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November 14, 2014

Ex-Mayo doc "feared retribution against himself and his family"

It has been an interesting week in the Mayo Clinic vs Dr. Franklin Cockerill legal tussle. So Cockerill's lawyers filed a motion Wednesday to modify the temporary restraining order that blocks Cockerill from working for Quest Diagnostics PLUS a detailed affidavit from Cockerill explaining his side of the case.

So the PB court reporter Kay Fate printed out the documents for me on Thursday and I wrote an article based on the filings last night. The twist here is that Cockerill's legal team withdrew the filings Thursday, after we printed them out.

The upshot is that my article is still running today in the PB. Here's some of it. The full piece is in today's paper:

A former Mayo Clinic doctor and executive said he did not tell Dr. John Noseworthy about his plans to work for a Mayo competitor because he "feared retribution against himself and his family."

CockerillDr. Franklin R. Cockerill III, the former CEO of Mayo Medical Labs, took early retirement at the end of September. However, instead of retiring, he stepped into a new job on Oct. 1 with Quest Diagnostics Inc.

The clinic filed a lawsuit against Cockerill over his decision to not tell Mayo Clinic he had been hired by a competitor; he told co-workers he intended to run his elderly mother's farming business.

The suit claims he misled everyone so he could acquire sensitive competitive information for his new employer. As part of that suit, a temporary restraining order was issued on Oct. 14 that prevented him from working at Quest because he could cause "irreparable harm" to Mayo Clinic.

Members_009-questCockerill filed a motion Wednesday to modify that order to allow him begin his role as Quest's chief lab officer because the person he is to replace will retire at the end of December. However, his lawyers withdrew the filing on Thursday and also withdrew an affidavit that detailed his version of the events surrounding his departure from Mayo after a more than 30-year career there.

However, the withdrawal came after the Post-Bulletin obtained a copy of the affidavit.

"It is now plain that the draconian restrictions that Plaintiffs obtained from this Court and that Dr. Cockerill had no opportunity to oppose are not consistent with Minnesota law and are entirely inappropriate," according to the original filing made by his lawyers from the Minneapolis firm of Lindquist & Vennum.

Cockerill contends Mayo Clinic had approached him with an attractive early retirement offer as his final two-year term as a department head was coming to an end. When asked for a response, Mayo Clinic denied that.

"Claims of an early retirement offer are completely false, and we were prepared to file documentation to prove it," said Mayo spokesman Bryan Anderson this morning.

In his affidavit, Cockerill says he announced his retirement in July, with plans to help his mother, and then he was asked by a Quest recruiter to interview for a position there. He eventually accepted a job with the condition that he work from Rochester, instead of the company's New Jersey headquarters.

Cockerill stressed in his filing he did not make the change to make more money. Mayo Medical Labs is the third largest laboratory company in U.S. and generates "a significant proportion of Mayo's profits." He had made about $580,000 a year at Mayo Clinic. At Quest, he will earn an annual salary of $400,000.

"I left my employment at Mayo reluctantly and only due to the convergence of several factors that arose as I enter the last stages of my professional career," he wrote in the filing. "Finally, in addition to limitation on the role I could still play at Mayo, my interest in the Quest position, and the attractive Mayo early-retirement offer, my decision to change employment was also influenced by my belief that the environment at Mayo had negatively changed over the past five years. Staff satisfaction has declined, burnout has significantly increased, and many people have grown afraid to speak up and voice their opinions."

November 12, 2014

New specialty grocer to build in S.W. Rochester

A new specialty chain is on its way to Rochester, joining an already crowded grocery scene.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, based in Golden, Colo., has filed plans with city to build a 14,000-square-foot store on an open lot in southwest Rochester by the TJ Maxx Plaza and the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center

Get_photoThink Mutual Bank owns the store site, which is at the corner of Greenview Drive and Salem Road Southwest. Think had planned to build there, but recently the bank announced it planned to offer the plot for development.

This will be Natural Grocers first store in Minnesota, though the 59-year-old public company currently operates 84 stores in 14 states, with 10 more expected to open soon.

While it generally is described as a specialty food retailer, Natural Grocers is very different than Hy-Vee, Trader Joe's or Aldi. It sells only organic foods as well as an extensive selection of vitamins and dietary supplements. The chain's website says its stores devote about 30 percent of their shelf space to vitamins, which in turn generate about 30 percent of its revenue.

"It looks like it goes deeper and more narrow than a mainstream grocery store. It is much more like a Whole Foods or a co-op," said Jonathan Seltzer, a St. Thomas University business professor.

Seltzer, who previously worked at the Supervalu grocery chain, doesn't think the addition of Natural Grocers to Rochester should hurt any one retail competitor more than others.

"It will probably draw some customers from many different players," he said.

This new store is just one factor in what is becoming a very competitive grocery scene in Rochester. Discount grocer Aldi is building its second store here and Hy-Vee plans to start construction of its fourth location in early 2015. The city's other food retailers include Cub Foods, Fareway Foods, Zzest, Walmart and Target.

"It seems that you are getting more square footage devoted to food retail in Rochester than the population would warrant," said Seltzer. "That probably speaks to the strength of Rochester's economy and its draw from nearby areas."


Groceries on the way
  * Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is proposing to build a 14,000-square-foot store in southwest Rochester. No projected opening date.

* Hy-Vee is planning to build a fourth Rochester location, a 90,000-square-foot store at 4200 West Circle Drive N.W. The goal is have it completed and open by late summer or early fall of 2015.

* Aldi is building a 17,000-square-foot store, its second in Rochester on the northwest side. The goal is to open in April 2015.

November 08, 2014

Mayo Clinic docs make millions by consulting with drug/device companies

Here's some from the lead article in my package of stories about Mayo Clinic doctors and their financial relationships with drug/medical device companies in this weekend's Post-Bulletin.

FYI, the front page article is continued on page A2 and more articles and data are printed on page B4.

An unprecedented disclosure of payments from drug companies shows that $3.07 million for consulting was paid in 2,388 payments to Rochester-based Mayo Clinic researchers, doctors and hospitals during five months last year.

11082014drugmoneygraphicHowever, Mayo Clinic officials point out that they have a strict policy about such payments, which all must be approved by its Conflict of Interest Committee. Such policies, which many medical centers have, are a way of preventing medical professionals from being unduly influenced by money from drug companies in their decisions, such as what drugs they prescribe.

For the same period, Cleveland Clinic staff collected $4.3 million in private money for consulting, while Johns Hopkins Hospital employees took in a mere $4,627.

Dr. Richard Ehman, vice-chair of the Conflict of Interest Committee, said that Mayo Clinic's restrictive policies are unusual within the medical industry.

"We know all of the financial relationships of our staff. That's unheard of," said Ehman.

Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins urge their employees to disclose their private contracts, though they stop short of requiring it in every case, according to their policies posted on their websites. Mayo, Cleveland and Johns Hopkins all agree that a physician or scientist serving as primary leader of a research project are banned from having private contracts with the companies involved.

800px-Gonda_building,_closer_upHundreds of Mayo Clinic doctors are receiving millions from drug companies and medical device makers for private consulting every year, while many others are paid one-third of the royalties generated by their work.

Disclosing all of the financial contracts between private companies and doctors is the goal of the Open Payments website run by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It features a database of doctors and the money they receive from outside sources. It's now required by the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which was part of the Affordable Care Act health reform.

In late September, data from August to December 2013 was released on the site. This batch of records includes about 4.4 million payments made to about 550,000 doctors and 1,360 teaching hospitals. However, some of the information reported by private companies is incomplete, confusing and, in some cases, incorrect.

For Mayo Clinic doctors, 100 percent of the payments for private consulting go directly to them. Mayo began allowing such consulting contracts in 1999, when it changed the rule that required all consulting payments to go to the clinic.

The payments for those five months show all different types, including royalties, research money and royalties.

In addition to the consulting payments during those five months, a total of 68 payments totaling $3.01 million were made to Mayo Clinic for research, according to the database.

All research money, like grants, goes directly to Mayo Clinic.

However, physicians or researchers receive one-third of the amount of royalty payments received by the clinic from drug companies, according to clinic policy. During the five months of reports, Mayo Clinic received a total of $1.9 million in royalties.

Just one company -- DePuy Synthes Sales Inc., a subsidiary of heath care giant Johnson & Johnson, reported paying a total of more than $1.15 million to Mayo Clinic or its doctors in 278 payments from August to December.

In the wake of the recent federally-mandated deluge of information about the financial ties between doctors and private drug/medical device companies, Ehman explained that Mayo Clinic does allow its employees to personally profit from such agreements. However, every financial relationship must be approved by the Conflict of Interest Committee.

Mayo Clinic approved 1,003 consulting contracts for 308 doctors and researchers in 2013 to personally work with private companies on their own time. The Mayo Clinic committee, which meets every other week, approved 953 such agreements with 301 individuals in 2012 and 1,071 for 292 employees in 2011.

October 29, 2014

New downtown Rochester fitness studio warming up for opening

A new fitness studio is gearing up to open in downtown Rochester before the holiday feasting begins.

Sarah Pacchetti's Studio on Third is all set to open on Monday at 18 Third Ave. S.W. in the basement of the Merchant Exchange Building.  The 1,000-square-foot fitness center is tucked in next to The Doggery cocktail bar.

10282014studioonthirdThe studio offers hip hop, Barre, Piloxing, Zumba and yoga classes for Rochester folks as well as visitors staying in downtown hotels.

"I've been playing with this idea for years. I wanted to open a place that would be fun and empower others," she said in July, when she announced her plans for the studio.

Pacchetti is a certified instructor previously taught classes at Mayo Clinic's Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center. She has a team of nine instructors or as she calls them "inspire-ers." That team includes a couple of names that are familiar to the Rochester business community, Jess Irhke and Sara Pennington.

Sarah, with her husband John Pacchetti, bought half ownership of the basement level of the Merchants Exchange Building in June. The Pacchettis co-own the space with Scott Hoss, who also handles the leasing as an agent of Rochester's Paramark Real Estate Services.

The Pacchettis also own the Rochester-based Home Instead senior care operation that serves southeastern Minnesota.

October 16, 2014

Accused doctor 'disappointed' by Mayo Clinic lawsuit

A former executive accused of allegedly stealing trade secrets says he's "disappointed" in Mayo Clinic's lawsuit against him, in a statement released by his attorney.

Franklin-cockerillOn Tuesday, Mayo Clinic filed a lawsuit (The complaint is posted here) alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract against Dr. Franklin R. Cockerill III, who was president and CEO of the for-profit Mayo Medical Labs for eight years. Mayo Clinic released the lawsuit to the media of Wednesday.

"Dr. Cockerill is disappointed that the Mayo Clinic has made such allegations and publicized its unproven claims in the media," according to a statement released by Nancy Brostrom Vollertsen, a Minneapolis attorney with Lindquist & Vennum LLP, on Wednesday. "Dr. Cockerill holds a stellar reputation in the medical community and has devoted more than 30 years of his life to the Mayo Clinic and the Rochester Community."

The message from Vollertsen also stated that, "We will be filing responsive pleadings in this matter shortly."

The lawsuit alleges that Cockerill covertly accepted a job with a major competitor of Mayo Medical Labs in June, but he told Mayo Clinic that he was "retiring" at the end of September to help his 85-year-old mother run her fertilizer business in Nebraska.  From June to September, he continued to work at Mayo Medical Labs, attending confidential meetings and negotiating contracts.

On Oct. 1, he stepped into the position of vice president and chief laboratory officer with New Jersey-based Quest Diagnostics Inc., a multibillion-dollar public company. The complaint filed by Mayo Clinic claims that Cockerill was in communication with Quest throughout his final months and he left with clinic-owned memory sticks with data downloaded from his workstation.

“By failing to disclose his conflict-of-interest, Dr. Cockerill’s actions were in violation of Mayo Clinic conflict-of-interest/compliance policies that all staff members agree to on an annual basis, and have put at risk the business strategy of Mayo Medical Laboratories," said a statement released by Mayo Clinic spokesman Bryan Anderson.

Vollertsen, a former partner with the Dunlap & Seeger law firm in Rochester, responded that there as nothing sinister about Cockerill's departure.

"He opted for early retirement at the Mayo Clinic's invitation and is not subject to any non-compete or other agreement that would limit his activities after leaving Mayo," she stated.

Cockerill was a high-profile leader at Mayo Clinic during his about 30 year career here. He was the chief of Mayo Medical Labs as well as the chairman of Mayo's Laboratory Medicine and Pathology department since 2006.

He managed more than 3,200 employees in that role, according to Quest. Mayo Medical Labs performs about 20 million tests for more than 4,000 hospitals annually.

Mayo Clinic paid him a total of $591,413 in 2012, according to the clinic's 990 form filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

In August, Cockerill officiated the ceremonial ground-breaking of an almost 70,000-square-foot expansion of its Superior Drive Support Center, where Mayo Medical Labs is based.

"His character and high level of integrity speak for themselves," stated Vollertsen.

October 15, 2014

Ex-Mayo exec accused of stealing trade secrets

A former top Mayo Clinic executive is being sued for allegedly hiding his hiring by a competitor of Mayo Medical Laboratories for months while he continued to work for Mayo and for stealing trade secrets.

Franklin-cockerillMayo Clinic filed a lawsuit alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of contract against Dr. Franklin R. Cockerill III, who was president and chief executive officer of the for-profit Mayo Medical Labs for eight years. The case was filed Tuesday in Olmsted County District Court. Mayo Clinic released the lawsuit to the media this morning.
 
A Mayo Clinic statement released by Bryan Anderson this morning said, “We do not take this action lightly. Dr. Cockerill was a valued Mayo Clinic clinician, leader and colleague.  We will vigorously defend and protect our intellectual property to ensure we can continue to meet our charitable mission,"

A call to Dr. Cockerill's southwest Rochester residence went unanswered this morning. Asked to comment, Quest Director of Media Relations Wendy Bost said the company received the complaint this morning and is reviewing it. "We do not comment on pending litigation," Bost said.

According to the complaint:

On July 17, an emotional Cockerill told his department that he was "retiring" to help his 85-year-old mother run her fertilizer business in Nebraska. Co-workers lauded his almost 30-year career with Mayo Clinic and gave him an appreciative send-off that built up to his final day of work on Sept. 30.

All of that changed on Oct. 1. Instead of retiring to Nebraska, Cockerill went to New Jersey to work for a major MML competitor, Quest Diagnostics Inc. He stepped into the position of vice president and chief laboratory officer for the multibillion public company.

Using emails as evidence, Mayo Clinic contends Cockerill had been talking to Quest about a job since February. He had a phone interview with Quest in March followed by a face-to-face interview in May, when Cockerill said he needed the time off to help his mother with a business problem. The lawsuit alleges he accepted the Quest position in June. Instead of informing Mayo Clinic, he continued to work at Mayo and attend confidential meetings, where issues were discussed that could cause irreparable damage to MML and Mayo Clinic in the hands of Quest.

Cockerill exchanged emails discussing business strategies with Quest CEO Stephen Rusckowski in August, according to Mayo's suit.

Mayo Clinic alleges Cockerill left with at least seven clinic-owned USB memory drives and that he used four of them to "download information from Dr. Cockerill's computer in the days before … (he) started working for Quest."

Mayo Medical Labs and Quest vie for millions in medical test contracts. Mayo Medical Labs performs about 20 million tests for more than 4,000 hospitals annually. Quest says it does 1.5 billion tests a year. Many of the clinical tests conducted by both MML and Quest are proprietary and generate millions in revenue.

The lawsuit also claims Cockerill attempted to recruit "at least one long-term key Mayo employee to consider retiring early to 'consult' with the lab industry," though he did not specifically mention Quest to the female executive.

October 13, 2014

New biotech office launches in Rochester

This one seems to have a lot of local momentum behind it.

--------

The health care technology arm of a Sri Lanka-based company is officially launching its Rochester office on Tuesday morning.

Brandix i310132014brandixoffice is hosting a grand opening in the morning of its 2,000-square-foot office on the skyway level of Minnesota BioBusiness Center at 221 First Ave. S.W.

The software development firm has been working out of a spot in the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, since early summer. The business accelerator is located on the same floor of the Biobusiness Center as Brandix's new office.

Aaron Epps, Brandix's associate vice president of health care, said earlier this year that office would launch with six employees, though he expects it to grow to 12 by the end of the year

"We want to be part of the Destination Medical Center project," he said. "We're looking to expand quickly. We're a start-up, but we're a start-up with the backing of a large 10132014brandixskywaysigncompany."

Brandix's focus is to work with its local partner, Rochester-based Ambient Clinical Analytics. Ambient makes "real-time decision support tools" for doctors and nurses working in the ICU, operating room or emergency departments.

Mayo Clinic launched Ambient in 2013, and it named Al Berning as CEO. Berning is known in Rochester as a former IBMer, a co-founder of Pemstar and former CEO of Hardcore Computers/LiquidCool Solutions. Ambient's management team includes other local business leaders, like former long-time IBM executives Drew Flaada and Deb Sutherland.

Brandix has a three-year lease with the City of Rochester. It pays $20 per rentable foot
is In addition to the leasing the 2,000-square-feet, Brandix's lease promises "first right of refusal" for the other 2,000 square feet of adjacent vacant space to the west.

The city gave Brandix "a one-time fit-up allowance" of $10 per square foot, or $20,000, to build out its offices.

Mayo, Cardio3 sign deal to expand collaboration

Mayo Clinic has deepened its long-time relationship with Cardio3 Biosciences by giving the Belgium firm "preferred access" to new regenerative-medicine discoveries.

Having preferred access means staff from Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine meet with Cardio3 on a quarterly basis to discuss technologies and research that are in the "pipeline," according to Michael Pfenning, center administrator. This gives Cardio3 the first chance to ask to license, purchase or otherwise work with the center's regenerative-medicine research.

008661829The access began on Oct. 1 and runs to December 2017. It then could be extended, if both parties agree.

Mayo Clinic and Cardio3 have collaborated for many years on the cardiopoiesis technology the company uses to repair patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cell to regenerate cardiac tissue. Cardiopoiesis is a process that "re-programs" stem cells taken from a patient's bone marrow from their hip. Those re-programmed cells then are injected back into the patient's heart to repair damaged tissue.

Cardio3 BioSciences has licensed Mayo Clinic's research in this area, since 2007. That research was led by Mayo Clinic's Dr. Andre Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar. Dr. Terzic, who along with Mayo Clinic has a financial interest in Cardio3, also is the director of Mayo Clinic's Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Mayo Clinic is helping Cardio3 with its new phase III clinical trial of its regenerative therapy. The trial is approved to recruit up to 240 patients and it is expected to begin in January. Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., the City of Rochester and Mayo Clinic are establishing a 2,000-square-foot facility in the Minnesota Biobusiness Center to freeze and prepare patient samples for shipping to Belgium.

"We have a great relationship with them from a commercialization perspective," said Timothy Argo, a technology licensing manager of Mayo Clinic Ventures. "From our perspective, this is all about finding ways to get things from our labs to patients faster."

Cardio3 sees the new relationship as a win-win.

“Mayo will continue to invent new concepts, while Cardio3 will offer its development expertise to those technologies, as well as guidance in the early development phases to the Mayo research teams," stated Cardio3 CEO Dr. Christian Homsy in the announcement of the deal. "This agreement is in line with our business development strategy defined earlier this year, and enables our company to rapidly and significantly enlarge its product portfolio with high quality research programs across multiple therapeutic areas.”

October 08, 2014

Mayo Clinic books sold to publisher in bankruptcy auction

A New York publisher now owns the rights to nine Mayo Clinic books, including the popular Mayo Clinic Diet book, after buying them and other assets for $1.57 million at a bankruptcy auction.

Skyhorse Publishing and The Perseus Books Group submitted the top bid to buy the assets of Good Books last week. Good Books, which had published the Mayo Clinic Diet book since 2010, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in December 2013.

Mayo-clinic-diet“The logistics of this deal were very challenging, and there were many twists and turns, but we found a way to bring the various groups together to make this work for all parties,” stated Skyhorse’s president and publisher Tony Lyons in the announcement of acquisition.

Some industry media reported that Mayo Clinic balked the deal at first. However, it moved ahead when Perseus agreed to pay Mayo Clinic $317,263 to cover past royalties that Good Books had not paid.

"We had a successful relationship with Good Books, as evidenced by the diet book hitting No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and the steady growth of the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy," said Mayo Clinic Spokesman Brian Kilen. "We are pleased to be expanding our relationship with Perseus, who is a major publisher with whom we expect to continue the tradition of publishing Mayo Clinic books that provide evidence-based health information to consumers."

The other Mayo Clinic titles that were part of the deal are, Mayo Clinic Diet Journal, The Mayo Clinic Diabetes Diet, Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, Mayo Clinic Guide to Your Baby's First Year, The Mayo Clinic Breast Cancer Book,The Mayo Clinic Kids' Cookbook and the soon-to-be-published Mayo Clinic Guide to Fertility and Conception.

Perseus will publish the Mayo titles under its Da Capo Lifelong line of books, which already includes The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living and the upcoming Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness.

Mayo Clinic says the nine books in this deal represent about about one-third of its line of books. It also publishes titles like Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine with Time Home Entertainment as well as self-publishing disease- and condition-specific books on topics such as arthritis, diabetes and breast cancer.

Mayo Clinic declined to discuss how much revenue its books generate for the institution annually.

October 07, 2014

OMC expanding its administration offices on Third Avenue

Olmsted Medical Center is expanding its footprint in a Third Avenue office building to house much of its administration staff.

Since 2013, OMC has been leasing 4,200 square feet of office space in the SEH-Yaggy building at 717 Third Ave. S.E., which is near its Southeast Clinic. About 20 senior administrators are based there, said Jeremy Salucka, OMC's communications coordinator.

SEH YaggyNow OMC has launched a construction project to expand its presence within that complex to about 15,000 square feet of office space.

"We're more than tripling the space we have there," said Salucka.

The plan is to eventually move administration staffers currently working in other leased offices into the Third Avenue building to consolidate many of OMC's non-clinical departments, he said. It will  also create much needed conference room space.

"This will help us reduce overhead and bring teams together under one roof," he said.

The exact number of workers that will join the 20 already in the building has not been determined yet. It could possibly double up to 40 people, according to rough ballpark estimate by Salucka.

The project is expected to be completed sometime in January.

CRW Architecture-Design Group moved its team of 10 people out of the building at the end of September. The firm had been based in there, since it spun off from what was previously known as Yaggy-Colby Associates in 2010.

CRW has a new office building plus four apartments under construction at 11th Avenue and Second St. N.W. It is hoped to be completed yet this fall.