2021-01-13| COVID-19

Top Announcements from the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference 2021

by Rajaneesh K. Gopinath
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The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is an annual pilgrimage for industry leaders, venture capitalists, innovators, and trendsetters who gather at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco to make deals, build partnerships and witness major M&A activity. Although the virtual format this year could be perceived as a buzzkill, the absence of chaos, overwhelmed attendees, and exorbitantly priced accommodations would be welcomed. There have been no notable mergers or acquisitions yet, but we did handpick important updates from the event’s 39th edition.



The arrival of mRNA vaccines is one of the remarkable stories of 2020. Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel explained how the strong foundation built over a decade helped a team of 1000 people develop a COVID-19 vaccine and bag the EUA in just 11 months. Bancel said that the company believes that mRNA is the best platform to make vaccines. In his opinion, 2021 will be an inflection year since 2020 witnessed the company transform from one that believed mRNA might deliver a safe medicine to one that realized it is possible. Although the mRNA technology is not new, COVID-19 became a proof-of-concept for Moderna driving mRNA-1273 to become its first product to enter the market. Presently authorized in 30 countries, Moderna aims to produce 600 million to 1 billion doses of mRNA-1273 to meet growing demands. Moderna is also expanding its focus on tackling other infectious diseases such as seasonal flu, HIV, and the Nipah virus. Besides, its CMV vaccine is poised for a Phase 3 start this year.



Illumina CEO Francis deSouza announced new collaborations with Bristol Myers Squibb, Kura Oncology, Myriad Genetics, and Merck to further the reach of its pan-cancer, comprehensive genomic profiling assay. TruSight Oncology 500 (TSO 500) is an NGS-based test designed to identify 523 known and emerging tumor biomarkers. Regulatory applications of the assay have been submitted to the FDA and EMA for marketing authorization and are expected to be approved for marketing by the end of this year.

“Cancer is a disease of the genome, and treatment will increasingly leverage NGS-based tests, from early detection and diagnoses, to therapy selection and monitoring,” said deSouza. “The continued expansion of our TruSight Oncology pipeline complements our planned acquisition of multi-cancer early detection company GRAIL.”

The company also launched a cloud-based data platform called Illumina Connected Analytics (ICA) that allows the customer to interpret, aggregate, explore, and share large volumes of multi-omics data in a secure, scalable, and flexible environment. deSouza also mentioned the possible launch of two new Illumina AI tools, PrimateAI v2, deep learning to classify VUS, and SpliceAI v2, deep learning to predict splice sites.



John Maraganore, CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, announced a 5-year strategy dubbed Alnylam P5x25 to drive sustainable innovation of drugs for rare and common diseases and reaping exceptional financial benefits for the company. As part of the strategy, the company is looking forward to catering to over half a million patients with six or more marketed products in rare and prevalent diseases. It also plans to launch additional eight clinical programs and file four or more regulatory submissions per year. Alnylam strongly believes this plan will help it achieve sustainable non-GAAP profitability in the next 5 years and expects to see a 40% or higher increase in revenue.


Eli Lilly

Eli Lilly’s announcement of positive results for donanemab in Alzheimer’s patients kicked off the event on a positive note. Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the aggregation of amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides into hard plaques. Donanemab an investigational antibody targets Aβ(p3-42), a pyroglutamate form of Aβ. The Phase 2 TRAILBLAZER-ALZ 2 study that involved 272 patients revealed that donanemab met the primary endpoint and slowed the clinical decline of patients by 32% as compared to placebo.

“We are extremely pleased about these positive findings for donanemab as a potential therapy for people living with Alzheimer’s disease, the only leading cause of death without a treatment that slows disease progression.“ said Mark Mintun, M.D., Vice President of pain and neurodegeneration, Eli Lilly and Company.

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates…



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