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What’s top of mind for industry execs at JPM?

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The energy felt every year at the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is palpable — and the buzz is likely to be amped higher this year as the industry reconvenes on location in San Francisco for the first time since the pandemic. News will be made. Deals will be inked. Money will be invested in the companies that have strong stories — and data — to share.

Neurological disease is one of the therapeutic areas expected to play an important role in 2023, said Dr. Marcelo Bigal, CEO of Ventus Therapeutics, a biopharma using computational chemistry to develop small molecule therapeutics.

“As disease biology becomes clearer, surrogate endpoints more readily accepted by regulators, precision approaches more viable, and an increasing universe of relevant disease targets accessible by small molecules, there will likely be more investment in therapies for neurological diseases,” he said. “In addition, we predict NASH will be of focus for both strategics and investors given the recent clinical success from Madrigal and the clear unmet need for this patient population.”

Last year at JPM, we conducted several virtual interviews with biopharma execs as part of our conference coverage. One of the questions we asked was: “What’s hot?” Now, we’ve tapped a few of these thought leaders again to see if their trending predictions played out and what they’re tracking for the coming year.

Small molecules getting buzz

When we checked in with PharmaVoice 100 honoree Raymond Stevens, CEO of Structure Therapeutics (formerly ShouTi), he predicted that a major trend for 2022 would be the re-emergence of orally available small molecule drugs, something he expects to continue in 2023.

Raymond Stevens Structure Therapeutics

Raymond Stevens, CEO, Structure Therapeutics

Permission granted by Raymond Stevens


“Accessibility to medicines remains a problem in global healthcare, including in the United States,” he said. “This is a problem that is not going away anytime soon, and we need to parallel track policy and technology solutions that includes cost, stability and administration route.”

As Stevens and his colleagues head to San Francisco, he also believes access to capital remains key.

“Strong and unique companies with solid business plans will do well in this market. Access to capital to power the discovery of new medicines, capital is a requirement,” he said.

Spatial biology

Déborah Heintze, co-founder and chief medical officer of Lunaphore, noted last year that one of the trends for 2022 would be a focus on spatial biology and a move toward translational clinical research, which she expects to address advanced clinical trials and diagnostics beyond 2023.

Deborah Heintz Lunaphone

Déborah Heintze, CMO, co-founder, Lunaphore

Permission granted by Deborah Heintz


“We have seen an encouraging and growing body of evidence to suggest that the prevalence of spatial biology will continue to expand, moving this revolutionary field and the insights it provides into clinical use, where it can benefit patients’ lives in the future,” she said. “We believe that, from discovery to translational research, from an academic lab to a core facility or in a pharmaceutical or CRO setting, the versatility of spatial biology is unmatched. Existing automated solutions can answer a wide variety of biological questions with more insights, and we think that any area of research in which tissue is used is a potential application for spatial biology.”

She added that the movement is being driven by spatial biology’s hypothesis-based dimensions as opposed to just confirming assumptions.

“By providing tissue maps at a single-cell level we can identify and characterize biomarkers,” Heintze said. “Such molecular profiles help clinicians specify precise and predictive biomarkers to create individualized treatment plans and pave the way for new areas of drug discovery. By harnessing its full potential, researchers can advance biomarker discovery and, ultimately, develop the next generation of personalized medicine.”

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