"The emphasis by the media and Wall Street was way out of proportion with the impact on our business," he said. "Even if the launch had been successful, the product still would have represented less than 10 percent of our revenues." He added cheerfully that he and his family are faithful users of the vaccine. "We eat our own cooking," he said. How does the vaccine feel shooting up his nose? "Wonderful," he said.
Now, Mott told investors at the recent conference, "we're going to become a company people think about as a pipeline company," working on a new version of Synagis and drugs for cancer, the virus that causes mononucleosis, and lymphoma.
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)
Those who have worked with Mott say he constantly gathers and processes information, dropping in on employees throughout the company and encouraging a collaborative workplace. "I often tell people we're recruiting from the outside at the executive management level that we have no executives at MedImmune," he said in an interview. "We are all workers. There is very little hierarchy or bureaucracy. It's a roll-up-your-sleeves and get-the-job-done kind of place."
MedImmune's new $88 million headquarters features laboratories in the center of the building, surrounding wide exposed staircases. He expanded the company's executive committee from six to 15 members.
"He's able to lead, to really guide the process, and build upon the strengths of his individual team members," said Michael S. Richman, a former senior vice president at MedImmune and now chief operating officer at MacroGenics Inc. in Rockville. "He's very bright and very motivated."
As Mott has settled into his chief executive's role, he is increasingly leveraging his reputation in the local and national biotech communities. He is on the boards of the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Tech Council of Maryland. He said he would like to help guide the local biotech community out of its slump. That's one reason MedImmune formed a venture capital company to invest in young companies.
"We're at a crossroads," Mott said. "Several years ago, during the genomics bubble, there was a tremendous amount of momentum in this region within the biotech industry," including mammoth stock gains, followed by losses, at companies such as Celera Genomics Corp. and Human Genome Sciences Inc.
"With the pullback in that space, it has had a big impact on the critical mass in this region," he said. The company feels the impact in recruiting, with potential employees wondering what else they could do if things don't work out for them at MedImmune.
In Boston and San Francisco, he said, there are hundreds of companies. "Here's it's more like tens of companies."
Hockmeyer said he talks frequently with Mott, though not every day. He said his former dinner partner has infused the company with the qualities that impressed him at the Manhattan steak house.
Asked to size up his protege's performance so far, Hockmeyer said, "Aside from our stumble with FluMist, it's been an excellent tenure."
Staff researcher Richard Drezen contributed to this report.