May the can­dle burn for­ev­er: Po­lite re­minders about the JP­Mor­gan con­fab

Ed­i­tor’s Note: Biotech Voic­es is a con­tributed col­umn from se­lect End­points News read­ers. Be­low is an anony­mous com­men­tary from a pub­lic biotech CEO who was in­spired to write a de­fense of JP­Mor­gan fol­low­ing a litany of com­plaints.


Every year we start the biotech cal­en­dar with a busy Jan­u­ary pil­grim­age where JP­Mor­gan hosts a wide­ly at­tend­ed get to­geth­er that at­tracts big and small to the San Fran­cis­co Union Square neigh­bor­hood. De­spite the peren­ni­al suc­cess of this event, it is in­ter­est­ing to hear re­cent com­plaints from mul­ti­ple voic­es, sug­gest­ing di­min­ish­ing re­turns and wan­ing en­thu­si­asm for fu­ture par­tic­i­pa­tion. While all of these com­plaints may be valid, let’s not go over­board and for­get why this event is a key land­mark.

On be­half of the many ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the JP­Mor­gan con­fab, I would like to pro­vide re­spect­ful and po­lite re­minders re­gard­ing the un­par­al­leled val­ue of this meet­ing. I have been com­ing to JP­Mor­gan for ap­prox­i­mate­ly 20 years, no spe­cif­ic fi­nan­cial con­nec­tion with JP­Mor­gan it­self, but I like many oth­ers hope and pray that our in­dus­try’s can­dle burns bright­ly, and that the Jan­u­ary mo­men­tum cre­at­ed by JP­Mor­gan’s con­fab is peren­ni­al.

Re­minder #1: The core pur­pose is pub­lic bio­phar­ma com­pa­ny guid­ance. The heart of this event, lo­cat­ed on the mez­za­nine floor of the West­in St. Fran­cis, is the need for each pub­lic com­pa­ny to es­tab­lish guid­ance for what they seek to achieve dur­ing the cal­en­dar year. An as­ton­ish­ing­ly high num­ber of well-qual­i­fied pub­lic mar­ket in­vestors come to pre­sen­ta­tions, have 1-on-1 sched­uled meet­ings with com­pa­nies and ex­change ideas in­side the hall­ways of the West­in through­out the week. The qual­i­ty and quan­ti­ty of in­flu­en­tial in­vestors at JP­Mor­gan al­lows large phar­ma, and fledg­ling pub­lic biotechs, to reach a wide au­di­ence in per­son on a sin­gle trip. This is why the event ex­ists and is high­ly re­spect­ed.

Re­minder #2: Gets the buzz go­ing. An enor­mous, per­haps un­re­al­ized, ben­e­fit of JP­Mor­gan is how it tends to ig­nite in­dus­try mo­men­tum each year. We should all re­mem­ber that we are in a high­ly risky busi­ness with more fre­quent fail­ures than suc­cess­es, and it would be easy for us to be­come dour on the chal­lenges of drug de­vel­op­ment. The in­ten­tion­al hold-back of good news by many com­pa­nies un­til JP­Mor­gan cre­ates a spring-load ef­fect that like­ly dri­ves in­vest­ment and risk cap­i­tal cy­cles through the rest of the year. The event ma­te­ri­al­izes themes re­gard­ing how phar­ma is like­ly to be­have, how the mar­kets are like­ly to play and what tech­nol­o­gy waves are go­ing to be an­tic­i­pat­ed for the rest of the year. With­out this, we would like­ly grap­ple for pos­i­tive news, or even di­rec­tion, for months in the new year.

Re­minder #3: The by­stander ef­fect. Many, many biotech com­pa­nies have been launched, fi­nanced, bought and part­nered dur­ing this week with­out hold­ing an ac­tu­al in­vite to JP­Mor­gan it­self. A by­stander ef­fect is cre­at­ed be­cause every ma­jor phar­ma hosts meet­ings out­side of the core meet­ing, pro­vid­ing a tar­get rich en­vi­ron­ment for emerg­ing com­pa­nies to sell their wares. Even if these meet­ings are short, and mere­ly in­tro­duc­to­ry in na­ture, they pro­vide an av­enue for phar­ma mon­ey to meet biotech as­sets. Al­lows phar­ma to triage who they want to li­cense or buy for their strate­gic ther­a­peu­tic area needs dur­ing the com­ing year. This is worth gold for every emerg­ing biotech com­pa­ny that wants to con­tem­plate a part­ner­ship to fur­ther their busi­ness. While per­haps not as large as some oth­er part­ner­ing-on­ly fo­cused events, the by­stander ef­fect of JP­Mor­gan is a life-line for key parts of the in­dus­try.

Re­minder #4: The de­mand-and-sup­ply pen­du­lum. The cost of at­tend­ing JP­Mor­gan, or be­ing a by­stander, has in­creased re­mark­ably over the years. The in­dus­try is gath­er­ing mo­men­tum, hir­ing more peo­ple, de­ploy­ing more cap­i­tal and there­fore it is no sur­prise that peo­ple are will­ing to spend more to at­tend the bio­phar­ma su­per­bowl. We are at a tip­ping point where peo­ple are dis­gust­ed, but this will not lead to a dra­mat­ic pull back but more of a grad­ual re­cal­i­bra­tion. De­pend­ing on busi­ness mod­els, some com­pa­nies ap­pro­pri­ate­ly will not find the cost to be worth­while and will hence make de­ci­sions ac­cord­ing­ly next year, which will bring the pen­du­lum back to a point where San Fran­cis­co ho­tels and restau­rants will ad­just prices clos­er to nor­mal lev­els. For most of us, the cost is def­i­nite­ly worth­while.

Re­minder #5: Thank you JP­Mor­gan an­a­lysts. If any­one has the right to com­plain, it’s the JP­Mor­gan an­a­lyst team that is re­spon­si­ble for cov­er­ing >200 pre­sent­ing com­pa­nies at this con­fer­ence. It is their work that at­tracts pub­lic com­pa­nies and in­vestors to at­tend. I can­not imag­ine the hours they (Chris, Cory, Anu­pam, Jes­si­ca, Er­ic and oth­ers) must put in to pre­pare for com­pa­ny guid­ance and then write re­ports on each com­pa­ny post-pre­sen­ta­tion. Every pub­lic com­pa­ny CEO ap­pre­ci­ates your ef­fort.

I wrote this anony­mous­ly in or­der to avoid dis­trac­tion from my of­fi­cial com­pa­ny nar­ra­tive, but I rep­re­sent a con­tin­gent of bio­phar­ma CEOs that are thank­ful for what our in­dus­try has be­come and the role that the JP­Mor­gan con­fer­ence has played over the years. May the can­dle burn for­ev­er.


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

Secretary of health and human services Alex Azar speaking in the Rose Garden at the White House (Photo: AFP)

Trump’s HHS claims ab­solute au­thor­i­ty over the FDA, clear­ing path to a vac­cine EUA

The top career staff at the FDA has vowed not to let politics overrule science when looking at vaccine data this fall. But Alex Azar, who happens to be their boss’s boss, apparently won’t even give them a chance to stand in the way.

In a new memorandum issued Tuesday last week, the HHS chief stripped the FDA and other health agencies under his purview of their rule making ability, asserting all such power “is reserved to the Secretary.” Sheila Kaplan of the New York Times first obtained and reported the details of the September 15 bulletin.

Samit Hirawat (Bristol Myers Squibb)

Af­ter bruis­ing re­jec­tion, blue­bird and Bris­tol My­ers Squibb land ide-cel pri­or­i­ty re­view. But will it mat­ter for the CVR?

With the clock all but up, the FDA accepted and handed priority review to Bristol Myers Squibb and bluebird bio’s BCMA CAR-T, keeping a narrow window open for Celgene investors to still cash in on the $9 CVR from the $63 billion Celgene merger.

The acceptance comes five months after the two companies weres slammed with a surprise refuse-to-file that threatened to foreclose the CVR entirely. Today’s acceptance sets the FDA decision date for March 27, 2021 – or precisely 4 days before the CVR deadline of March 31. Given the breakthrough designation and strong pivotal data — 81.5% response rate, 35.2% complete response rate — priority review was largely expected.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 90,400+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

President Donald Trump (via AP Images)

Signs of an 'Oc­to­ber Vac­cine Sur­prise' alarm ca­reer sci­en­tists. HHS con­tin­ues to claim Azar “will de­fer com­plete­ly to the FDA"

President Donald Trump, who seems intent on announcing a Covid-19 vaccine before Election Day, could legally authorize a vaccine over the objections of experts, officials at the FDA and even vaccine manufacturers, who have pledged not to release any vaccine unless it’s proved safe and effective.

In podcasts, public forums, social media and medical journals, a growing number of prominent health leaders say they fear that Trump — who has repeatedly signaled his desire for the swift approval of a vaccine and his displeasure with perceived delays at the FDA — will take matters into his own hands, running roughshod over the usual regulatory process.

Can a mag­net­ic cell ther­a­py re­place corneal trans­plan­ta­tion? As eight-year jour­ney leads to the clin­ic, two broth­ers un­veil bold vi­sion

Jeff Goldberg was getting acquainted with a brand new way to do corneal transplants when an even newer, even bolder idea hit him.

It was almost 10 years ago, and Goldberg was in his first faculty position at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami. Scientists had developed a new way to do cornea transplants where instead of sewing a whole donor cornea — a decades-old practice — they were just engrafting the inner layer of cells.

News brief­ing: Tiny Vac­cinex's drug flops in PhII Hunt­ing­ton's tri­al, stock craters; Siol­ta nabs $30M Se­ries B to de­vel­op mi­cro­bio­me drug

Siolta Therapeutics, a microbiome company targeting allergic diseases, raked in a $30 million Series B to develop its lead candidate, STMC-103H. The drug, which has been FDA fast-tracked, is headed for proof-of-concept trials, according to the company. Its various indications include allergic asthma, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and allergy prevention.

The news comes just after the California-based biotech added a prominent biopharma veteran as an advisor: 20-year Gilead CEO John Martin. The biotech also gained Richard Shames as CMO, who came by way of Protagonist Therapeutics.

Embattled CDC director Robert Redfield (AP Images)

Covid-19 roundup: CDC ad­vi­so­ry com­mit­tee de­lays pri­or­i­ty dis­tri­b­u­tion vote; EU re­port­ed­ly in­dem­ni­fy­ing vac­cine mak­ers

A federal committee that advises the CDC was expected to hold a vote Tuesday on a plan regarding the distribution for initial doses of approved Covid-19 vaccines. But that vote has been scrapped.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, won’t be voting until the committee members learn more about which vaccines become available first, the Wall Street Journal reported. The vote could potentially wait until a specific vaccine is authorized before recommending how to dole out the first doses.

Anthony Coyle (Repertoire)

Flag­ship's merged biotech Reper­toire nets ex-Pfiz­er CSO An­tho­ny Coyle as R&D chief

Flagship is building a big-name C-suite at its new, $220 million merged biotech.

Repertoire Immune Medicines, which already boasts former Bioverativ chief John Cox as its CEO, announced yesterday that Anthony Coyle, the former Pfizer CSO and the founding CEO of Pandion, will join as their head of R&D.

“As we progress clinical trials for our multi-clonal T cell candidates in immuno-oncology, Tony’s deep expertise in cellular immunology and novel therapeutic development will help us achieve our vision of creating a new class of transformative medicines for patients,” Cox said in a statement.

Zai Lab hauls in $761M from Hong Kong IPO to push Ze­ju­la, more bud­ding can­di­dates in Chi­na — re­port

Zai Lab is set to net more than $761 million from its secondary listing in Hong Kong after pricing the IPO at $72.51 (HKD$562) — just a hair below its Nasdaq closing price on Monday, Bloomberg and Nikkei Asian Review reported.

A pioneer in bringing Western drugs to China, co-founder and CEO Samantha Du has more than tripled Zai Lab’s market cap in the three years it’s been public in the US. The HKEX listing is designed to fund R&D and commercialization for the current portfolio while fueling new in-licensing pacts, the biotech wrote in a filing.

Tae Han Kim, Samsung Biologics CEO (SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Sam­sung Bi­o­log­ics nets $330M+ deal from As­traZeneca ahead of 'Su­per Plan­t' con­struc­tion

Just a few weeks after announcing plans to construct a $2 billion “Super Plant,” Samsung Biologics is keeping its foot on the gas.

The Korean CDMO has inked a $330.8 million manufacturing contract with AstraZeneca, the companies announced Monday evening, providing the British drugmaker the ability to expand production capabilities in the Asia market. Per terms of the deal, the partnership could be increased to $545.6 million.