“Muted” J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference Signals Tough Year for Biotech and Pharma

There were a handful of clear takeaways from this year’s recently wrapped J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, decidedly the topline annual event for the drugmaking sector. The conference features companies both large and small, giving them a platform to talk future strategy, garner investment interest, and set up new deals. But the 2023 conference, though marking a return to in-person proceedings, was notably “muted,” as put by a group of biotech execs in attendance, reflecting a year in which milestone deals were few and far between.

It would be understandably difficult, though, to show excitement when the conference has historically commenced with the announcement of multibillion-dollar acquisitions and this year’s edition had “no announcements of any consequence,” according to Ovid Therapeutics Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Levin. “It was all small ball. There were no home runs.”

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Greg Verdine, the Chief Executive Officer of FogPharma as well as LifeMine Therapeutics, went so far as to report a “general feeling of malaise and uncertainty about where things are going” in biotech.

This doom and gloom was and is particularly relevant “on the financing front,” as “people really just don’t have a great idea about what things are going to look like a year from now,” according to Jeff Jonas, the former head of Sage Therapeutics and the current Chief Executive Officer of ABio-X.

The coming months are not due to bring any optimism to hard-worn biotech and pharma companies, as VC backing will likely be doled out in a much more cautious manner and the public market appears to be on the outs with life sciences. What’s worse, new legislation grants unmitigated influence over drug pricing to the notoriously tight-gripped U.S. government.