My Report Card for JP Morgan Healthcare Conference Picks

1/7/13Follow @xconomy

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she can’t stay and solve a few more problems at the FDA in the years ahead.

—“The mood will be upbeat.” Prediction Grade: B. This prediction was on target, but it was essentially a statement of the obvious. Still, some people seem to think they can take the temperature of investor sentiment for the year ahead at this conference. This whole line of inquiry about “how’s the mood?” strikes me as odd. It shouldn’t be a surprise that people enjoy hanging out with friends, talking about their work, running up expense accounts, and sipping fancy drinks at fancy hotels late into the night. They enjoy the warmth and sun in one of the world’s greatest cities in the middle of winter. How do you think that would affect your mood? Other than one year from the Great Recession, the mood I’ve seen has always been upbeat, and always will be.

—“Biotech VC funds will fail to raise new funds in 2012.” Prediction Grade: A. The biotech venture capital world is living in crisis, and little happened in 2012 to reverse this trend. There were very few VC firms that raised new money to invest in startups, because very few have delivered returns to justify their risks. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers raised a new $525 million healthcare fund in May, but that’s Kleiner—it can probably fall out of bed for five years straight and still raise more money. The fact remains that most venture capital firms have little gas in the tank, and desperately need a few IPOs or big-ticket acquisitions if they are ever going to refill.

Meantime, entrepreneurs are going to have to be clever in finding money from foundations, government agencies, and Big Pharma partners if they want to develop new biotech products. We saw very few “big idea/big money” companies get started in 2012, even at an amazing time of opportunity in science. The lack of investment in new ideas is so severe, it’s enough to suffocate the careers of a generation of scientists and young businesspeople. Not to be too much of a party pooper, but that’s something all the bright and hard-working JP Morgan delegates ought to be thinking about and working in some way to solve in the year ahead.

One last note: I’m going to be on the ground this week at the conference with the usual days full of one-on-one interviews, and evenings full of receptions. In between, I will send out a few Tweets from various hotel elevators—always a good way to pass the time and test my cell phone service. For those of you relatively new to the social media world, and the JP Morgan conference hullabaloo, the Appeering website does a nice job of filtering the chatter into conversations that are easier to follow. I look forward to seeing lots of readers there in the City by the Bay.

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