The Buzz at JP Morgan--Biopharma: New Models Wanted
Perhaps the loudest message from the biopharmaceutical side of the JP Morgan conference was: "Change the Big Pharma model." The theme was pervasive-in discussions of the most interesting products; among the biotechs; indeed in the Big Pharma presentations themselves.
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Overheard at JP Morgan's 25th Health Care Conference: Making Up for Lost Drugs: Pharma Attempts to Appease Investors
The annual JP Morgan conference has always been a stage for reviewing new solutions to the basic business-model problem of biotechnology. But as Big Pharma's troubles have grown, the conference has also become a showcase for large drug company problems. The quick fix: keep shareholders in the stocks by returning cash to them. Medium term: adopt one of four basic business models. Longer term: disaggregate.
Through a reverse merger with Discovery Partners, oncology discovery and development play Infinity Pharmaceuticals will access the public market and Discovery's roughly $70-75 million cash. That the deal won't secure Infinity the kind of market capitalization that the firm's top-notch pedigree and previous private valuations pointed toward merely reflects the market's healthy skepticism for early-stage assets. It also suggests that even for companies as promising as Infinity, reverse mergers are increasingly the smoothest-and in some cases the most lucrative-path to the Nasdaq.
The diversity of messages from the Big Pharma presenters at this important conference reflected the broader investment uncertainty about the sector. Investors weren't certain about the biotech business model either, though they packed the rooms. Among the basic arguments: whether the returns from companies pursuing compounds against novel targets will trump the returns from those companies pursuing precedented mechanisms.