The 8th annual Biotech Showcase offered networking and business opportunities and hot topic discussions about cell and gene therapy, the future of digital health and of course, the pricing debate.
The life science event year of 2016 started off in San Francisco with the annual Biotech Showcase 11-13 January, an investor and networking conference aiming to provide biotech and other life science companies with an opportunity to present to, and meet with investors and pharma executives in one place. The program included lunch plenary sessions featuring top industry leaders and innovators speaking on industry- and time-relevant topics, as well as company presentations and one-to-one meetings. This year’s event also included two new one-day tracks, about medtech and digital health.
“Biotech Showcase is a good opportunity not just to network and meet new people, but also to hear what young biotechs are doing, to gauge our peers’ interactions and to tell everyone about AstraZeneca’s recent deals and direction. It’s an opportunity to discuss challenges and where companies are heading, as well as the competitive landscape,” said Shaun Grady, VP, business development operations, AstraZeneca.
The next big pillar
The first day of the Biotech Showcase included a popular briefing from The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine and Advanced Therapies. The next big pillar is cell and gene therapy according to them. The unrealistic magic is gone and it’s now down to the data. “The pendulum will swing, and what will make it swing is data,” said moderator Jason Kolbert of Maxim Group. There was also a panel about Alzheimer’s disease, discussing recent advances in understanding the disease and what lies ahead. Huge advances have come in the field using biomarkers and discoveries about the disease’s heterogeneity. Earlier stage patients, longer-term trials and multiple pathways are in the future.
The high point in the afternoon was lunch plenary that dealt with “the great pricing debate: navigating through an industry sea change”, addressing pricing issues that have fragmented the biopharmaceutical industry. There is an incredible amount of disconnect between the real story of pharma drug development and public perception. The panel attempted to answer, who is responsible for public perception of the industry? “If we want the next cures and therapies for disease, someone has to pay for it. When a drug hits, it has to get a significant return for a limited amount of time before it goes generic. Without an outsize return, no one is going to invest in it,” said Ron Cohen of Acorda Therapeutics. Yet there is much speculation as to what is the “right” pricing?
Strategies in medtech
The second day of the event started out by focusing on medtech and the session was about value-added technologies, patient choice and strategies that engage patient groups in getting a product or technology to market. Having an excellent product execution strategy is key, as well as early consideration of reimbursement issues combined with flexible revenue-sharing business models. You have to be able to sell the clinical utility of a given medtech product. There are a lot of unknowns in the application and regulation of diagnostics, wearables, and digital health, to name a few. But a tremendous amount of work has been undertaken by the FDA in trying to regulate these technologies.
Tuesday’s lunch plenary was all about the state of the industry: “it’s different this time”. The debate covered everything from pipeline, modalities and new players on the investment scene to big picture issues and yet again, the pricing debate.
The final day kicked off with a panel on the topic: “investigating in the immune-oncology revolution: follow the T cells”, among other things highlighting the fact that we have the hardware but we need the right application, the rights software, to make T cells more effective by trafficking them to the tumor and/or getting the tumor to generate them.
The Digital Health showcase highlighted that the biggest impact digital health will have is yet to come. Over the next two to three years, changes in day-to-day interactions resulting from better access to information and social networks will take place. The value will be in digitizing information and making information mobile. There is increased focus on the patient as consumer, on value and prevention.
On Wednesday the lunch plenary was entitled “Bubble trouble? Have the biotech bulls had their run?”. The pool of VCs has been shrinking and there are concerns in shifting of some of the rights overseas too early. In general, companies need flexible management teams, and those companies who can convey their value proposition are still going to get financed.
The big picture is that the value proposition is still there. While there might be doom and gloom outside, the sector still has room to grow.
Source: EBD Group