#Stories To Watch

Optimism Ahead? Highlights from the JPM Healthcare Conference

JPM 2024

The annual JPM Healthcare Conference, a hallmark event in the industry, concluded recently, leaving attendees and observers buzzing with excitement and renewed optimism for the future ahead. Typically, a conference filled with major announcements, the past couple of years had seen a strong lack of such news and general doom and gloom in step with the market environment. This year’s edition marked a return to deal-making and positive developments and appeared to signal growing optimism for both the MedTech and Biotech industries.

  • In MedTech, the news of Boston Scientific’s acquisition of Axonics at the beginning of the week set the tone.  It was a strong positive signal for the neuromodulation space.
  • In Biotech, a wave of announcements happened during the week, such as Mayo Clinic signing an agreement with Cerebras Systems to develop AI healthcare applications, J&J’s acquisition of Ambrx proving the renewed interest in antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs), and Merck’s acquisition of Harpoon Therapeutics.

In addition, gene therapy approvals coupled with conversations about the success of GLP-1s have the industry with some strong momentum heading into the year. Not to be left behind, big news was also announced in the digital health sector as Amazon announced their partnership with Omada Health to help connect people to digital health benefits.

Continued Concerns and Hurdles

While optimism is real, concern remains as financing remains elusive and the IPO window remains shut. There are wide expectations of improved market conditions in 2024 as inflation concerns subside and interest rates start coming down, yet negative surprises can throw off many of these expectations. Medtech companies need to keep that in mind.

The fear of unexpected surprises and a challenged industry from a cash perspective will continue to lead companies to focus on lowering expenses, and layoffs are widely expected to continue. Many executives continue to focus on efficiency and profitability, which Medtronic CEO Goeff Martha strongly signaled during his presentation at the conference. These drives towards efficiency should be led to renewed efforts on improving time to market and should help companies focused on innovations in the space, such as tools designed to improve drug discovery, or companies focused on shortening clinical trial timelines, to name just a couple examples.

Keeping Innovation at the Forefront

On the innovation side, the promise of generative AI was a major topic at both panel discussions and network events throughout the week. While the industry remains unsure of AI’s ultimate place and grapples with whether we have the data to develop the tools, it is clear AI healthcare applications are a vast opportunity, with applications like AI-driven drug discovery leading the way. JPM 2024 was also a showcase of the increasing importance of women’s health, with several events centered around the topic and numerous investors becoming more focused on the sector.  

It was also striking to see the level of participation from industry groups and companies based outside of the United States. The already large contingents from Asia seemed even larger this year, and the number of events designed to drive investment in numerous countries across the globe could have been enough to fill anyone’s calendar. Cross-border collaboration is very real, and it’s a good bet to expect even more.

All in all, JPM 2024 was a wonderful opportunity to set the stage for a fruitful and productive year. If the conversations heard across the week are to be believed, some optimism is certainly warranted and welcome.

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By Javier Perez

Chief Strategic Advisor of The MedTech Digest and Director at BlackPoint Capital