Hockmeyer at the groundbreaking for MedImmune's headquarters in Gaithersburg in June 2002.
(Timothy Jacobsen For The Washington Post)
Mott has yet to bring his own blockbuster drug to market.
Synagis, the company's first home-run drug, came to market when Hockmeyer was chief executive in the late 1990s. Though Mott has steered it to nearly $900 million in sales, he acknowledges the market for the drug has evened out. At a recent investor conference, Mott said the company has to work "through the curse of our success with the maturation of Synagis."
One way was an acquisition.
"We are going through now the same thing that basically every large, successful biotech company has gone through, which is a pipeline gap that emerges on the other side of your first blockbuster," Mott said at the conference. "We had one opportunity to sail through that without our growth slowing down."
So Mott leveraged 14 percent of MedImmune's stock to acquire the firm developing FluMist. MedImmune promoted FluMist aggressively, and the drug got wide national attention because of its potential consumer appeal as an alternative to a flu shot.
But FluMist's launch last year was disastrous for a number of reasons: the company's inability to win approval for vaccinating young children and the elderly, poor marketing by MedImmune and corporate partner Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and the difficulty of storing FluMist because the first-generation version of the drug must be kept frozen.
The company's stock traded at $34.47 a share last September, as the flu season began. It closed Friday at $23.27.
In an interview, Mott expressed frustration that he still has to answer questions about FluMist, which MedImmune is selling at a cut rate as it works to launch a more broadly approved version in 2007.