JPMorgan held its 29th Annual Healthcare Conference in San Francisco from January 10-13, 2011. This event has been the premier conference of its kind, bringing together established healthcare industry leaders, emerging fast-growth companies, innovative technology creators and globally minded service providers. This year more than 300 companies, both public and private, were on hand to deliver presentations to more than 4,000 investors.
The JPMorgan conference had more than 8,500 attendees. According to Theresa Phillips' reports on this year's meeting, the buzz was all about the upswing in biotech stock values towards the end of 2010, and optimistic predictions for 2011 (Raynovich, 2011). Although there were fewer early-stage companies presenting, probably because of reduced availability of financing, the mid-sized-to-large companies that attended had good pipelines and reported financial stability. I attended a welcoming reception sponsored by Pfizer, Inc., which was prominently hosted by new chief executive officer Ian Read, along Kristin Peck (executive vice president of Business Development & Innovation), Mikael Dolston (R&D president), and Bob Bagdorf (vice president, Worldwide Business Development). Also present were the heads of all the business units. The idea was to let investors know that Pfizer is always open to doing new partnerships and breeding innovation through alliances, focusing on the 'spirit of small, power of scale.'
According to financial analyst Marc Lichtenfeld, three main topics dominated the 29th Annual meeting this year:
-Healthcare reforms in the U.S.,
-The "patent cliff", and
-Healthcare Information Technology - predicting that, in the future, patients will get better care because of electronic medical records.
The Global Leaders Network (TGL), held during the conference week, had almost 200 senior-level executives in attendance at its first-ever west coast event. The TGL attendees, over the course of their careers, had led more than 300 companies, headquartered in 26 countries, supporting 57 industries, with revenue exceeding $480 billion, assets of $3.1 trillion and employing 1 million. These executives took the time out of their busy schedules to mingle with colleagues and exchange ideas and thoughts about the opportunities that 2011 has to offer.
The Global Leaders sponsored one of the Conference Forum's premier events, "New Paradigms Conference" which was very nicely put together by Valerie Bowling of the Conference Forum Group. Held after the main JPMorgan event, the theme was "Funding and Managing Product Development for Biotech, Drug Delivery and Small Pharmaceutical Companies."
"It has become more difficult than ever to secure funding to develop new products through the usual channels. With a vital need for alternative solutions, New Paradigms identified new sources to fund product development, as well as develop an effective strategy to define and communicate proof of mechanism to your stakeholders," stated conference co-chair, Peter Milner, M.D., co-founder of CVT, ARYx and Optivia. According to Dr. Milner, this conference was essential for those responsible for the research and delivery of new biotech and pharmaceutical industry solutions; it was purposely scheduled it to coincide with the JP Morgan Healthcare conference, making it convenient for all healthcare executives to attend.
George Bickerstaff, chairman and co-founder of The Global Leaders, was the featured keynote speaker at the conference. Mr. Bickerstaff, former CFO of Novartis Pharma AG, noted, "Healthcare is at the top of everyone's mind, but in order to provide effective treatments, we need to insure that biotech and small pharmaceutical companies find the funding they need for research and drug delivery. In today's economy that can be challenging. However, there are alternative funding options available, it's a matter of taking a different approach."
His keynote talk was really captivating the audience of almost 80-90 executives from all walks of pharma and biotech. Mr. Bickerstaff pointed out that Big Pharma has been a creator of wealth, while Biotech as an overall industry has destroyed wealth. He noted that the key success driver is the cost of capital and that there are ways to increase access and lower capital costs for Biotech companies.
He went on to describe in depth what creates long-term value and cost of capital, describing capital markets, their workings and their scale. The main funding sources that small and growing companies go to include angel investors, venture capital, private equity and hedge funds. Capital markets, hepointed out, are volatile, and heavy debt-load curtails equity investments. Meanwhile, M&A deals are flat and driven by debt; the markets are improving but are not 'robust' yet.
Emerging markets, he remarked, are outperforming and companies need to develop options there. Mr. Bickerstaff also very succinctly outlined how one goes about getting finances with the right vision, along with "well-thought strategic, operating and financing plans working in tandem for a successful venture!"
Many companies from Asia came there to present their companies to potential investors. I also saw value in upcoming consulting firms like 'BioXcel' having a large presence, so that they could simultaneously meet up with potential clients through JPMorgan's conference and though pharma-sponsored receptions. Companies such as Bend Research Inc., which has several novel patented technologies, had reserved a couple of conference meeting rooms in an adjacent hotel and held meetings around the clock with potential clients and business leaders, a very efficient use of the conference and attendees time assembling there under one roof!
Overall, I thought the conference offered real great value to everyone who came there with intent to 'network' with the industry subject matter experts. Sometimes, there was more value in meetings in the hallways and lobby of the hotel venue and during the breaks than in the sessions themselves.
Makarand (Mak) Jawadekar most recently served as Director, Portfolio Management and Performance at Pfizer Global R&D,until February 2010, when he opted for an early retirement after28 years at Pfizer Inc. He currently serves on several companies' advisory boards and also consults with bio/pharmaceutical companies for global outreach in emerging market regions. He can be reached at email@example.com.