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Sunday, February 12, 2017

I Bought Amgen

I bought Amgen just before they won their lawsuit against Regeneron/Sanofi. I didn't know about the pending PCSK9 lawsuit though. I was betting on a comeback. They were down 10% from last year and they are winning the CGRP race (migraine headache medicine). That could be a big thing. So far it looks like I got lucky. I got in around 147 and today AMGN is around 167.

I had three close calls with working for Amgen. I had interviews and phone conversations. I was flown to Thousand Oaks. I interviewed in Seattle for what turned out to be an RNAi group. That was humorous because they didn't tell me that upfront. I went on a rant about how I wouldn't work with RNAi. I could see in their eyes that they were planning on using RNAi to achieve their goals. Long story short, I did not succeed at securing employment at Amgen. Had I done so there would be little chance I would still be there today. It would have been a bad investment of ones career. Amgen has more ex-employees than most biotech.

The way I see the world of work these days is in terms of value investment.  I would not want to work at Amgen nor any biotechnology company because they do not provide career value. The main reason is because they are in the biotechnology industry. I can go to my LinkedIn account and search through the ruined careers of many a smart charismatic scientist with fancy degrees, publications and patents. Where are they today? I don't know because when you lose your biotech career it is not wise to put your new job at Starbucks on your LinkedIn account. The value of those degrees, patents, publications, years building new skills, and associations with big players like Amgen, can all add up to a job at Starbucks.

Back to my stock portfolio.

My next pick was going to be General Electric. I want a solid dividend payer. In my research however I came across the fact that they are planning to add more women for the sake of diversity.

Today, GE announced its goal of having 20,000 women in STEM roles at the company by 2020, resulting in an impressive 50:50 gender balance in technical entry-level positions. Right now, GE has 14,700 women in engineering, manufacturing, IT, and product management positions. 
The value of a company that depends on science and engineering comes from the scientists and engineers. What makes for a good scientist or engineer? Apparently GE thinks that preference for those with vaginas will aid in their search. If they had a preference for those with penises I would also have a problem. You hire scientists and engineers based on their skill and knowledge.  A college degree from a good school is one indication that a person has what it takes. MIT, CalTech... Next I would seek value in candidates based on their work history. I would look for publications. I would speak with them about their work to find out how interested they are in what they do.

When it comes to a company like GE, the engineers matter. They, unlike biotech, make things that have to work. If my refrigerator conks out it's going back. Biotech on the other hand does not make products that work. They don't have to. See my post on Serepta. They only need to convince the FDA and the doctors that their statistics indicate some efficacy. I value Amgen, not for their science and technology prowess, but for how they will make investors feel.

The ruined careers of chemists, biochemists, biologists, molecular biologists are something that doesn't get media attention. The job losses that have occurred since the big recession of 2007 have not been given proper journalistic attention. Who lost their jobs/careers? Amgen, for example came to Seattle, started a huge campus, started a Masters Degree in Biotechnology at UW, embarked on a decade of research and then the left town. Expedia took over the campus. What did their ho hum hirelings go on to do? Do they have anything of value to share with the rest of us? Has their LinkedIn account stopped marking their progress?

I want to end this post with an example of finding value in things complicated versus complex. Mark Zuckerberg has done quite well with hiring strong scientists. Here is what he values in employees.



Then he gets a little full of himself and decides he can do anything. He is now going to cure all disease. Very noble but disease is not like a computer website. Zuckerberg may have spotted a place where computer science can add value to our lives. He may have found ways of making a ridiculous profit from that work. But now he is venturing into the world of the cargo cults. This stuff is not easy and the scientists are not as smart as the ones he currently employs. I won't be investing in this.

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