To paraphrase: "When we performed a sub-group analysis on the (failed) study, we noted a strong, close to significant trend in women versus men. We plan to perform a confirmatory study in women only...." This was followed by the usual incidence and prevalence statistics and huge potential market size, and justification for the amount of money the company hoped to raise.
To me, these data screamed "artifact!!" but I tried to keep an open mind. I asked myself a few dumb questions.
Q: Are women different than men?
A: I think so (my seventeen years as an ob/gyn helped me with this one.)
Q: Why would women respond differently than men to a treatment confined to the lungs?
A: No easy reason, although maybe the different levels of estrogens and androgens (testosterone et al) have something to do with it.
Q: Is there a good way to dig into this, and stress test whether they have thought this through, or if this is a half-baked save-the-company Hail Mary strategy?
A: Let's find out.
Me: "Interesting observation. How did the data break down between premenopausal and postmenopausal women?"
(quick glances around the table between company execs)
One of them: "We actually didn't look at that. But it's a good idea!"
I asked a couple of other questions about the potential trial design, but I had already written off investing in the deal. There may indeed be real reasons why the drug the company was developing would be more active in women than in men, but I wasn't about to use my investors' money to fund the investigation.
Due diligence can be a lengthy and in-depth process.
But not always.