Science & Technology

BioPartnering Conference Reveals Pandemic’s Silver Lining

Entrepreneurs, startups and well-known stalwarts from New Jersey’s life sciences sector are meeting today and tomorrow with investors, academic collaborators, and business development professionals at BioNJ’s 11th annual BioPartnering Conference.

The purpose of the event, according to BioNJ President and CEO Debbie Hart is “to partner and grow the [life sciences] ecosystem and bolster medical innovation.”

Morning speakers discussed the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the industry from a business investment standpoint as well as from a technology and healthcare delivery standpoint.

Thomas Cavanagh, president immunology, Janssen Biotech, commented that since the last time the BioPartnering Conference was held, “The world continued to change in momentous ways and New Jersey’s life sciences companies have responded by taking heroic measures to expand what is possible in our mission to improve human health.”

Because of the global quest to find a COVID-19 vaccine, Cavanaugh said there were “eye opening levels of collaborations” going on among scientists, companies (many who were competitors), and between the private sector and the federal government. He said that 40% of drug therapies for COVID-19 were being developed by teams of companies. This is higher than the 21% of collaborations for H1N1 virus therapies, 11% for Zika, and 9% for Ebola.

Robbie Huffines, global chairman of investment banking for J.P. Morgan, added that having so many COVID-19 vaccines within a shortened timeline, with such efficacy and safety, is one of the “greatest feats of human ingenuity that we have ever seen.”

From a financial standpoint, he said that the capital markets were resilient during this time. He also commented that healthcare stocks are up 18.5% from their pre-COVID levels.

“As we have seen with other financial, military or political shocks – things that can have an enormous impact on humanity – if the markets believe the events will be short lived, they can be gotten through remarkably well,” he said. “When you think about how the capital markets and investors looked forward during this pandemic, it is a good reminder of how long-term their thinking is.”

Lauren Ruane, managing director, co-head of middle market healthcare banking at J.P Morgan, reported on the vast adoption of healthcare digital technologies during the pandemic.

“We’ve seen an increase in patient encounters made possible by virtual care technologies,” Ruane said, while adding that the use of data analytics “really harvested patient information to be used for insights on care delivery and payment integrity.”

She said there was also a focus on care equity, which was brought to the surface because of the pandemic. “What became increasingly obvious were the wide gaps in care delivery, care access, and care quality within various communities,” she said. “Some companies that are raising capital now are socially conscious and are trying to close those gaps. They are focused on social determinants of health and partnering with communities to ensure that all individuals have access to better care.”

The BioPartnering event, which BioNJ’s Hart said has attracted participants from nine countries and 18 US states, continues tomorrow with more industry panel discussions, keynote speeches, company presentations and one-on-one partnering meetings.

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