Company news

May 13, 2013

In a case that could have affected Dow AgroSciences LLC and companies developing biotech drugs, the U.S. Supreme Court sustained St. Louis-based Monsanto Co.'s claim that an Indiana farmer violated the company's patents on soybean seeds that are resistant to its weed killer. The justices, in a unanimous vote Monday, rejected farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman’s argument that cheap soybeans he bought from a grain elevator are not covered by the Monsanto patents, even though most of them also were genetically modified to resist the company's Roundup herbicide. Justice Elena Kagan said a farmer who buys patented seeds must have the patent holder's permission. Monsanto has a policy to protect its investment in seed development that prohibits farmers from saving or reusing the seeds once the crop is grown. Farmers must buy new seeds every year. The case had been closely watched by researchers and businesses holding patents on DNA molecules, nanotechnologies and other self-replicating technologies. But Kagan said the court's holding only "addresses the situation before us."

Warner Transitional Services LLC, a 10-month-old company that provides services to adults with developmental disabilities, plans to cease operations this summer, putting 112 employees out of work. The Indianapolis-based firm plans to terminate employment for 102 of its employees on June 7. The other 10 will remain with the company for less than another month to help wind down operations. Warner relies on funds from the Indiana Family and Social Administration, but FSSA recently decided to end that funding after numerous complaints against the company went unresolved. More than half of the employees affected are direct care professionals, a title usually held by nursing assistants or personal care aides. Warner is a subsidiary of Oconomowoc, Wis.-based Oconomowoc Residential Programs Inc., which operates several therapeutic, residential and in-home services businesses in the Midwest.

John Lechleiter temporarily relinquished the reins of Eli Lilly and Co. on Monday while he undergoes and recovers from cardiovascular surgery. Derica Rice, Lilly’s chief financial officer, will become acting CEO in Lechleiter’s absence. And Ellen Marram, lead independent director on Lilly’s board of directors, will be acting chairman. Lechleiter, 59, has been suffering from a dilated aorta, which is a swelling that can cause a rupture and bleeding in the main artery that carries blood from the heart. The company said the problem was discovered during unrelated testing and has not produced visible symptoms. Lechleiter will undergo a procedure in Indianapolis in which a portion of his aorta will be removed and replaced with a graft, said Lilly spokesman Ed Sagebiel. He will be recuperating for months, but is expected to return to the company “later this summer,” depending on the pace of his recovery. Rice, 48, has been Lilly’s CFO since 2006 and executive vice president of global services since 2010. He is the highest-ranking African-American executive at Lilly.

Former WellPoint Inc. CEO Angela Braly has been named by Gov. Mike Pence to serve as a board member of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. The appointment is the first high-profile post that Braly, 51, has accepted since she was ousted from the top spot at the Indianapolis-based health insurer in August. Braly’s tenure leading WellPoint was rocky, in part because WellPoint was painted by President Obama’s administration as the poster child of health insurance abuses during the lengthy debate of the president’s health reform law. Financial and operational missteps ultimately led investors to demand Braly’s ouster last summer. In February, WellPoint hired Joe Swedish, a longtime hospital executive, to replace Braly. WellPoint is Indiana's largest public company, ranking No. 47 on the new Fortune 500 list.