29 January 2019

Consilium's JP Morgan Healthcare Conference write up


A (partly) rainy San Francisco was once again the backdrop for the year’s first and likely biggest healthcare business event as the biopharma industry congregated around Union Square for the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.

JPM has long served as a launchpad for M&A activity and 2019 was no exception with two big announcements giving hope that other big biopharma companies could be in the market for sizeable acquisitions.

Following its buyout of Juno last year, Celgene was once again the talk of the town with the announcement of a proposed $74 billion mega-merger with Bristol-Myers Squibb. The strategic rationale seems clear given both companies’ presence in oncology and the potential advantages of giving a pharma giant access to a potentially lucrative late-stage pipeline, but there was some scepticism at the conference as to whether the deal would ultimately go through.

Lilly’s $8bn deal to buy Loxo Oncology placed the US giant firmly in the mix as the next round of cancer advances come to the fore. The deal provoked talk of further potential acquisitions across the targeted oncology space, with Clovis Oncology, Blueprint Medicine, Epizyme and Agios seeing their stock rise on the news.

With political uncertainly rife on both sides of the Atlantic, there was an interesting backdrop to discussions. The impact of the US government’s partial shutdown on the FDA was certainly a theme, as was the ongoing uncertaintly around Brexit, which added colour to discussions amongst European participants.
Drug pricing once again featured heavily, with US politicians from both sides of the aisle calling for drugmakers to lower prices in the run up to the new year. JPM CEO Jamie Dimon, ahead of the conference, gave some details on what he hoped to accomplish through the bank’s recently announced health partnership with Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway, ensuring the cost of healthcare was firmly on the agenda.

The greater numbers of Amazon and Apple employees attending the conference prompted healthcare veterans to wonder what intentions the tech giants might hold towards the sector, and prompted speculation as to the potential impact this might have. Whilst it is true that the market has more visibility on some aspects of Amazon’s strategy, such as the PillPack acquisition and the joint healthcare venture with JPM and Berkshire Hathaway, many questions remain.

As always, the Consilium team enjoyed their time out in San Francisco, connecting with current and prospective clients; and reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances. We’re already putting in motion some of the many ideas, projects and strategies discussed at JPM and look forward to sharing and building on these in the coming year. We wish all of our clients and contacts a fruitful and prosperous 2019. We are already booking for 2020!

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