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Pharma and Biotech Firms Gather at the 37th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference

Posted on January 15th, 2019 by in Pharma R&D

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2019 marks the 37th year of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, which has come to be one of the premiere annual events for companies involved in all aspects of the industry, from biotech start-ups to large healthcare service providers. Held in San Francisco at the very beginning of January, the conference often sets the tone for the year, as participating thought leaders and companies present their innovations, ideas and priorities.

This year’s conference, which took place from January 7-10, welcomed 9,000 attendees and over 450 companies. Keynote addresses were delivered by figures as varied as political strategist James Carville and FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and companies of all kinds made presentations. Anyone following the #JPM19 hashtag on Twitter would find a great mix of major announcements, beaming selfies, thought-provoking discussions, journalistic takes on the latest trends – and the occasional snarky observation from an attendee.

Recurring themes and hot topics at this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference included AI and machine learning, precision medicine, genomics, unmet medical needs, ADCs and telehealth. Drug pricing and healthcare costs were top of mind, and healthcare opportunities in China attracted great interest. As usual, there was also plenty of interest in mergers and acquisitions – both the latest news of acquisitions, and predictions about upcoming M&A.

Reporting for MedCity News, Alaric Dearment highlighted a conversation with Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks in which the executive suggested M&A may be on the rise in 2019. The pharma giant announced on the first day of the conference that it is acquiring Loxo Oncology for $8 billion, and just the previous week Bristol-Myers Squibb revealed its $74 billion deal for Celgene. “Nevertheless, Ricks expressed support for a conservative approach for Lilly, as opposed to buying for the sake of expansion alone,” Dearment added, noting that Ricks said that scale may destroy more value than it creates, especially in R&D.

In terms of drug focus, therapies for central nervous system disorders received a good share of the spotlight at the conference this year. “Clinical updates on drugs for depression and pain drummed up investor enthusiasm, with contributions from Allergan, Sage Therapeutics and Vertex Pharmaceuticals,” reported Jacob Bell of BioPharma Dive. “Sage grabbed attention early into the conference’s opening day by revealing positive topline data for a postpartum depression drug that sent the biotech’s shares up more than 40%.” Conference attendees also heard more about how Vertex is concentrating on pain as a new therapeutic priority, while Allergan is developing drugs to treat depression and migraines.

Even as major pharma execs and well-known names like Joe Biden and Jamie Dimon roamed the conference, still a question on the minds of many was: where is the big tech trio of Amazon, Apple and Google? As the world’s foremost innovators, and at a time when the healthcare industry is embracing high-tech, many expected them to have a higher profile at the conference. As Rebecca Robbins observed in STAT, the most “visible sign” of their presence was in the participation of a few executives (such as Google’s Dr. Toby Cosgrove) in panel discussions. But these giants may not stay in stealth mode for long.

“As Big Tech companies rise as formidable players in biopharma and health care,” mused Robbins, “you have to wonder: How long it will be until we see these companies’ CEOs presenting to investors on the JPM main stage — slotted alongside the likes of Pfizer and Gilead and Novartis?”







Sr. Manager, Pharma and Biotech Segment

Sr. Manager, Pharma and Biotech Segment

As a professional with over 14 years of experience in strategy development and partnership management across a variety of industries, Nicki’s latest role as a Senior Manager, Segment Marketing at Elsevier applies her skills to the area of drug discovery and development in the Pharma and Biotech industry.  In this capacity she is focused on understanding biopharmaceutical R&D challenges and turning them into opportunity to further Elsevier’s ability to serve industry executives and the professionals who innovate in the drug discovery and development space.  Prior to joining Elsevier, Nicki held senior alliance and strategy roles in the Legal, Tax & Accounting, Life Sciences and Cyber Security industries.

Nicki resides in New York City and holds a BA in English Literature and Mandarin Chinese from Carleton College in Northfield, MN.


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