JPM2024 Offers Cautious Optimism About Year Ahead. Will It Last?

Pictured: Photo of a trolley in San Francisco/Tyle

Pictured: Photo of a trolley in San Francisco/Tyle

There seems to be decidedly positive sentiment regarding biopharma in 2024—perhaps a harbinger of things to come this year coming off a topsy-turvy 2023.

Pictured: A cable car in San Francisco/Tyler Patchen

What a difference a week makes! I’m talking about JPM Week in San Francisco, of course. Biopharma executives, investors, analysts and innovators once again converged on the city for the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference and its parallel meetings and events, such as the Biotech Showcase, which collectively generated a flurry of news.

Let me cut to the chase: My key takeaway is that there seems to be an air of cautious optimism regarding biopharma in 2024. Even the cold, rainy weather in San Francisco couldn’t put a damper on a decidedly positive vibe at JPM24—perhaps a harbinger of things to come this year coming off a topsy-turvy 2023.

I don’t think I’m being Pollyannaish when I say that—based on the pulse at JPM24—there appear to be early signs of a turnaround of sorts, or at least expectations of one from attendees. That’s not to say the biopharma industry isn’t facing significant challenges; it is. But is a rebound afoot?

One question this year is what biotech venture capital will look like in 2024. Several experts on a Biotech Showcase panel in San Francisco this week expressed positive outlooks for the coming year. According to GlobalData’s survey results, released this week, a biotech funding recovery is expected over the next 12 months.

Optimism also remains strong in 2024 for the cell and gene therapy sector. Last year, the FDA approved a record-setting number of cell and gene therapies in the U.S. with seven such products entering the market, while the EMA approved one in the European Union. This year, we could see up to 17 approvals by those regulators, according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine. However, manufacturing issues and regulatory hurdles continue to hamstring the technologies.

In terms of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) dominated discussions at JPM24 with the potentially transformative impact it can have on biopharma. The buzz was around Sunday’s announcement that Alphabet’s Isomorphic Labs signed separate deals worth nearly $3 billion with Eli Lilly and Novartis. Big Tech is dangling the promise of AI-based drug discovery. Generative AI could also be a game changer in biopharma by transforming existing processes. At the same time, it has inherent risks.

At JPM24, other experts weighed in on the year ahead and what the industry can expect. The consensus was that AI, neuroscience and GLP-1 drugs will gain momentum in 2024. A lot of attention at JPM Week was focused on the cancer space. Executives from Olema Oncology and Cyclacel spoke with BioSpace about their plans for the year and why the JPM conference is important to them.

On the policy and regulatory front were several topics on the minds of analysts and industry groups at JPM24. These include the Inflation Reduction Act’s Drug Price Negotiation Program, the Biden administration’s intention to invoke so-called “march-in rights” to take back patents of expensive drugs that rely on federally funded research, and the changing dynamics at the FTC related to M&As.

Of particular concern to these stakeholders is how the Inflation Reduction Act’s provisions might influence investments in small molecule drugs. Under the IRA, biologics are spared from price negotiations for 13 years following approval while the grace period for small molecules is only nine years. Gaurav Gupta, managing partner of J.P. Morgan Life Sciences Private Capital, warned that the IRA is “taking, for certain types of medicines, a significant amount of revenue potentially off the table.”

All in all, what an amazing week it’s been in San Francisco! In case you missed it, BioSpace’s podcasts provided the highlights from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3. I’m so grateful for the conversations we had at JPM24 setting the stage for the year. It’s not all downhill from here—significant hurdles still face the biopharma industry—but the sector feels invigorated to take on the challenge. Let the journey begin!

Greg Slabodkin is the News Editor at BioSpace. You can reach him at greg.slabodkin@biospace.com. Follow him on LinkedIn.

Greg Slabodkin is the News Editor at BioSpace. You can reach him at  greg.slabodkin@biospace.com. Follow him on LinkedIn.
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