The truth about the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference: Less is more

The truth about the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference: Less is more

Alex Hogan/STAT S AN FRANCISCO — Yet another J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is done. Was it worth it? All in all, this was a really pleasant week in San Francisco. The weather this year was an A-minus. There was a noticeable drop in attendance. Meeting rooms weren’t jam-packed. Ubers and Lyfts were easy to hail and coffee shops were bustling but not overloaded. Maybe that’s the simple solution to the hand-wringing over the future of JPM: fewer of you, plus sun. advertisement But FOMO! The JPM circus has too many tents. It wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time, everyone fit semi-comfortably in a single hotel on Union Square. And it was called JPM for a reason — it was to serve the monied interests of a certain large Wall Street investment bank. And, in that sense, it has continued to serve that purpose. It’s pay-to-play on a billion-dollar scale. Jamie Dimon’s health care bankers assemble a roster of presenting companies that either already pay investment banking fees, or will eventually. The select group of investor clients who fill the seats pay trading commissions to the bank’s brokers. I’m not passing judgment. That’s simply the way Wall Street works. STAT’s guide to the most important, beneficial drugs approved in the past decade But at a certain point, JPM changed. Other investment banks and biopharma hangers-on bumrushed San Francisco to pick Dimon’s pocket. Then things got complicated. The conference got bigger, more unwieldy, less … fun? Last year, we reached peak disgruntlement over rapacious hoteliers and the city’s well-documented social and public health problems. Maybe we’d be better leaving JPM to J.P. Morgan. What would everyone else do? For starters, there are dozens of alternative health care investment conferences held in New York, Boston, London, Miami, and Las Vegas. There are 51 other weeks during the year to attend those meetings. Here’s another idea. BIO, the industry trade group, should rethink and revamp its own investor conferences held in New York in February and San Francisco in October. Let’s be honest, these events, which attempt to promote smaller biotechs, are not showstoppers. How about merging the BIO events with Biotech Showcase, the largest, non-awful, non-JPM Week conference that also attracts smaller biotechs and their investors? Keep the San Francisco locale but move the combined events to October. I’d attend. Similarly, non-investor biotech folks cramming into San Francisco this week have plenty of other places to go. This is not an industry lacking attractive travel opportunities. Medical, science, and research meetings span the globe. Enjoy them! BIO, again, should show some more leadership here by expanding its annual convention. There isn’t a non-investor event held in San Francisco this week that couldn’t happily inhabit a bolstered BIO convention, usually held in June in wonderful cities like San Diego, Boston, or Washington, D.C. Anywhere but San Francisco in January. Leave that to J.P. Morgan. About the Author



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