The JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, which celebrated its 36th year last week, is the State of the Union event for the healthcare industry. It continues to grow with each iteration and has spun off more than 10 other conferences in the same week. With so many influential and innovative people and companies in San Francisco, it’s a whirlwind speed dating event for biotech, med tech, health tech, and investors. This was our third JPM week at Savonix, and we wanted to share some highlights from #JPM18 events.
It’s all about partnerships
When Apple, Google, and Microsoft decided to enter healthcare, the media initially predicted that the technology giants would end up monopolizing health tech. And yet that hasn’t been the case. No one company is going to tackle the complicated problems of healthcare alone. Instead, a promising prediction from #JPM18 is that we will see more companies collaborate to tackle our toughest health problems—from dementia to diabetes to interoperability.
The Digital Medicine and Medtech Showcase brought together 81 companies with an extraordinary range of specialties. Some focused on individual disease states like dementia and diabetes, while others focused on population health using predictive models and risk assessments. Additionally, there were many companies that were disease agnostic that emphasized new ways to deliver healthcare: through prevention, monitoring, medication adherence, diagnostics, or therapeutics.
Our best chance for success as an industry is through collaborations between companies that are authorities in their respective spheres. Imagine partnerships between an obesity prevention program, working together with a dietary adherence-focused startup plus an insulin monitoring device—we might finally be able to eliminate the burden of diabetes.
Phenotype is the new genotype.
Ever since the human genome was first sequenced, pharma and the personalized medicine movement have hinged their hopes on genetics to provide single point answers. Technologies like 23andme and CRISPR have caused great fanfare in the past few years, heralded as the keys to eliminating cancer and chronic diseases. However, the healthcare industry is waking up to the fact that the genome isn’t the silver bullet we had once thought.
In most individuals, disease is determined by a complex combination of phenotypic and genotypic factors. Phenotype refers to observable characteristics that are a product of genes, behavior and environmental influences. For example, only 5-10% of breast cancers are hereditary. That leaves 90-95% which can be attributed to modifiable, external risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and alcohol intake.
This year at JPM Week, several CEOs in the industry made the case that there are more ways to approach treatment than endless iterations of chemical compounds. With one-pill cures far off on the horizon, digital health and medtech hedge their bets on prevention, monitoring, and risk-reduction as the best way to disrupt the healthcare industry. A recent article from Neurology Advisor pointed out that one of the biggest risk factors for Alzheimer’s is obesity–a lifestyle factor. As “un-sexy” as it is to find out your doctor was right all along, research continues to show that across a plethora of conditions, we need to stop smoking, eat healthy foods, and exercise. Health tech is in a position to catalyze wellness and support the behavior change necessary for all of us to have a better quality of life.
We’re steadily climbing toward gender parity
Although we still have a long way to go in terms of gender parity in the healthcare industry, especially on the technology side, the spirit of this conference gave me hope that we are moving in the right direction. I had the fortune to speak on an all-female panel about regulation in the digital health industry. At another presentation I attended about capital markets trends in biotech and pharma, four out of the five panelists were women.
The conference organizers have recognized that women play a pivotal role in the health and technology sectors and are finally putting them on stage. Sara Demy, CEO of Demy-Colton (co-producer of the Digital Medicine, Medtech, and Biotech Showcase) declared, “We strive to have a female on every panel. No ‘manels' here.” This mindset is what we need—the Biotech Showcase had the greatest ratio of women to men compared to all JPM ancillary conferences.
Numerous networking events reinforced the importance of success of women in the industry. Deloitte, Women Business Leaders, and Springboard are just a few of the companies that held events to highlight women in leadership. I had the great privilege of attending the Fabulous Pharma Females dinner. The host Barbara Ryan announced that she is forming a 501c-3 out of this multi-year event with a mission to advance women executives in biotech and medtech. This isn’t just a case of fair is fair—women in the C-suite benefit the bottom line. One groundbreaking study analyzed more than 22,000 companies and found that when the percentage of women in management increased from 0 to 30%, profits rose an incredible 15%.
Despite the disappointment that many felt after reading the viral STATnews article showing that men named Michael outnumber female CEOs presenting at #JPM18, I do believe that we’re starting to move the needle, and I’m excited to see how women will catalyze the industry in 2018.
This conference has made me eager to see what’s in store for the healthcare industry. From increasing gender parity to partnerships founded on common goals of disease prevention, there will be plenty of industry disruption in the upcoming year. If JPM week was any indication (and it usually is), 2018 promises to be game-changing, and I can’t wait to return in 2019.