I really appreciate the value that many of the Long Tail readers bring to this site, and I’d particularly like to thank a couple of followers that sent me (both publicly and privately) the link to the Kids’ Cancer Project website that talks about Anisina (I have also take a PDF of it in case the page(s) gets taken down or modified).
You will note that I touch on the ethics of the biotechnology industry very often in this forum because it is a constant challenge and a constant facet of drug development that executives need to consider every day. Issues of disclosure, transparency, data manipulation/abbreviation and corporate governance are so much greater in this field, simply because of the nature of what we do and the capital at risk. Sometimes the ethics of conducting a bioscience business doesn’t just extend to the obvious stakeholders like shareholders and patients, but also the wider community.
I was highly concerned to read this website because it is asking the public for donations to support the clinical development of Anisina, but has no mention whatsoever of Novogen (ASX : NRT), or Peter Gunning’s involvement in Novogen (at the time of writing this post, he is a director). How can you solicit public donations for clinical development of a drug owned by a (comparatively) well-capitalised public company, going through all sorts of corporate governance challenges no less, and not share that information with a prospective donor? Even Gunning’s biography page (PDF here again) doesn’t mention Novogen or – to be specific – the research and financial conflict of interest that Peter Gunning has with an ASX-list company is not disclosed (not even in the “governance” pages – PDF).
My readers inform me that Novogen used to be mentioned on these pages. If someone has a screen snapshot, please feel free to email it to me and I will post it up. The fact that Novogen is no longer mentioned raises a red flag for me, and should be considered by shareholders to be additional evidence that the company is perhaps not tracking the way it should be with respect to its clinical programs. As one of my readers commented:
Had a phone call today from the kids cancer council, to whom I make regular donations. The interesting thing is that they were asking for an extra donation to support a new drug trial at Westmead Children’s Hospital next year, using an experimental drug called Anisina. How come Novogen isn’t funding these trials, especially since they have so much cash in reserve?
Very concerning indeed, and an excellent point. Perhaps the answer actually lies on the funding web page itself, with this soundbite courtesy of Peter Gunning :
Only the Kids’ Cancer Project was prepared to fund such progressive research into drug development.
So I guess the $40-ish million in Novogen’s bank account doesn’t count?
Aside from the questionable optics, the real issue here is that the average person who lands on this colourful and appealing site, seeing “great research” being done for childhood cancer, will have no idea of the conflicts of interest around the clinical programs they may choose to support. Frankly, I didn’t much like the content of the Anisina page either, in my view it lacks the sort of clinical measure and caution that is needed for public biomedical communication, particularly for something emotive like kids’ cancer. In my opinion it considerably oversells the impact of the research (especially considering the dearth of peer-reviewed publication around the Anisina technology).
This is unacceptable and the relationship with Novogen needs to be clearly disclosed. Fix it, please.