I spent three days attending life science events in San Francisco last week and went away with these general observations:
- JP Morgan’s Healthcare Conference is no longer the sole life science event of value in San Francisco as in earlier years. It used to be the main event with all the industry stakeholders present but now it serves high roller investors who meet the annual investment hurdle set by JP Morgan and presenting companies who have a potentially lucrative financial relationship with the bank.
- There were 337 presenting companies of which only 46 were private, leading to growing criticisms that new exciting innovation from startups was in short supply at the meeting.
- Starting Tuesday there were 7 tracks and Wednesday a record 8 with total of 22 nonprofits, 8 Latin American, 14 Asian and 16 Chinese companies appearing in the alternative 7th and 8th tracks Tuesday and Wednesday.
- You can listen to selected sessions at http://jpmorgan.metameetings.com/webcasts/healthcare13/ondemand.html after providing your contact information; the agenda can be found at http://jpmorgan.metameetings.com/webcasts/healthcare13/agenda.html
- Today these stringent attendance requirements leave out a lot of industry players including industry financial experts, lawyers and consultants who help make the biotech industry tick and, especially, fuel its growth on the West Coast. I was shocked that industry experts from the key accounting firms as well as law firms were asked to step down as invitees this year. JP Morgan may be doing some cost cutting of their own (these meetings are extremely expensive) by limiting invitations but they risk making the meeting less desirable and potentially less influential in the future. One high level VC told me that the number of women attendees dropped precipitously—under 5% as a result of the new limits on attendees. Loss of diversity is also problematic.
- Good news for those “wall flowers” no longer invited to the “JP ball” was the improvement in quality of and number of alternative conferences and events. (This year security guards blocked entrances to the St. Francis lobby for those without a registration badge or hotel room key so that opportunity to button hole attendees as done in the past was gone.) I found there were many alternative activities that allowed the stakeholders to find a place to pursue their interests and fulfill their objectives in networking with industry representatives, including investors.
- One could hear about the California biomedical industry status at the BayBio, California Healthcare Institute and PwC annual California Biomedical Industry 2013 Report launch event on Monday. The full 2013 report is found at http://www.californiabiomedreport.com/ I was pleased to hear that California maintains its preeminence and that employment is growing although modest. California still leads the nation in developing new treatments and technologies, life sciences investing, and research innovation by the measures used.
- The Third Annual The Conference Forum’s meeting “New Paradigms to Fund Life Science Innovation” on Tuesday and Wednesday which I attended offered top speakers from the industry and companies and VC panelists in a program of topics of high interest that even attracted many attendees away from JP Morgan for selected parts of the program. A high quality pervaded the program for both days. The Biotech Idol program offering startups opportunity to present to seasoned venture capitalists who provided feedback on Wednesday afternoon had a great format which benefited the presenting and viewing companies as well as other interested observers attending the conference.
- Local hotel rates soared as participants who flocked to San Francisco booked private meeting rooms to pursue their agendas, providing alternative destinations and meeting content for industry visitors. I participated in three of these industry research presentations as well as stopped in for several opportunities to network at local company evening receptions.
- The streets of the Union Square area of San Francisco were packed with industry stakeholders who shared concern over decreases in traditional new company funding but were actively in pursuit to learn about new funding experiments underway and the evolution of the larger pharmaceutical companies’ progress in giving up the blockbuster business model and its low ROI associated R&D process.
- There was acceptance that the traditional funding model of VCs followed by IPOs was no longer required to be successful. Corporate venture funds and mixed corporate private collaborations is growing and, especially, the role of universities in extending their work on innovation longer than in past.
- There was more maturity evident in understanding the potential value of entering emerging markets although there was still evidence that many are still drinking the KoolAid from the Chinese government that IP is safe in their country now, for example. The discerning are speaking with those with experience to learn about the pitfalls of corruption pervasive there, barriers to success for foreigners who don’t speak fluent Mandarin and the history of promises not kept to those Western companies that preceded our industry in entering emerging markets.
For a review of this year’s JP Morgan meeting from an attendee, see Ben Comer’s excellent coverage in the PharmExec Blog article entitled “J.P. Morgan: Suits Take San Francisco”
More to follow regarding takeaways from my adventure during the now must-attend life science week in San Fran from perspective outside the JP Morgan meeting, but now I turn to local events which you all can attend.
Highlights of This Week’s Uncoming Events:
- BioCentury TV Today, See new program Webcast Starting Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013 http://www.biocenturytv.com, Available anytime starting at 9:00 a.m. EDT; Topic: “Computing for Cures: In Vitro to In Silico;” Speakers: Dr. Fred Streitz, Director of the Institute for Scientific Computing Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Dr. Eric Perakslis, Chief Information Officer at FDA and Nancy Kelley, Executive Director and COO of the New York Genome Center
- Bio2Device Group, Tuesday Morning, Jan. 15, 2013; Topic: “Computational Biology Applied to Liver Cells in vitro – High Throughput Screen for Drug Toxicity;” Speaker: Mike Bowles, Founder, Biomatica,
- Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium, Wednesday Afternoon, Jan. 16, 2013; Topic: “Medical Robotics and Computer-Integrated Interventional Medicine;” Speaker: Russell H. Taylor, Department of Computer Science, The Johns Hopkins University
- Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS), Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013; Topic: “Restoring hearing through the teeth – the SoundBite™ Hearing System;” Speakers: Amir Abolfathi and Tim Proulx, Sonitus Medical Inc.
- Palo Alto AWIS, Wednesday Evening, Jan. 16, 2013; Topic: “The world of regulatory affairs;” Speakers: Sandra Nino-Sidden, PharmD,E xecutive Director of Regulatory Affairs at Geron Corporation and Plamena Entcheva-Dimitrov PhD, Founder and consultant at Preferred Regulatory Consulting
- Bridgewater Complimentary Webinar, Thursday Mid Day, Jan. 17, 2013; Topic: “Reinvigorating Your Leadership”