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

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Kristen Hege, Bristol Myers Squibb SVP, early clinical development, oncology/hematology and cell therapy (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: Bris­tol My­er­s' Kris­ten Hege on cell ther­a­py, can­cer pa­tients and men­tor­ing the next gen­er­a­tion

Kristen Hege leads Bristol Myers Squibb’s early oncology discovery program carrying on from the same work at Celgene, which was acquired by BMS in 2019. She’s known for her early work in CAR-T, having pioneered the first CAR-T cell trial for solid tumors more than 25 years ago.

However, the eminent physician-scientist is more than just a drug developer mastermind. She’s also a practicing physician, mother to two young women, an avid backpacker and intersecting all those interests — a champion of young women and people of color in STEM and life sciences.

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Sum­i­to­vant sub­sidiaries En­zy­vant and Al­ta­vant merge in­to com­bined com­pa­ny

Two Sumitovant Biopharma entities are merging under one name, effective immediately.

Enzyvant Therapeutics and Altavant Sciences announced they have merged to form a singular entity focused on developing therapies for patients with rare diseases. The combined company will keep the name Enzyvant and along with clinical development will eventually include in-house manufacturing.

Bill Symonds, the current CEO of both Altavant and Enzyvant, is now CEO of the merged company.

Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion lays ground­work to un­wind Il­lu­mi­na's $7B+ Grail merg­er

The European Commission has recommended steps that — though not yet final — would require Illumina to “swiftly” unwind its controversial $7.1 billion Grail buyout.

The Commission delivered a “statement of objections” on Monday, detailing the process Illumina would need to take in divesting Grail, its blood testing spinout launched in 2016. Illumina re-acquired Grail back in August, despite criticism from both the FTC and EU.

Gossamer Bio CEO Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Gos­samer’s Fa­heem Has­nain de­fends a round of pos­i­tive PAH da­ta as a clear win. But can these PhII re­sults stand up to scruti­ny?

Gossamer Bio $GOSS posted a statistically significant improvement for its primary endpoint in the key Phase II TORREY trial for lead drug seralutinib on Tuesday morning. But CEO Faheem Hasnain has some explaining to do on the important secondary of the crucial six-minute walk distance test — which will be the primary endpoint in Phase III — as the data on both endpoints fell short of expectations, missing one analyst’s bar on even modest success.

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Mar­ket­ingRx roundup: Phar­mas lay off Twit­ter ads for an­oth­er week; WPP un­cov­ers LGBTQ+ mar­ket­ing find­ings

When Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk tweeted this weekend, “Just a note to thank advertisers for returning to Twitter,” he likely wasn’t talking about big pharma companies. The vast majority of the top spending pharma advertisers had not returned last week, according to updated tracking data Pathmatic for Endpoints News.

Only three pharma advertisers spent any money at all, which is about the same as the past several weeks. AstraZeneca rejoined the active advertiser list, although at $700 spent hardly worth a personal Musk expression of gratitude. GSK remained active with $3,500 spent ad much lower than its previous spending, according to the Pathmatics data. Only Bayer spent any significant amount in advertising, with $244,000 spent last week, but that’s a considerable drop from almost $500,000 spent on OTC, prescription and corporate Twitter ads in each of the previous two weeks.

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US sup­ports ex­ten­sion for Covid-19 IP waiv­er de­ci­sion

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Rick Modi, Affinia Therapeutics CEO

Ver­tex-part­nered gene ther­a­py biotech Affinia scraps IPO plans

Affinia Therapeutics has ditched its plans to go public in a relatively closed-door market that has not favored Nasdaq debuts for the drug development industry most of this year. A pandemic surge in 2020 and 2021 opened the doors for many preclinical startups, which caught Affinia’s attention and gave the gene therapy biotech confidence in the beginning days of 2022 to send in its S-1.

But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

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Bob Duggan, Summit Therapeutics co-CEO

Bounc­ing from ma­jor set­back, Sum­mit hands out $500M cash for can­cer drug — thanks to a loan from bil­lion­aire CEO

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Striking a partnership with Akeso Therapeutics out of China, Summit is bringing in a bispecific antibody that blocks both PD-1 and VEGF called ivonescimab. Akeso, which has a PD-1/CTLA-4 bispecific approved in China, has already taken ivonescimab into multiple clinical trials, including a Phase III in lung cancer.

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