Over 8,000 participants from all corners of the globe descended on San Francisco this week to attend J.P. Morgan's 42nd Healthcare Conference, taking place at the Westin St. Francis hotel.

With JPM known to offer previews of the year ahead, we summarized the news, trends, and highlights that made waves during this year’s conference. 

Michelle Longmire, CEO and co-founder of Medable, presents at JPM2024

Tech: Medable announces new intelligent automation capabilities that cut trial technology deployment timelines by 50%

Medable was proud to announce new intelligent automation technology within its clinical trial platform. The new features cut standard trial build timelines by at least half. 

Early application of the technology in electronic clinical outcomes assessment (eCOA) deployments – a major delay to study startup industry wide – is groundbreaking. 

By automating manual tasks such as configuration and testing, Medable's platform removes eCOA from the critical path to trial go-live. 

Medable’s new AI and automation capabilities catapult the company to the forefront of automating clinical trial operations and align with the industry’s perennial need to launch studies faster. Now, sponsors can eliminate common gridlocks caused by conversion, configuration, validation, and quality engineering. Top-10 global pharmaceutical companies are already benefiting from Medable’s novel technology, shaving weeks off of build times. 

AI: Market dominating chipmaker Nvidia comes to JPM with an Amgen focused announcement

Nvidia, valued at over $1 trillion, is again venturing into biotech to accelerate drug discovery. In collaboration with Amgen. Nvidia's AI technology, including the new machine learning system Freyja, aims to expedite AI drug discovery models' training from months to days. Amgen plans to leverage Nvidia's software to create a "human diversity atlas" for biomarker discovery. Nvidia, entering biotech partnerships since 2021, envisions its BioNeMo platform transforming drug discovery akin to the impact of computer-aided design on chip design.

In other news, Isomorphic Labs, an Alphabet-backed drug discovery company gains two new partnerships with Novartis and Eli Lilly. Together, they're committing a combined $82.5 million AlphaFold. Developed by Google DeepMind, it's traditionally used to predict protein structures. However, it's latest iteration of expands capabilities to include small molecules and nucleic acids. This opens up vast more possibilities as they are key components within the drug discovery process.

Gene therapies: The FDA paves the path for more new therapeutics

One month ago, the FDA approved two gene therapies for sickle cell disease, including the first CRISPR drug. Today, the FDA showcased their focus on advancing gene therapy initiatives this year.

Dr. Peter Marks, the director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, shared four initiatives at the Informa Biotech Showcase aimed at facilitating more gene therapies in 2024:

Streamline platforms

  • The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2023 creates easier approval of new gene therapies through referencing of prior manufacturing and toxicology information from previous applications.

Accelerated approval:

  • The FDA aims to continue using the accelerated approval pathway for gene therapies, leveraging their strong proxy measures for safety and efficacy. This is because gene therapies often involve measurable enzymes or structural proteins, which help generate predictions of clinical benefit.

Regulatory harmony:

  • Collaboration with global regulators is crucial for gene therapy, especially for rare diseases with limited patient numbers. Thus, there must be efforts to harmonize regulations worldwide and collectively on a mass scale to make rare disease treatments easier.

Smaller companies deserve larger support

  • Launching the START pilot program is key to supporting small companies. This program uses similar methods to Project Warp Speed COVID-19 research in using a concierge service to accelerate approval.

Markets: 2024's brighter outlook

As reported by STAT's Allison DeAngelis, optimism prevails among investors and executives at Union Square this week. The recent uptrend in biotech appears to be a lasting shift rather than a temporary surge, signaling a positive shift in attitudes.

Finally, EY estimates the industry should expect M&A to only continue throughout 2024. EY's Firepower report, released on the first day of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, reveals that the top 25 healthcare companies have a robust M&A capacity of $1.37 trillion for 2024. This marks the second-highest figure in a decade.