Jan 10, 2022 - Health

What to watch at JPM22

A conference room at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference packed with people wearing suits.

JPM in 2020, the last time the conference has been in-person and a respiratory virus' dream. Photo: Bob Herman/Axios

The annual JPMorgan Healthcare Conference kicks off today, and it's virtual for the second straight year after companies raised concerns about rising coronavirus cases.

Why it matters: Health care is as profitable as ever amid the global pandemic, and companies are eager to tell deep-pocketed power brokers why they should continue to plow more money into the industry and expect hefty returns.

What to watch: Several companies that had record profits in 2021 are presenting at JPM, and a big part of their pitches will revolve around what happens next as the highly transmissible Omicron variant prolongs the pandemic.

  • Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have collected tens of billions of dollars in sales from their mRNA vaccines, which have mostly flowed to wealthy countries at the expense of low-income countries. Vaccine demand won't abate, and Pfizer's antiviral COVID pill could be an even bigger seller.
  • The virtual stages also will feature one of the most critical COVID vaccine contract manufacturers in the world, Lonza, as well as troubled vaccine companies Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Emergent BioSolutions.
  • Demand for molecular and at-home antigen COVID tests will likely draw even more interest in Abbott, Becton Dickinson, Quidel, Quest Diagnostics, Labcorp, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Cue Health.
  • Buried in the conference agenda: two Chinese vaccine makers, Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics.
  • Mergers and acquisitions are usually a staple of the confab. Pharma and digital health have started early with a handful of deals.
  • 21 large hospital systems are presenting. Hospitals — which have used JPM as a way to tout rising inpatient admissions and revenue growth to bondholders — will likely highlight labor shortages fueled by the latest outbreaks, and how those shortages will affect their bottom lines.

Between the lines: The off-the-books meetings that are far away from the formal presentations are where buyout deals and strategic discussions occur. Many of those will be pushed to video calls as well.

The bottom line: The pandemic will be front and center at JPM again, but health care prices inevitably underpin all of the discussions.

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