JP Morgan Healthcare Conference: highlights and industry outlook

Mayer Schreiber, CEO of Discovery Park, and Chris Broom, Head of Business Development at Discovery Park, recently attended the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco to build global connections and raise awareness of the opportunities in the UK for the biotech industry, as well as exploring opportunities for Discovery Park Ventures and its portfolio companies. The conference brought together thousands of industry experts from across the globe to discuss the biggest challenges and opportunities for 2024 and beyond.

The outlook from the conference for 2024 was cautious optimism, though overall, very positive. Several large deals were announced at the end of 2023, showing positive signs for the biotech industry. While the market is still in a downturn, brilliant science and innovation will still attract funding to create opportunities for the industry.

There were interesting discussions about what the innovation landscape will be like this year, including the short-term GLP-1 agonist success, and what new innovative drugs we can look forward to in the next decade. Also discussed at the conference was innovation around RNA technologies and the delivery of those — an area Discovery Park tenant and investee company, Vitarka Therapeutics, is active in.

The prominence and opportunity around AI for healthcare was a big topic at the conference, including how AI will help identify targets with specificity using genetic data. Big Tech is pushing more into generative AI for drug discovery to increase efficiency of clinical trials and regulatory approvals. Another common theme among panel discussions was cell and gene therapies. This was no surprise, with the conference coming just a month after the FDA’s approval of two gene therapies for sickle cell disease.

Also discussed were neuroscience, antibody drug conjugates and the importance of women’s health. Supporting the inclusion and empowerment of women is a priority for Discovery Park. Many of Discovery Park Ventures’ investments have gone to female-led businesses. For example, Discovery Park investee BoobyBiome, a UK biotech start-up developing products that deliver vital microbes to support infant gut flora and boost early immune system development, was founded by an all-female team of scientists.

There was a strong presence of UK companies at the conference, representing the UK’s expert capabilities both in academia and in translation. The Department for Business and Trade also attended the conference to promote inward investment opportunities, build confidence in UK life sciences, and connect companies with global investors and partners. Being part of the vibrant atmosphere at JP Morgan demonstrated the potential opportunities that can be gained by enhancing global networks in order to grow the sector.

There is a growing trend for biotech companies to outsource the development and manufacture of drugs in order to benefit from specialist knowledge and lower costs. This paired with increased demand for small molecule drugs presents a significant growth opportunity for CDMOs, evidenced by strong interest from the global CDMO industry in Discovery Park’s Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) and drug product manufacturing facilities. CDMOs require advanced facilities integrating the latest technologies to take advantage of this growing demand and Discovery Park presents a promising option for those companies looking to expand their capacity and remain competitive.

Despite the challenging wider economic landscape for the biotech industry, there was a great sense of optimism at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Finance will still be a challenge for the industry, but biotech innovation will always be important due to its impact on people’s lives. Collaboration and forging closer relationships both nationally and internationally will support the UK’s strength in this space.

Media Contact Information: 

Kirsty Budden
Head of Marketing, Discovery Park
T: +44 (0) 7730 618514

Sciad Communications, Media Relations
Juliette Craggs / Jasmin Shearan
T: +44 (0)20 3405 7892