Apart from the usual commentary about overcrowded venues with shoulder to shoulder hallways and presentation rooms, for the first time, there was a discussion on changing how we all refer to the JPMorgan conference. This is because the week now is no longer just a date for the eponymous investment banking conference. There are now several industry conferences occurring at the same time, Biotech Showcase run by EBD Group probably being the largest. Many people don’t even venture to any of the conference. Instead they are holed up in hotel rooms hosting meeting after meeting with the investment community, potential partners and media.
The mood in San Francisco did seem a little subdued, despite the megamerger Shire/Baxalta news at the start of the week. The markets opened at their lowest since 2001 on Monday only to retreat further by Wednesday. The lack of additional significant news only added to the downcast sentiment.
Despite this, every night the drinks flowed at the numerous cocktail parties. One in particular, hosted by LifeSci Advisors, was made even more prominent by this article in Bloomberg. The firm hired female models to help even out the male to female attendance ratio. An attempt to keep a male dominated crowd happy or a ham-fisted way to highlight the lack of gender diversity? Either way, the Bloomberg article stimulated discussions on- and off-line as well as coverage by other commentators at the event.
On of the highlights of the week for Halsin was The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine’s (ARM) State of the Industry briefing. In his presentation, Chairman of ARM, and CEO of Sangamo Biosciences, Edward Lanphier, outlined the significant progress made in the regenerative medicine sector. By the end of 2015, there were 20 approved regenerative medicine products and 631 clinical studies, 63 of which involved products in Phase 3 development.
The over-riding message, however, from the subsequent panel discussions was data, data and more data! 2016 could well be the year to deliver. Data from five Phase 3 studies are due to report this year, including gene therapy and stem cell products. This could be a major boost to the sector and the stimulus needed for much needed investor attention.
As the meetings ended and people flew off for a much-needed rest, most agreed that the industry was still in good shape despite the market correction. And all agreed that they would most likely be back next year!