Parting Thoughts from Fierce@JPM Week LIVE 2023

Aaron Rudger

The 2023 edition of the annual JP Morgan Healthcare conference was eagerly expected after 2 years of “virtual” meetings, and for those fortunate enough to attend, the gathering did not disappoint. While the main event featured headlines from the major pharma companies, we’re happy to report firsthand that events around the edges fostered innovative collaborations and partnerships. Fierce’s JPM Week day at the San Francisco Fairmont was one such venue. Here’s a few hot takes from the day’s presenters and networking chatter.

Despite macroeconomic headwinds, big ideas are abundant.

The biotech boom is over, but that doesn’t mean the industry isn’t still dreaming big. Fujifilm Diosynth is embarking on a major manufacturing infrastructure transformation. Takeda is readying itself for personalized medicine and how that will change the way patients purchase treatments. Genentech–a leader in immunologic oncology–characterizes the state of the science as 1.0 and sees a great 2.0 moment on the horizon. And investors stand ready with over $20B in funds to deploy against emerging biotech businesses. 

Interestingly, artificial intelligence is no longer considered a “big idea” for new companies bringing breakthrough treatments and services to market. It’s table stakes. According to Vineeta Agarwala from Andreessen Horowitz, every biotech startup they invest in currently is being built with a computational and AI backbone to support its scientific innovation. Third Rock Ventures echoed the same observation. 

Small molecule renaissance

Panel discussion and presentations on cutting edge science in immunology and genetic therapies reinforced the impact these new categories will, and are having on the ways we treat disease–cancer. But according to Vineeta Agarwala, they’re not the only place exciting innovation is happening. In fact, good old fashioned small molecule development is experiencing its own renaissance. Part of the reason: the much maligned Inflation Reduction Act. Despite calls to the contrary from big pharma, the pricing controls in this legislation don’t apply to rare and orphan diseases–opening the potential to a tailwind of development for this poorly addressed patient population. 

Risk still hinders drug development 

The hard work of scientific discovery is tough. It’s rife with dead ends and unexplainable outcomes. Making progress as an industry has been slow and costly. But competition and policy can be a force for positive change and acceleration. The industry is increasingly valuing flexibility and collaboration to improve the current state. This means reconsidering old paradigms like our approach to animal studies. It also requires new openness to integrating approaches like imputing data with computational techniques. Companies that thoughtfully embrace new paradigms can meaningfully reduce their risk and benefit in an increasingly competitive market. 

Ready to learn more about adopting AI in your organization? Check out our white paper, "Pathways for Successful AI Adoption in Drug Development." Missed us at the event? Reach out now!