Is JPM worth it? As the buzzy con­fer­ence dies down, de­bate on its val­ue rum­bles on

The ex­or­bi­tant cost of at­tend­ing JP­Mor­gan — from ho­tels and flights to cof­fee and meet­ing space — has long been a talk­ing point for bio­phar­ma ex­ecs gath­er­ing in San Fran­cis­co every Jan­u­ary. But as the in­dus­try’s sig­na­ture net­work­ing con­fab fades out, the age-old ques­tion is once again in fo­cus: Is it all worth­while?

Bruce Booth

In a re­flec­tive ar­ti­cle be­moan­ing the con­fer­ence’s val­ue and a neg­a­tive stream of “ex­cess­es,” Bruce Booth of At­las Ven­ture gave an em­phat­ic an­swer: No.

Booth, a 15-year vet­er­an of the con­fer­ence, said he won’t be re­turn­ing for #JPM20 af­ter this year’s JP­Mor­gan week “reached a tip­ping point” for him.

“Who was the mar­ket­ing ge­nius at J.P. Mor­gan that picked an ex­pen­sive look­ing gold pill with gold­en DNA as the lo­go for the year’s con­fer­ence? The jux­ta­po­si­tion of shiny gold and our in­dus­try’s med­i­cines in a world where health­care costs are con­sid­ered out of con­trol is the pin­na­cle of tone deaf­ness. […] Dis­ci­plined cap­i­tal al­lo­ca­tion ap­pears a thing of the past; in­stead, it feels like the col­lec­tive in­dus­try just wants more mon­ey, green mon­ey, dumb mon­ey… and gold pills.”

And this overzeal­ous fo­cus on fi­nan­cials — mar­ket sizes, rev­enues, M&A syn­er­gies, and deal val­ues — seems to over­shad­ow the in­dus­try’s mis­sion to im­pact pa­tients’ lives, Booth not­ed.

“There were no new Emi­ly White­head’s, Creed Pet­tit’s, or Eve­lyn Vil­lar­real’s to cap­ture the essence of what we are do­ing as an in­dus­try,” he wrote, re­fer­ring to young pa­tients who be­came the faces of pi­o­neer­ing treat­ments like CAR-T and gene ther­a­pies for blind­ness and spinal mus­cu­lar at­ro­phy.

Yet, Booth ar­gued, for all that JPM promis­es to bring in net­work­ing val­ue, the re­turn seems to be in­creas­ing­ly low giv­en the del­uge of su­per­fi­cial and large­ly un­pro­duc­tive meet­ings — at least for At­las, which is fo­cused on com­pa­ny cre­ation and has tra­di­tion­al­ly de­vot­ed its time at JPM to re­view­ing port­fo­lios of larg­er bio­phar­ma com­pa­nies.

He con­ced­ed that oth­ers, such as com­pa­nies rais­ing mon­ey, might still find the dense net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties valu­able, a point quick­ly echoed by oth­ers on Twit­ter:

Mean­while, oth­ers echoed his opin­ion — in line with the broad­er #Move­JPM move­ment — that the meet­ing should take place in a “more con­ducive lo­ca­tion that can ap­pro­pri­ate­ly ac­com­mo­date 15K+ peo­ple.”

That like­ly won’t hap­pen any time soon, though, as JP Mor­gan has a long-term con­tract with the West­in St Fran­cis ho­tel that will keep the con­fer­ence in the same lo­ca­tion for at least an­oth­er 17 years, ac­cord­ing to a STAT re­port.

So though Booth may be sound­ing a farewell to JPM, the an­nu­al gath­er­ing will be hard to shake off — even for his col­leagues at At­las: “(W)hile we’ve con­clud­ed a sig­nif­i­cant firm-lev­el pres­ence doesn’t make sense, oth­er team mem­bers may at­tend as in­di­vid­ual in­ter­ests/needs/in­vest­ments may war­rant it,” he told me.


Im­age: West­in St. Fran­cis Ho­tel. SHEHLA SHAKOOR for END­POINTS NEWS

Biotech Half­time Re­port: Af­ter a bumpy year, is biotech ready to re­bound?

The biotech sector has come down firmly from the highs of February as negative sentiment takes hold. The sector had a major boost of optimism from the success of the COVID-19 vaccines, making investors keenly aware of the potential of biopharma R&D engines. But from early this year, clinical trial, regulatory and access setbacks have reminded investors of the sector’s inherent risks.

RBC Capital Markets recently surveyed investors to take the temperature of the market, a mix of specialists/generalists and long-only/ long-short investment strategies. Heading into the second half of the year, investors mostly see the sector as undervalued (49%), a large change from the first half of the year when only 20% rated it as undervalued. Around 41% of investors now believe that biotech will underperform the S&P500 in the second half of 2021. Despite that view, 54% plan to maintain their position in the market and 41% still plan to increase their holdings.

Covid-19 vac­cine boost­ers earn big thumbs up, but Mod­er­na draws ire over world sup­ply; What's next for Mer­ck’s Covid pill?; The C-suite view on biotech; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

You may remember that at the beginning of this year, Endpoints News set a goal to go broader and deeper. We are still working towards that, and are excited to share that Beth Snyder Bulik will be joining us on Monday to cover all things pharma marketing. You can sign up for her weekly Endpoints MarketingRx newsletter in your reader profile.

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Roche's Tecen­triq cross­es the fin­ish line first in ad­ju­vant lung can­cer, po­ten­tial­ly kick­ing off gold rush

While falling behind the biggest PD-(L)1 drugs in terms of sales, Roche has looked to carve out a space for its Tecentriq with a growing expertise in lung cancer. The drug will now take an early lead in the sought-after adjuvant setting — but competitors are on the way.

The FDA on Friday approved Tecentriq as an adjuvant therapy for patients with Stage II-IIIA non small cell lung cancer with PD-(L)1 scores greater than or equal to 1, making it the first drug of its kind approved in an early setting that covers around 40% of all NSCLC patients.

No­var­tis de­vel­op­ment chief John Tsai: 'We go deep in the new plat­form­s'

During our recent European Biopharma Summit, I talked with Novartis development chief John Tsai about his experiences over the 3-plus years he’s been at the pharma giant. You can read the transcript below or listen to the exchange in the link above.

John Carroll: I followed your career for quite some time. You’ve had more than 20 years in big pharma R&D and you’ve obviously seen quite a lot. I really was curious about what it was like for you three and a half years ago when you took over as R&D chief at Novartis. Obviously a big move, a lot of changes. You went to work for the former R&D chief of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan, who had his own track record there. So what was the biggest adjustment when you went into this position?

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Amit Etkin, Alto Neuroscience CEO (Alto via Vimeo)

A star Stan­ford pro­fes­sor leaves his lab for a start­up out to re­make psy­chi­a­try

About five years ago, Amit Etkin had a breakthrough.

The Stanford neurologist, a soft-spoken demi-prodigy who became a professor while still a resident, had been obsessed for a decade with how to better define psychiatric disorders. Drugs for depression or bipolar disorder didn’t work for many patients with the conditions, and he suspected the reason was how traditional diagnoses didn’t actually get at the heart of what was going on in a patient’s brain.

Susan Galbraith, Executive VP, Oncology R&D, AstraZeneca

As­traZeneca on­col­o­gy R&D chief Su­san Gal­braith: 'Y­ou're go­ing to need or­thog­o­nal com­bi­na­tion­s'

 

Earlier in the week we broadcast our 4th annual European Biopharma Summit with a great lineup of top execs. One of the one-on-one conversations I set up was with Susan Galbraith, the oncology research chief at AstraZeneca. In a wide-ranging discussion, Galbraith reviewed the cancer drug pipeline and key trends influencing development work at the pharma giant. You can watch the video, above, or stick with the script below. — JC

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FDA ad­comm votes unan­i­mous­ly in sup­port of a J&J Covid-19 boost­er two months af­ter one-dose shot

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Friday voted 19-0 in favor of authorizing a second shot of J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine to follow at least two months after the initial dose.

Regulators don’t have to follow VRBPAC’s recommendation, but they almost always do. Considering that the CDC’s advisory committee has already been set to review the expanded EUA, VRBPAC’s recommendation is likely to be adopted.

Jacob Van Naarden, Senior VP, CEO of Loxo Oncology at Lilly; President, Lilly Oncology

Eli Lil­ly bags FDA nod for Verzenio in ear­ly breast can­cer, but a con­tro­ver­sial di­ag­nos­tic could dog its roll­out

As Eli Lilly works to consolidate its internal and Loxo teams into an oncology powerhouse, the drug giant is putting high hopes on CDK 4/6 inhibitor Verzenio to help drive the portfolio into the future. Now, the drug has scored a paradigm-altering win in early breast cancer — but will a controversial companion diagnostic hamstring Lilly’s market plans?

The FDA on Wednesday approved CDK 4/6 inhibitor Verzenio in combination with physician’s-choice endocrine therapy to cut the risk of relapse in patients with high-risk HR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer, Lilly said in a release.

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As TRIPS coun­cil meets, the IP waiv­er for vac­cines is on life sup­port ahead of a De­cem­ber dead­line

The WTO’s TRIPS Council is meeting today and tomorrow to discuss a Covid-19 vaccine IP waiver that remains divisive and unlikely to be adopted thanks to European opposition, but which proponents still think could unlock more vaccine doses for low and middle-income countries.

Following the meetings this week, it’s expected there will be a better sense if some kind of waiver can be agreed to by December, Tahir Amin, an IP lawyer and co-executive director of I-Mak, told Endpoints News.