The Korea Herald


JP Morgan 2020 closes, with deals hanging in air

By Lim Jeong-yeo

Published : Jan. 19, 2020 - 14:49

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The 38th JP Morgan Healthcare Conference 2020 came to a close Thursday, with small and big deals still covered under wraps.

Being the biggest annual gathering of pharmaceuticals companies presenting each of their pipelines’ research progress, JP Morgan conference in San Francisco has often concluded in mega deals that drew eyes.

In 2015, Korea’s Hanmi Pharmaceutical was invited to the conference, where it presented its major pipelines and ended up licensing out to big pharmas Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Janssen for some 7 trillion won ($6 billion) deal. As of now, some of these deals were retracted but the significance of the opportunity to pitch at the conference became clear to Korean pharmas and investors.

Last year, Yuhan inked a 1.4 trillion won deal with US’ Gilead, also drawing attention.

Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald) Westin St. Francis Hotel on Union Square (Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

This year, Cellivery Therapeutic said it has come to agreements with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company, Qilu Pharmaceutical and several others it cannot name on a number of deals varying in size and conditions.

Botulinum toxin and aesthetic filler company Hugel also said it had signed a license-in deal with a US firm, and that it plans to officially announce the details of this in the coming week.

Rare disease treatment research and developing firm TiumBio’s CEO Kim Hun-taek reportedly expressed confidence that at least on global deal will take place within this year.

Bridge Biotherapeutics’ CEO Lee Jung-kue said the company’s ulcerative colitis treatment pipeline BBT-401, a pellino-1 inhibitor, licensed out to Daewoong Pharmaceutical for Asia-wide rights, will have parts of the phase 2 clinical trial data released at the Crohn’s & Colitis Congress 2019 on Feb. 7.

This is the next pipeline that will enter negotiations for global rights, Lee said, starting from second half of this year.

JP Morgan Healthcare Conference 2020 has taken place at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in Union Square for the past 38 years. Firms who are not officially able to attend the invitation only event often take out meeting rooms at hotels in the square, a prime business location in the city, to carry out individual business discussions, making most out of the yearly opportunity to meet major pharmas.

Only seven Korean firms were officially invited this year: Samsung Biologics, Celltrion, Genexine, Hugel, LG Chem Science Company, Hanmi Pharmaceutical and Daewoong Pharmaceutical.

Others seeking to license-out were seen at W San Francisco, where Pfizer had an entire floor of rooms vacated of beds and turned into makeshift business rooms; Hilton San Francisco Union Square, where Eli Lilly met with partners and also where Biotech Showcase 2020 happened; and San Francisco Marriott Union Square where Roche held meetings.

“The real big deals happen outside of Westin St. Francis,” a Korea bio industry insider said. 

By Lim Jeong-yeo, Korea Herald correspondent