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Interesting trends, but not many mergers, discussed at JPM2020

Posted on January 22nd, 2020 by in Pharma R&D

The annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference took place last week in San Francisco, from January 12-16. While the event continues to be the premiere gathering for heavy-hitters in pharma and biotech, unlike so many past years, this one wasn’t characterized by big M&A announcements. It is not a sign of a slowing down of mergers, considering that, according to FiercePharma, “2019 featured $357 billion worth of deals, breaking a record set back in 2014”. More likely, it is just a sign of our digitally-driven, 24-hour news cycle world that companies are less likely to wait until JPM to make their most important announcements.

That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of interesting industry insights and discussions happening at the event. While Gilead wasn’t explicit about who it is currently looking to acquire, the company’s leadership did provide some hints, suggesting that in the next few years they would like to do at least one more deal like the recent $5.1 billion agreement with Galapagos. Of course not all forthcoming deals will be that ambitious, but they did advise investors to expect regular partnerships and buys, with a focus on early-stage deals.

As always, it’s interesting to discover what areas are drawing investment and focus. Novartis’ CEO noted that they now have 1,500 data scientists hard at work, demonstrating how serious the company’s AI ambitions truly are. As Fierce Biotech observed, Roche is likely to lose its top place in oncology sales to Celgene and Bristol-Myers Squibb, and so is looking to diversify more. This is leading to a greater concentration in neuroscience, which CEO Bill Anderson thinks could be as prevalent in the new decade as oncology was in the last.

While the big-name firms often appear to get the bulk of the attention at JPM, it’s still an excellent showcase for the start-ups and emerging companies who are doing some of the most innovative work in the industry. Elsevier was proud to see that Sigilon Therapeutics, a participant in our Hive initiative, was invited to this year’s conference to discuss the company’s novel approach to cell therapy and its clinical development plans. (Learn more about Sigilon here.) 

A great highlight of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, and almost like a mini-conference in itself, is the WuXi Global Forum. Now in its eight year, the WuXi Forum took place on the afternoon of January 14 and focused on the theme of “Advancing Breakthroughs for Patients”. The invitation-only event brought together thought leaders from industry and academia for discussions and presentations focused on the state of innovation, cell and gene therapies, the role of technology in the future of healthcare, and more. Topics highlighted in the forum confirm that personalized medicine, cancer treatment and the promise of technology continue to be top of mind among the industry’s innovators.

With another edition of JPM come and gone, healthcare industry players are primed to proceed into a new year that will hopefully see many new, life-changing treatments and technology in development.

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