Notes on Biopharma from the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference

The trend toward developing targeted therapeutics was evident throughout the recent 32nd Annual J. P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, which started January 13 in San Francisco. This trend has big implications for the industry, its economic basis and the way we do clinical development. A future post in this blog will discuss how clinical development has to change if targeted therapeutics with small populations and small markets are to be the engine of growth.

At the JPM conference, Big Pharma was busily looking to fill pipelines through deal-making – acquiring or investing in the innovations of others. Innovative deals can replace innovative R&D to a point and Big Pharma seems bent on pushing the limits. There are still lots of people in Big Pharma companies doing innovative work. However, much of Big Pharma seems confident in its ability to buy the innovation it needs to sustain itself. It is easy to speculate that the staff in some Big Pharma divisions could quit, start a series of independent ventures and sell themselves back to their former employers for handsome prices. Perceived risk for Big Pharma would fall but the ultimate price may be steeper than board rooms realize.

Others in the industry are looking to make clinical development more viable regardless of who is performing the R&D, whether Big Pharma, startups or companies in between. I enjoyed talking with David Grainger of TPC Innovations at the JPM conference. Many of you probably know David by his nom de plume (nom de blog?) is Drug Baron. Through his blog, David is attacking the industry’s inefficiency and low success rate from his perspective as a VC, in part through the notion of asset-centric investing. Health Decisions and this blog are attacking the industry’s inefficiency at the core of clinical development, through Agile operations and adaptive study design. We are often tilting the playing field in favor of the very biopharma companies that Big Pharma will in time try to acquire. Drug Baron and Trials Without Tribulations emphasize different methods but we’re working toward the same goal – increasing success rates and efficiency in clinical development and increasing the number of novel therapeutics that reach the healthcare professionals and patients who need them.

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