Key themes and topics from the biggest healthcare investing event of the year

17 February, 2015

We recently attended the 33rd Annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. This month, Sagentia’s VP of Surgical, Alistair Fleming, reflects on some of the major themes and topics highlighted during the event. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, data proved to be a frequent talking point at this year’s conference, with ‘information liquidity’ being a key theme, but what does this phrase mean? In the past, a lack of data stood in the way of better care. Now the opposite is true: healthcare is inundated with data. We have electronic patient records, tracking data on patient condition, co-morbidities and changes in scientific flow to give just a few examples. With this new wealth of data, the healthcare industry is witnessing the emergence of an array of new services. These services are designed to enable ‘information liquidity’: streamline workflow, make data seamlessly available anywhere and at any time through easy but secure, sharing and storage.


One example offered at the conference focused around the area of Bioinformatics. Illumina’s BaseSpace, which has been developing over the past few years and is touted as the world’s largest genomics cloud with 125,000 runs of customer test data is a cloud computing environment for next-generation sequencing (NGS) data analysis and management. BaseSpace is designed to be flexible, available in both cloud and onsite solutions. The aim is to allow sequencing labs to easily and securely analyze, archive, and share sequencing data. Researchers can then simplify and accelerate NGS data analysis with push-button tools. BaseSpace is gathering interest from both customers and collaborators, but there are still many developments planned for the system and, as healthcare data services advance, we expect the field of Bioinformatics to receive increasing attention at investor updates over the next couple of years.

Services are designed to enable ‘information liquidity’: streamline workflow, make data seamlessly available anywhere and at any time through easy but secure, sharing and storage.

The opportunities for liquid biopsies – non-invasive blood tests for tumor diagnosis – and the recent advancements in genetic sequencing and molecular diagnosis, were also highlighted during the week’s proceedings. It is now possible to learn a great deal about what is occurring in a person’s body by testing a blood sample, a significantly less invasive method of investigation. While developments in the non-invasive pre-natal diagnostic market are well documented (including our client Premaitha), the applications for this approach in oncology are truly exciting and could transform clinical practice. Indicative signs in a sample of blood may help physicians detect cancerous tumors located elsewhere in the body. The current methods rely upon symptomatic presentation and imaging followed by tissue biopsies, which are costly, invasive and by definition only pick up a relatively progressed disease state. Liquid biopsies would minimize the need for hospital admissions and biopsy surgery for the patient, and could also enable more early-stage diagnosis, potentially to be carried out at home. 


Finally, with the increased IPO and M&A activity experienced in 2014, attendees at the conference were bolstered by the news that confidence has returned and investors expect 2015 to see even higher levels of activity in these areas. The recent merger between Covidien and Medtronic was still causing a buzz and demonstrates the possibilities that such synergies can bring to the whole care pathway. For example, companies might provide products for use by surgeons in the operating room, as well as supplying services to patients post-operatively. Through the pooling of resources, this situation offers the potential to spread costs among all of the suppliers in the care pathway. More intriguingly, however, the combined group has the ability to redistribute cost and associate value derived at one stage in the care pathway with cost incurred elsewhere. This could have significant benefit for both suppliers and patients. Cost efficiencies would be achieved by the suppliers, which could then be passed on to patients in the form of improved procedures and outcomes.

In all, it feels like 2015 starts with much promise and buzz in the industry. New technologies are driving innovation not just in products, but in services and business models in ways that could fundamentally transform the industry in coming years. Given the pressures on healthcare provision, this is welcome news.

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