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

Biotech Voices is a collection of exclusive opinion editorials from some of the leading voices in biopharma on the biggest industry questions today. Think you have a voice that should be heard? Reach out to senior editors Kyle Blankenship and Amber Tong.

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

Tar­get­ing a Po­ten­tial Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty of Cer­tain Can­cers with DNA Dam­age Re­sponse

Every individual’s DNA is unique, and because of this, every patient responds differently to disease and treatment. It is astonishing how four tiny building blocks of our DNA – A, T, C, G – dictate our health, disease, and how we age.

The tricky thing about DNA is that it is constantly exposed to damage by sources such as ultraviolet light, certain chemicals, toxins, and even natural biochemical processes inside our cells.¹ If ignored, DNA damage will accumulate in replicating cells, giving rise to mutations that can lead to premature aging, cancer, and other diseases.

Roivant par­lays a $450M chunk of eq­ui­ty in biotech buy­out, grab­bing a com­pu­ta­tion­al group to dri­ve dis­cov­ery work

New Roivant CEO Matt Gline has crafted an all-equity upfront deal to buy out a Boston-based biotech that has been toiling for several years now at building a supercomputing-based computational platform to design new drugs. And he’s adding it to the Erector set of science operations that are being built up to support their network of biotech subsidiaries with an eye to growing the pipeline in a play to create a new kind of pharma company.

Endpoints Premium

Premium subscription required

Unlock this article along with other benefits by subscribing to one of our paid plans.

Fol­low biotechs go­ing pub­lic with the End­points News IPO Track­er

The Endpoints News team is continuing to track IPO filings for 2021, and we’ve designed a new tracker page for the effort.

Check it out here: Biopharma IPOs 2021 from Endpoints News

You’ll be able to find all the biotechs that have filed and priced so far this year, sortable by quarter and listed by newest first. As of the time of publishing on Feb. 25, there have already been 16 biotechs debuting on Nasdaq so far this year, with an additional four having filed their S-1 paperwork.

Ken Frazier, Merck CEO (Bess Adler/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

UP­DAT­ED: Mer­ck takes a swing at the IL-2 puz­zle­box with a $1.85B play for buzzy Pan­dion and its au­toim­mune hope­fuls

When Roger Perlmutter bid farewell to Merck late last year, the drugmaker perhaps best known now for sales giant Keytruda signaled its intent to take a swing at early-stage novelty with the appointment of discovery head Dean Li. Now, Merck is signing a decent-sized check to bring an IL-2 moonshot into the fold.

Merck will shell out roughly $1.85 billion for Pandion Pharmaceuticals, a biotech hoping to gin up regulatory T cells (Tregs) to treat a range of autoimmune disorders, the drugmaker said Thursday.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Fatty liver conceptual image, 3D illustration showing fatty liver silhouette made from micrograph of liver steatosis (Shutterstock)

The path to NASH: un­der­stand­ing the role of se­vere obe­si­ty in a com­plex, mul­ti-sys­tem dis­ease

Biotech Voices is a collection of exclusive opinion editorials from some of the leading voices in biopharma on the biggest industry questions today. Think you have a voice that should be heard? Reach out to senior editors Kyle Blankenship and Amber Tong.

We often think a person’s transition from a healthy to a diseased state is binary. But that’s often not the case. In reality, the onset of a disease is not something that occurs overnight, and the majority lie on a continuum that is impacted by a multitude of factors. Some of these factors are in a patient’s control. Others are not.

This is the case in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), two of the most complex diseases that “live” on this proverbial continuum. The clinical onset of NAFLD — and ultimately NASH — is a complex process that is closely related to obesity, insulin resistance and impaired adipose tissue metabolism.

With dust set­tled on ac­tivist at­tack, Lau­rence Coop­er leaves Zio­pharm to a new board

Laurence Cooper has done his part.

In the five years since he left a tenured position at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center to become CEO of Boston-based Ziopharm, he’s steered the small-cap immunotherapy player through patient deaths in trials, clinical holds, short attacks and, most recently, an activist attack on the board.

So when the company has “fantastic news” like an IND clearance for a TCR T cell therapy program, he’s ready to pass on the baton.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Doug Ingram (file photo)

Why not? Sarep­ta’s third Duchenne MD drug sails to ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

Sarepta may be running into some trouble with its next-gen gene therapy approach to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. But when it comes to antisense oligonucleotides, the well-trodden regulatory path is still leading straight to an accelerated approval for casimersen, now christened Amondys 45.

We just have to wait until 2024 to find out if it works.

Amondys 45’s approval was unceremonious, compared to its two older siblings. There was no controversy within the FDA over approving a drug based on a biomarker rather than clinical benefit, setting up a powerful precedent that still haunts acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock as biotech insiders weighed her potential permanent appointment; no drama like the FDA issuing a stunning rejection only to reverse its decision and hand out an OK four months later, which got more complicated after the scathing complete response letter was published; no anxious tea leaf reading or heated arguments from drug developers and patient advocates who were tired of having corticosteroids as their loved ones’ only (sometimes expensive) option.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Steve Cutler, Icon CEO (Icon)

In the biggest CRO takeover in years, Icon doles out $12B for PRA Health Sci­ences to fo­cus on de­cen­tral­ized clin­i­cal work

Contract research M&A had a healthy run in recent years before recently petering out. But with the market ripe for a big buyout and the Covid-19 pandemic emphasizing the importance of decentralized trials, Wednesday saw a tectonic shift in the CRO world.

Icon, the Dublin-based CRO, will acquire PRA Health Sciences for $12 billion in a move that will shake up the highest rungs of a fragmented market. The merger would combine the 5th- and 6th-largest CROs by 2020 revenue, according to Icon, and the merger will set the newco up to be the second-largest global CRO behind only IQVIA.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 102,100+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

J&J ad­comm live blog: Com­mit­tee votes 22-0 to rec­om­mend an FDA OK for the J&J vac­cine, set­ting up 3rd US Covid-19 jab

The US could have a third authorized Covid-19 vaccine within hours.

The FDA’s advisory committee voted unanimously — 22-0 — to recommend the agency issue an emergency use authorization for J&J’s vaccine. If they follow the precedent of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine,  the FDA will likely authorize the vaccine by Saturday, immediately adding a few million doses to the US supply and adding a 100 million by June. An authorization would give the world its first single-dose vaccine, a major weapon in the effort to vaccinate the world and bring the virus to heel, particularly in rural and developing areas.