This was my first time to San Francisco for the heady set of events around the JP Morgan conference. Last year Tony in the One Nucleus team attended and came back buzzing with excitement about the opportunities and up-beat nature of it. After both our experiences I can say for sure that we will be back as One Nucleus. Powell Street and the surrounding area was jam-packed with One Nucleus members all week and it has been hugely satisfying to catch up with many of them in a sunny environment with a very sunny outlook for the sector for 2015.
There has been lots of comparison of this year versus last year versus previous years and the general mood-music seems to be that last year was the first for a long time which was an explosion of excitement about the potential for the sector into the future with anticipation of IPO’s a plenty – and the UK was of course not found wanting in that regard. The ‘take’ on this years’ seems to be that while last year was the celebration of potential, this years has been harder edged – in a good way – with the talk being about ‘yes we have money, now let’s talk about how to spend it appropriately’. It certainly seems that the sector has never been as well capitalised as it is now. At the FierceBiotech breakfast, panellist Kurt von Emster, newly appointed Partner in Abingworth, summed it up beautifully when he said ‘the next 5 years could be the golden age of biotech’.
I spent much of my time at the Biotech Showcase which saw over 230 companies presenting – including a very strong showing from UK companies and the largest class of public companies to date in the events history. George Freeman, our UK Minister for Life Sciences joined the throng and as you would hope and expect, promoted the UK’s expertise widely in a packed programme of calls and activities. Our UK sector didn’t let itself down on the networking and drinking front either – with over 80 events to choose from for your evening’s delectation, the UKTI/SDI Whisky tasting went down a storm and the AZ/BIA reception at the Old Mint was exceptional. Clearly a lot of business being done in the ‘margins’ of the official events…
The approach of many of our members seemed to be anticipation of three or four key meetings, five or six meetings that ‘might’ lead to something and a set of speculative meetings that it was hard to call until they were completed, with most reporting afterwards that of those key meetings, there were golden nuggets in each.
The exciting combination of more cash, more scientific knowledge and more collaboration seems to be the right cocktail of the moment. In various events I heard multiple predictions of greater activity by strategic investors likely in 2015 and interestingly many suggestions that Family Offices and high net worth individuals (particularly in Europe) will come even more to the fore from an investment perspective. In terms of what the next big wave might be – lots of talk as you would expect about the need and potential for even greater personalisation of medicine and healthcare and gene therapy and neuroscience were particular buzz topics.
Of course it’s easy to get buoyed up with all the talk of money, serious investment and opportunity, but it’s clearly still brutally hard work to get funded and the UK is still an ocean apart from the US in terms of sums involved. That said, the sector most definitely made its mark on the city and there is lots to hope for in 2015, riding high with great examples of those who are currently excelling like Convergence, Horizon and Abzena.
We hope everyone from the event have returned safely. The digital conference book is a great record of the event.