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Trending at the 38th Annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference| Medtech, M&A, Biosimilars, China

This year marks a new decade and the 38th annual JP Morgan Healthcare conference at the Westin St. Francis. The San Francisco based investment firm, Hambrecht & Quist began hosting the conference in 1983 to 20 companies and roughly 200 attendees. Chase acquired the firm in 2000, and now, in 2020, has been hosting this “invite only” event for 20 years. How is that for a numerical alliteration?

Jan 12th-16th over 9000 attendees and nearly 500 private and public companies are expected to descent upon San Francisco’s Union Square to have a front seat to CEO big announcements, gain industry insights from keynotes speakers, and engage in hyper-networking at healthcare’s largest symposium of the year. While the exorbitant cost of the venue is proving to be prohibitive, and downright distasteful to many, still a significant cohort of pharmaceutical, med device, start-ups, service providers and investors will be in attendance this year. For those looking to make partnerships and network, this symposium in the Golden City proves to be, well, worth it’s weight in gold. 

What if you are not a client of JP Morgan and without special invitation to next week’s main event? There are still plenty of informative sessions produced by a plethora of keen partners in the industry including pharm/bio/med device companies, non-profit organizations, law firms and investment firms that you can register for. After hours introduces countless, fairly accessible, cocktail functions where off-the cuff connections happen. Veterans of the conference reach out to their network a bit in advance to lock down some invaluable meetings from as early as the Saturday preceding JPM.

Other conferences running congruently to JPM presenting timely themes include Biotech Showcase (Digital Medicine & Medtech 13- 15 @Hilton), China Focus@ San Francisco (Jan 12 @Grand Hyatt) and RESI (Jan 14 @Marines’ Memorial Club & Hotel). 

Themes Trending for JPM 2020:

  • Drug Pricing
  • Medtech
  • M&A
  • Pipeline Drugs
  • China

DRUG PRICING REFORM- The industry has seen political challenges in this administration with respect to the rise in out-of-pocket costs for drugs.  The industry has been slow to accept the way health insurance is now been designed where these costs have nearly quadrupled for patients. How should companies be working with payers to mitigate these costs? We also see proposals for #MedicareForAll pondering the potential of one national health insurance plan for all Americans. We will see high costs driven by pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries advancements in symbiotic diagnostics and gene therapies that target serious diseases. Cancer therapies like Blubird Bio’s Zynteglo or Novartis’ spinal muscular atropy’s gene therapy Zolgensma will cost patients millions.  The big picture is that genetic research is giving rise to drugs costs in the short term, however eliminating healthcare costs in the long run.  Is there a strategy for how these companies cross the aisle to develop reimbursement solutions with the federal government to attain patient affordability?  

MEDTECH- Anticipate presentations from companies in Telehealth, AI and Digital Surgery.

  • TeleHealth Lisa Gill senior analyst at JPM declares “The consumer is the biggest disrupter in healthcare. The consumer wants their services where they want them, when they want them at the lowest price.”  Washington is asking for transparency to healthcare pricing and with the right technology, consumers can make better decisions with that access. With a Millennial and Gen X market dedicated to their handheld devices, telehealth uses technology to deliver virtual medical health and services to consumers. Medtech companies have developed live video, mobile health, remote patient monitoring and blockchain modalities to “facilitate diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management and self management of patient’s health”.
  • AI We also see Artificial Intelligence making a significant impact in the industry. Companies are using machine learning to produce innovative data that can integrate Social Detriments of Health (SDOH) for insightful patient care. Also look for discussions on how AI is influencing global drug R&D, diagnostics and preventative healthcare. You can also look forward to the community addressing the ethical impact of AI and innovative methods of analyzing big data associated with precision medicine. Will Bayer headline with their recent Exscientia collaboration? Could attendees expect Owkin Science (which has developed an accurate prognostic model based on images of lung tissue biopsies to predict disease evolution) or possibly even Google (the Google AI platform efficiently assists oncologist in breast cancer screenings) to present at one of the sessions during JPM 2020?
  • Digital Surgery With Envista presenting at JPM can attendees expect to see intelligent surgical offerings in the oral surgery space? Attendees will certainly hear from Johnson and Johnson on Monday, January 13 in a session scheduled with Ashley McEvoy, EVP, Worldwide Chairman, Medical Devices. Look for Ashley to present the finalized transaction with Verb Surgical Inc. and strategic collaboration with Verily. The acquisition will “advance the company’s vision to make medical interventions smarter, less invasive and more personalized.” The Verb Surgical acquisition complements the company’s 2019 Auris Health robotic platform integration of diagnostic and therapeutic lung procedures. With these digitally enhanced surgical solutions, Johnson & Johnson’s Medical Devices ecosystem of AI, data analytics, enhanced visualization, and advanced instrumentation continues to expand the surgery portfolio across multiple specialties.

M&A This year we see a paradigm shift in mergers and acquisitions. In 2019, depressed evals were responsible for some of the larger deals but in 2020 smaller acquisitions and collaborations will occur where large cap pharmaceuticals strategically look to acquire smaller biotech companies to enhance their portfolio.

PIPELINE DRUGS- In 2019 the FDA dealt with a surge in cell and gene therapy IND applications giving way to a pipeline of products to treat genetic disease in 2020. The agency’s pro-science attitude has been vital in accelerated development and regulatory approval for immunotherapy as well. “Immunotherapy is forecast to become the oncology treatment of choice by 2026 with an estimated 60% of previously treated cancer patients likely to adopt immunotherapy in this timeframe.” Key immunotherapies including anti-PD-1 drugs, dendritic cell vaccines, T-cell therapies and cancer vaccines are all driving the market. Both Jounce Therapeutics and NKarta Therapeutics have announced they will be presenting at JPM.

  • Biosimilars On March 23, 2020, a biological product previously approved under Section 505 of the FD&C Act will be considered as an approved BLA and regulated under the PHS Act according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). During this licensing application process specific products are subject to biosimilar competition. This includes reference products like insulin, which previously had been regulated as a drug, not a biologic. There are currently 26 companies with FDA- approved biosimilars. This BLA transitional period will open up opportunities for insulin and insulin analogs, human growth hormone, pancreatic enzymes, and reproductive hormones biosimilars to also drive some drug prices down. Challenges for these highly similar drugs will include gaining market share, seamless transition into the payers paradigm, sustainability and lower margin markets. Celltrion head of strategy and operations, HoUng Kim, anticipates companies will counter biosimilar competition by strategically “introducing innovation into their products, such as improved formulations and medical devices.”

REGULATORY

  • Medtech Our regulatory system will require changes to its’ infrastructure to accommodate demands for price transparency and as biotech companies are nearly becoming software companies the divergent medical technology industry must be assessed in a new way.
  • Value-based care – What will be the blueprint for how incentivized care is measured, regulated and paid?
  • China On the other side of the globe we see the trend of faster regulatory approval in China. China is the 2nd largest bio-pharma and it’s agile reimbursement system makes the market attractive for innovation.

In review of the biotech climate, 2020 foreshadows an evolution with consumers disrupting the modalities of healthcare and precision health care driving the industry. We will see how politics will affect patient access to drugs and also experience changes to regulatory infrastructure. The new decade will also look at the transformation of biopharma companies into software companies. So in anticipation of the 2020 JP Morgan Healthcare conference, whether live at Union Square or via satellite, be ready to absorb what’s to come from thought leaders and executives in the healthcare industry. While the Golden City venue promises to host yet another frenzied event, announcements will undoubtedly set the tone for industry, connections will organically be made and deals are anticipated to happen.