January 05, 2018

As Denterlein Heads Out to the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference…

No one can forget what dominated the JPM 2017 news cycle: President Trump’s tweet that pharma companies were ‘getting away with murder.’ Well that sure cast a pallor. But a look back at 2017 shows there was a lot of talk and very little legislative action to negatively impact the industry.

This year’s JPM will be exciting for Denterlein as one of our client’s, Apellis Pharmaceuticals, will be presenting there for the first time. With a recent IPO, and a promising drug in phase 2 clinical trials for the treatment of geographic atrophy—the leading cause of blindness for Americans 50+—there should be a lot of investor interest.

For those of you heading out to JPM 2018, STAT provided an excellent overview in a recent webinar. As I pack and hope that the “bomb cyclone” that hit Boston doesn’t disrupt travel for days, here’s a quick re-cap on what to expect.


While there’s still a carry-over of caution going into 2018 and drug pricing, reimbursement, and clinical trial failures remain real and perceived headwinds, 60% of those on the buy-side expect the sector to perform and 84% expect an uptick in M&A. So, 2018 could be the year of a bunch of big deal announcements.

A nice surprise would be one or two M&A deal announcements made at JPM 2018 to kick of the year. The environment is ripe for this type of action, as last year the industry saw very few in light of uncertainties such as the tax bill and a new president. Tax reform could be a powder keg for biotech M&A’s, as many companies have money to spend and large cap companies have slow growth due to maturing franchises. And with 40 or so IPO’s in 2017, the market continues to be highly selective, which could be a good buffer against a bubble.


While some are wondering how low can the approval bar go, a more flexible FDA is beneficial to the industry, and we are seeing a trend in greater numbers of drug approvals that should carry into 2018. As the science gets better, drug submissions are more comprehensive, making the FDA’s job easier.

Therapeutic areas and companies to watch

Hot areas include new drugs for migraines and depression, rare diseases, gene therapies, and immuno-oncology. Companies to watch throughout the year for data read outs, partnerships, and approvals include Apellis, Incyte, Alkermes, Sarepta, AveXis, Clovis, Sage, Vertex, Bluebird, and Alexion, to name a few. Interestingly, STAT did a spot poll during the webinar which resulted in 42% of participants predicting an M&A deal between Bluebird and Celgene.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back with a JPM wrap-up post next week!


By Liza Sullivan