Text was adapted from the BioWorld Article titled “Women have their say as all-female panel talks investment, technology” by Marie Powers.
Women In Bio and Bloomberg Intelligence hosted the second annual “Market Trends in Biotech” event with an all-female panel of investors and industry executives on January 10, 2018 during the 36th JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.
Asthika Goonewardene (Senior Biotech Analyst, Bloomberg Intelligence) moderated a discussion on capital markets, biopharma R&D, and drug pricing. The panel featured Christiana Bardon (Partner, MPM Oncology Impact Fund and Portfolio Manager, Burrage Capital), Gisela Schwab (CMO, Exelixis), Marianne De Backer (VP, Venture Investments, Johnson & Johnson Innovation), and Shehnaaz Suliman (SVP, Corporate Development and Strategy, Theravance Biopharma).
Bardon kicked off the discussion stating that investor interest in biopharma improved in 2017 following a challenging 2016, and will likely continue into 2018. She advised against getting preoccupied with the market and suggested that biopharma companies focus on the fundamentals in the coming year by innovating, leveraging the favorable regulatory environment, and executing in clinical development.
In oncology, investors are incredibly excited about the notable patient responses observed and are eagerly awaiting upcoming readouts. Schwab remarked how exciting it is that the science is finally catching up with observations that were made in the early days of immuno-oncology. Investigators are also beginning to understand how anti-cancer compounds can work together synergistically, and how mainstream use of companion diagnostics can identify more patients who benefit from treatments.
A potential disconnect, however, is that diagnostics remain a tough place to invest and make money. Nevertheless, the diagnostics space continues to attract investment, De Backer said, and the convergence of health care and information technology is attracting new and sometimes non-traditional investors.
The conversation came to a close with a discussion about drug pricing. Some panelists noted that as long as biopharma companies are developing drugs that provide value to patients, there will always be a market. Suliman, however, admitted to feeling conflicted, acknowledging that the internal rate of return for biopharma is headed below the cost of capital while value-based pricing is in the public good. She noted that industry officials must do a better job of explaining value-based pricing so that patients can understand the criteria that underlie the prices they pay.
Next, Kristine Mechem (VP, Marketing and Planning, OncoCyte Corporation) led a fireside chat with Sophie Kornowski-Bonnet (Head of Business Development, Roche) in which Kornowski-Bonnet shared some insights for female executives. She encouraged attendees to focus on their jobs rather than their careers, and to prioritize making friends along the way. Kornowski-Bonnet concluded by emphasizing the importance of being a whole person and finding your style, which she remarked might not help you “make it” at work, but it will make you a happier person.
Many thanks to all of the panelists, to Bloomberg Intelligence for co-sponsoring the event, to Asthika Goonewardene for steering the discussion and for hosting us at Bloomberg, and to event chairs Nicki Schirle Oakdale and Caitlin Quigley for putting the event together!
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