5 Things to Know From the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

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Each year, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology executives attend the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, some to tout recent developments, others just to bounce from session to session. Here are 5 focus areas, with highlights from the 37th annual conference that met in San Francisco from January 7 to 10.

Focus on Specificity

The FDA’s Scott Gottlieb, MD, spoke by video (because of the government shutdown) about new plans by the agency to modernize its drug development review process, including the use and validation of biomarkers, bioinformatics, and patient-reported outcomes to better predict who would respond to a potential therapeutic target. The commissioner announced a new the Office of Drug Evaluation Science, which will begin with a structured review of safety data.

At a session on precision medicine, the chief executive officers of Exact Sciences Corporation and  Adaptive Biotechnologies Corporation discussed how past investments are paying off to tailor treatments and even predict illness years before it occurs.

Focus on Acquisitions

Planned, separate sessions by Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Celgene were combined, as the conference kicked off with the announcement of their $74 billion merger. With stakes in the same fields and blockbuster drugs like Opdivo (nivolumab), Yervoy (ipilimumab), Revlimid (lenalidomide), and Eliquis (apixaban), the complementarity of the 2 companies will drive more value in oncology, autoimmune diseases, and cardiology, explained Giovanni Caforio, chairman and chief executive officer, BMS.

Meanwhile, Eli Lilly’s planned presentation focused heavily on its announcement that it would buy biotech firm Loxo Oncology for $8 billion. Loxo focuses on inhibiting cancer tumors exhibiting genetic mutations regardless of where they are in the body.

Focus on Digital Health

One company touted a recent acquisition to show how it plans to use digital health to tackle one of the world’s top drivers of chronic disease burdens. The chief executive officer of ResMed, Michael Farrell laid out the company’s strategy to 2025. ResMed makes connected devices for respiratory care. It recently acquired Propeller Health, which makes digital sensors that attach to respiratory inhalers.

Focus on Biosimilars

The Center for Biosimilars®, a sister site of AJMC®, wrote that Robert Bradway, the chief executive officer of Amgen, predicted biosimilars are poised to deliver long-term growth for the company and contribute to the company’s finances for the first time in 2019. He highlighted the launch of the first 2 of Amgen’s biosimilars, Amgevita, an adalimumab biosimilar referencing Humira, and Kanjinti, a trastuzumab biosimilar referencing Herceptin. Meanwhile, despite the loss of patents, Sanofi said new products will more than make up for the financial impact.

Focus on Consumers and Value

Biotech company bluebird bio discussed a new model of paying for potentially curable gene therapies in order to get it to as many patients as possible. Bluebird looked at a fair value for treatments by looking at lifetime effectiveness, and proposes spreads payments out for a treatment over 5 years in equal installments. The first payment is a sort of access fee, but the rest of the installments are at risk. According to the chief executive officer, under the model, bluebird shares risk with up to 80% of the price at risk based on success of the treatment.

Meanwhile, the chief executive officer and president of CVS Health talked up the integration of CVS and Aetna, describing a revamp of drug stores, care management programs for complex, chronically ill patients, and streamlining and coordinating care to reduce the fragmentation that consumers face.

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