"Well, I don't think it's actually much of a secret," grins Doug Gelatin, one of the three founder members of the firm, which is this week's runaway success story in Britain's thriving medical research sector. "Once word got around that we were developing a cure for road rage, you couldn't stop people buying shares and throwing money at us. That left us with two options. Either to cash in, take the money and run, or genuinely come up with a cure for road rage. Well, faced with the choice, what would you do?"
I think I'd genuinely come up with a cure for road rage, actually.
"Would you?" says Simon Tallow in unfeigned astonishment. "Good God. How extraordinary."
Simon Tallow is the technical whizzkid behind the amazing rags-to-riches story of Gelatin, Tallow and Semen. Does this mean he supervises the actual research of a cure for road rage?
"Not quite," he says. "I supervise the research into a need for a cure for road rage. This is what British business is all about - finding a gap in the market."
And filling it?
"No, no, no! It's all about finding a gap in the market and making people believe you can fill it! Look, as soon as people sniff the fact that you may well be on to a cure for something, they go crazy and start snapping up your shares. TB, malaria, all these diseases that are coming back again or haven't been away, they all need new cures. Can you imagine what the stampede would be like if someone found a cure for Aids?"
A stampede by those suffering from Aids, you mean?
"Well, I suppose Aids sufferers would certainly display an interest," says Tallow, slightly taken aback, "but I was really thinking of the investors who need a cure for Aids. Make them a fortune! And they don't need a cure for Aids, just the hint of a cure for Aids.
"An investor can't afford to be left standing, you know, he has to be in on the ground floor, so he can't wait around to see if there really is a cure - he has to buy now!"
To help with research into the cure?
"You don't know much about the way stocks and shares work, do you?" says Doug Gelatin, not unkindly. "Look, people don't buy shares to help anything but themselves. They don't buy Railtrack shares to make a better rail system - they buy them to get a slice of the action as Railtrack flogs off its assets."
"And they buy our shares to sell them and get a quick profit," says Barry Semen, the third member of the triumvirate. "Well, that's what we do, anyway."
Right. So how does the operation work?
"Easy," says Gelatin. "We drop hints broadly that we have stumbled on a cure for road rage. Not only that, but we also drop hints that we have proved a causal link between road rage and mad cow disease."
Road rage is linked to mad cow disease?
"No, of course it isn't, but that's what we want people to think. We're suggesting that it might be possible to cure road rage and BSE at the same time!
"We are offering a hope of an end to violence on the roads, and an end to the beef ban in Europe, with the selfsame treatment.
"We are listening to what people want and we are giving it to them.
"We are taking their problems and giving them dreams back.
"We are listening to the pleas of farmer and motorist alike.
"We are playing the music of fulfilment and relief, the lull after the storm, the release from tension ..."
The voices of Gelatin, Tallow and Semen rise and fall round me like seductive chamber music, like the honeyed tones of Paul Gambaccini introducing an exquisite string quintet, like the humming of bees on a fat summer afternoon. With difficulty I shake myself free of the spell and ask the big question:
"But have you actually found a cure for road rage?"
There is no answer. I look round. They have vanished. I am alone. Perhaps I imagined it all ...Reuse content