The now traditional first week in San Francisco for the Life Sciences industry is both one of the most exciting and frustrating meetings of the year: exciting because all the company decision makers are in town and this is one of the few occasions where important meetings happen between companies and decisions are made. Frustrating because San Francisco is too small for what has become one of the major conferences of the year and the hotel rooms that are available go for extraordinary rates. This aspect is nicely summarised in the Bloomberg article: This JPMorgan Health Conference Is So Packed Attendees Are Meeting in the Bathroom – “It’s quiet in here.”
It’s also the “bellwether” for the year for the industry. The meeting was preempted by the announcement of the planned $74bn acquisition of Celgene by Bristol Myers-Squibb (BMS), along with Eli Lilly’s $8bn acquisition of $8bn for Loxo Oncology Inc and the conclusion of Takeda’s acquisition of Shire set the tone for business as usual. Many of the presenting large pharma and large biotech presenting CEOs and CFOs were clear that M&A is a key strategy for both filling product pipelines and inorganic growth. Biotech also continues to benefit from record levels of venture investment. There were however hints that the cost of debt is increasing in the latter half of 2018, which will slow investment, if this trend persists.
Overall, our experience at the conference was that the climate does remain quite active, with a majority of people we met still upbeat about the M&A and capital markets for healthcare, though recognising that political affairs are creating more volatility.
To summarise the conference with an oxymoron: positively exhausting.