Perhaps the most important gathering of the life sciences community is the annual JP Morgan Chase Healthcare Conference, held this month in San Francisco.
The conference gives companies whose science and business plans are deemed most likely to succeed—while benefiting patients and investors—an opportunity to make their case before the venture capital community.
This year was no different, with an array of new, cutting-edge technologies on display.
Traditional drug development was well represented, with many presentations about medicines that harness our own immune systems to cure cancer.
Eli Lilly's purchase of Stamford-based Loxo Oncology, announced during the conference, was all about access to this technology.
But it was also evident that information technology and the life sciences are converging.
Many companies presented computer platforms that decipher individual genomes for less than the cost of an MRI.
Other companies showed how routine diagnostic tests can be mined for insights about disease and dramatically lower the cost of testing new medicines for safety and efficacy.
Such work is a focus of Branford-based Sema4.
A backdrop to the conference was a report showing that the economic impact of biosciences on the U.S. economy has reached $2 trillion.
This includes $20 billion in venture capital invested in startups and a workforce with an average wage of $98,961—more than twice the average U.S. private sector wage.
One participant said the conference was more important than the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, "because it's about near-term, real-world cures and treatments that will dramatically improve our lives, not far off hypotheticals."
Connecticut understands the career opportunities and revenue to be harvested from having a thriving biopharma industry.
That's why the state has enacted a series of broadly supported programs over several decades to attract life sciences research and development.
The General Assembly in 2018 called for a new strategic plan, set for release in the next few weeks, to take advantage of new opportunities in bioscience.
As state lawmakers begin the 2019 legislative session, it's important that we send a clear, welcoming message about biopharma innovation.
Too often our economic development strategy to attract life sciences research and development is undercut by bills and hearings that seem to ignore the unique business model of biopharma.
It takes 12 to 15 years and $2.6 billion to bring a new medicine from concept—through laboratory trials and regulatory review—to pharmacy shelves.
And though nearly all new medicine projects produce valuable insights into how to treat and possibly cure disease, most do not result in an FDA-approved drug.
The companies that conduct and fund that R&D absorb nearly all the costs of those promising but ultimately unsuccessful projects.
A legislative process that is dismissive of those costs and risks will find the biopharma industry wary of Connecticut and less likely to invest here.
But a process that appreciates biopharma industry fundamentals is more likely to attract new ventures to our state and retain the cluster we already have.