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7 Takeaways From the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference


In contrast to every other year, it was rare to hear a management team say, "I think we're undervalued."

Every January marks the latest incarnation of the JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) Healthcare Conference – the monster of all the biotech investment conferences each year. A few thousand folks pack the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco to hear from a couple hundred different public and private biotech companies. What makes this week special, though, is the tens of thousands of biotech-industry types who descend on San Fran for outside meetings. It is the densest accumulation of biotechnology management, business development, venture capital, buy side, and sell side each year.

This was my eleventh JPM conference, but first from the buy side. It was an interesting experience being on this side, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. The week is always a bit of a blur (I had over 60 meetings and presentations on my calendar in addition to the late-night "events"), but I did have a few takeaways I thought worth sharing with Minyanville readers.

Takeaway 1
The highest-flying small-/mid-cap biotechs usually have least 2014 data.This suggests the fast-money types may rotate out of these stocks until later in the year.

Takeaway 2
In big contrast to every other year, I rarely heard a management team say, "I think we're undervalued."

Takeaway 3
Intercept Pharma's (NASDAQ:ICPT) consecutive $203 and $167 gain days (no, not percent – dollars per share) scared the jeepers out of "casual" biotech bears. I expect some of the biotech sector gains thus far in 2014 are directly related to risk management officers in funds taking a real hard look at any proposal to short low-float names – which describes all the recent IPOs and most of the sector's highest fliers. This might be a durable situation.

Takeaway 4
By virtue of the Alnylam (NASDAQ:ALNY) twin deals, siRNA got added to the more predictable list of CAR-T immunotherapy, checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy, and cancer stem cell drugs as predictable hot-product areas for 2014.

Takeaway 5
Since I joined just after the 2010 iteration of JPMorgan's conference, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) has been a hugely important tool. This year's hashtag feed (#JPM14) was less useful than any prior year, however. Too much noise. That's not to say my feed was useless. By following the right group, you get critically important insights from very smart people.

Takeaway 6
It's always a sport to guess the mood of the crowd and apply that to some prognostication for the coming year's performance. I'm not sure that's useful, but there was no reason to not have a good time at the event this year. Everyone was upbeat, positive -- and not just because of the gains seen in 2013.

Takeaway 7
Biotech companies are making real progress in cancer and orphan diseases. Narrowing drug development to targeted markets is making a huge difference. Nearly a decade after I penned Death of the Blockbuster Drug, the idea of targeted therapies is dominant.

Twitter: @AlpineBV_Miller

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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