The Annual SFO Kickoff Conference/Party/Thing at #JPM15 #BTS15 
Posted by Carlos on Jan 20, 2015


That was fun...

That was fun…

It’s hard to believe that a week has passed since we were dashing from meeting to meeting in San Francisco.

We conducted 29 scheduled meetings at the Biotech Showcase, had 15 other scheduled or impromptu meetings elsewhere, attended 4 dinner meetings, 5 receptions, and walked (or ran) 36 kilometers (that’s 22.4 miles if you’re keeping score at home). And yes, we spotted the bobble head during the Monday fun run.

We spent our time away from the hype Westin, so if you want commentary on what went on there, we regret that you’ll have to look elsewhere, or here. A detailed review of the Biotech Showcase is also available here.

What did we observe during our 4+ days in San Francisco?

China – We met a number of companies who were interested in seeking licensing partners and/or investors from China. But China remains a large, confusing picture for many companies…and perhaps rightfully so. Concerns about patents, unethical legal practices, unethical business practices, language barriers, distance, time…the list is lengthy indeed. However, we’re seeing a few things that should encourage companies to rethink and reconsider their China strategy in a positive way.

First, the large number of returnees to China from the US and Europe means that more and more Chinese companies are operating with a strong, Western flair. Deal terms have structures which are recognizable to anyone in the West. And, the opportunity for local/regional rights could add even more upside to a transaction.

Second, the Chinese government has made healthcare (and healthcare spending) one of their priorities in their most recent Five Year plan. Now this is not to say that volumes of expensive, branded Rx products will skyrocket. But, innovative products have a reasonable chance of favorable reimbursement and volumes.

Third, there is an understandable bias towards working with Western companies who have a presence in China, as opposed to working with large, domestic companies. This is understandable, and is also why is makes so much sense to work with a company like ours who has a presence in China. With our local relationships, we can guide clients towards the best companies in China, while avoiding the ones which should be avoided.

Let's meet outside instead.

Let’s meet outside instead.

IPOs are Hot – OK, we get it. We’re in an IPO and financing bubble right now. It feels a bit like the one in 1999-2001, where any company with “genomics” in their executive summary was valued at $100 million. The one difference is that today’s companies appear much more solid, in the sense that they have clearer paths through product development and exit (via licensing). Some of the companies 15+ years ago were counting on vague understandings of how newly identified genes would lead to highly valued partnerships with pharma. That’s not the case today, which is great for all of us.

However, let’s keep all of this in some perspective. The number of companies executing an IPO are a tiny sliver of our industry. Very little time is spent by our industry journalists covering the hundreds of other companies that are innovating, growing, and prospering in their own way.

TTOs…Some Get It – This year, we are meeting with a number of Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) as part of our initiative to start a new biotech company in 2015 (more on this in another post). Historically, TTOs have received a lot of criticism for not being very industry-friendly. Specifically, many TTOs do not invest the time or the resources (especially the latter) to prepare and market their best research assets/programs to industry.

Wow, has that changed.

Over the past month, we’ve met several TTOs who are

  • Prioritizing their portfolio of available research programs; and
  • Investing in these programs by, for example, having external CROs repeat experiments to validate the results; and
  • Conducting “real” out-licensing efforts; and
  • Hiring licensing pros from the industry (either full-time or on consultative basis) to run the out-licensing process; and
  • Most importantly, listening to industry and investors alike, taking their feedback into consideration as they prioritize their programs.

It was a real pleasure meeting with a few TTOs who are eager to work with industry in a true partnership. Let’s keep talking…

Looking Forward – It will be really interesting to see if this financing trend continues through the year. We’ll leave it to others to predict the future. What we can say with confidence is that the buzz and confidence exuded by everyone last week was stronger than it has been in a few years. Lots of companies and executives will be busy riding this wave over the next few months trying to secure a partnership and/or investor. Only then will we know if #SFO15 was successful for us or not.

And just think…we only have 147 days until #BIO2015 kicks off in Philly!

Other Conferences – We are sincerely interested in any comments or reviews of the other conferences which took place simultaneously in San Francisco last week. So if you would like to post something about RESI or OneMed Forum, please contact us.

See you next year!

See you next year!

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