As announced last month, the 39th Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference will be held virtually from January 11-14, 2021 – a first for the conference. The bank’s decision to move to a fully virtual format has created a ripple effect among other shoulder events organized around the week of the conference, often referred to simply as “JPM Week”.
H.C. Wainwright has announced their “Bioconnect” event will be held virtually during the same week as JPM, and the Biotech Showcase, traditionally held at the Hilton in San Francisco, is piloting a new virtual format with advance access for participants beginning as early as this November.
Last month, Mike Gaito, Global Head of Healthcare Investment Banking at J.P. Morgan, and Dennis Purcell, Founder of Aisling Capital, hosted a fireside chat (virtually) to discuss the upcoming meeting and J.P. Morgan’s views for 2021. The fireside chat was hosted by Sara Demy, Founder & CEO of Demy-Colton.
In general, Gaito relayed that the mechanics of the conference will remain relatively unchanged from prior years. While the specific tech details of the event remain in development, companies invited to participate will still have the opportunity to partake in corporate presentations including live Q&A and will be granted access to one-on-one partnering meetings with investors and other companies in attendance.
Of note, he foresees increased activity around investor partnering meetings in 2021, based on performance the bank has seen from other similar virtual events and due in large part to attendees’ greater flexibility and willingness to host a full day of meetings from home.
The two also discussed broader market trends for the near future, with an air of cautious optimism. While 2020 has upended our industry unlike any other, Gaito sees a return to near-normalcy as all but inevitable. In his own words, “this is an in-person business,” and he sees the drastic steps taken to ensure safety during the ongoing pandemic will ultimately pass without materially changing the way biotech does business.
Gaito describes the IPO process as inherently personal. While some companies may continue to hold fully virtual roadshows even after the COVID-19 crisis is resolved, he predicts deal making and the process of taking a company public will ultimately return to in-person meetings before long, albeit with relatively fewer business trips in the near future.
Other IPO trends discussed were the rise in relative importance of crossover investors, a shift from “needing” human data in order to go public to now needing a good foundational story (with good backing), and a growing interest in SPACs – special-purpose acquisition companies – financial vehicles that have grown in popularity in recent years as alternative means to an IPO.
In sum, the IPO market is projected to remain hot for the foreseeable near future, and our industry has shown its ability to effectively adapt to tumultuous times, without any signs of slowing.
From Mike Gaito’s point of view, the virtual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is shaping up to be more efficient than in years past, and possibly even busier. Only time will tell if the lessons learned from the 2021 virtual model will continue to shape our industry post-pandemic.
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