Focus on Digital Health: Day 3 at Biotech Showcase™ 2016

January 13, 2016 Erin Righetti


Tired? As Biotech Showcase™ 2016 comes to a close, here are a few bits and pieces from the day, with a link to where you can watch program videos and interviews from the event.

The third and final day kicked off with panels and workshops and the one-day Digital Health Showcase.

The morning featured the panel “Investing in the immuno-oncology revolution: Follow the T cells” moderated by Andrew Baum of Citi with panelists Jeffrey M. Bockman of Defined Health; J. Joseph Kim of Inovio Pharmaceuticals; and Marc Mansour of ImmunoVaccine Inc. Modern immunotherapy began in the early 1990s with vaccines, and the failure of those vaccines, those “experiments in the dark,” were the precursors to current research in combining cancer vaccines with checkpoint inhibitors and CAR-Ts to activate and generate higher levels of T cells to increase efficacy. The potential is tangible, and for Kim at least, comparable to X-Wing fighters trafficking the Death Star. We have the hardware, but we need the right application, the right software, to make T cells more effective by trafficking them to the tumor and/or getting the tumor to generate them.


Imagine a world… The Digital Health revolution


The Digital Health Showcase kicked off with the Digital Health Showcase State of the Industry Report “At  the intersection of technology and medicine,” moderated by Yarmela Pavlovic of Hogan Lovells with panelists Vivek Bhatt of GE Healthcare Life Care; Eric Elenko of PureTech;  Christine Lemke of Evidation Health; and Kevin McRaith of WellDoc.

Some of the discussion focused on business models, reimbursement, patients… Sound familiar? But digital health products do need to show outcomes and they do need to fit into the current reimbursement environment. Add to that security concerns about data, and it appears there are opportunities in the future for those companies who synchronize true software with the true patient experience, and bend the current paradigm. Healthcare impacts people’s lives on a personal level, but the dream of individual choice is not really there yet. Forward-thinking digital health companies need to understand the inherent problems in the system and work the system to bring about real outcomes. Digital health companies need to ask themselves, “What is the problem you’re planning to solve?” The answer should be cost of healthcare, quality of care and accessibility.  Those are the value-added areas, with perhaps the addition of one more: content.

Digital health has the opportunity to impact chronic disease and the costs of disease management. The biggest impact digital health will have is yet to come. Over the next two to three years, changes in day-to-day interactions resulting from better access to information and social networks  will take place. The value will be in digitizing information and making information mobile. There is increased focus on the patient as consumer, on value and prevention.

Digital Health Showcase continued with a Fireside Chat between CBT Advisors’ Steve Dickman and Vijay Pande of Andreessen Horowitz. To sum up, according to Pande, our addiction to tech can be used to treat our diseases, and disruption doesn’t necessarily mean displacement. Watch the full video on partnering360:Insight.


The digital health discussion continued with “Top 10 digital health trends: Implications for early to mid-stage biopharma” with Jay Goldman and Michael Young of Sensei Labs, Klick Health. Takeaways from this energizing discussion will be the focus of an upcoming blog post here on partnering360 Blog. Please also check partnering360:Insight for interviews with Goldman and Young.


Bubbles and such


The Wednesday lunch plenary at Biotech Showcase 2016, entitled “Bubble trouble? Have the biotech bulls had their run?” was moderated by Eric Blanchard of Covington & Burling LLP with panelists Asthika Goonewardene of Bloomberg Intelligence; Art Pappas of Pappas Ventures; Evonne Sepsis of ESC Advisors; and Alex Zisson of Thomas McNerney & Partners. Outtakes of the panel follow:

If we are at the end of the bubble, what will it mean? “We’ve all seen the historic boom in biotech, and we’ve seen something of a slowdown in IPO activity since last summer,” said Blanchard. “What were the dynamics behind the boom that caused market interest in biotechs?” Pappas answered with “Biotech went from being a group of companies, if you put them all together, to reaching the size of Pfizer – being their own massive sector.”

As well, said Pappas, “in making these big strides in technology, companies had been having a comfortable time discussing pricing, but when you start to take away pricing power, that has a very rippling effect.”

Even so, Pappas said, “2015 was the worst performing ‘best’ year of the last six years.”

What other dynamics should we be looking for in terms of the future? Said Pappas, “Speaking personally, I think we’re going to have another great year. You can’t diminish the value of the science or the fact that the FDA has been a very effective FDA for us…they’ve moved toward a platform where everyone wants to deal with unmet medical need.”

However, said Sepsis, “there’s going to be a hyper focus in the next two weeks to three months in terms of deal to deal, companies figuring out what is the next step.”

Zisson agreed, saying, “Science is progressing at a dizzying rate, a curve that’s going straight to the moon. We can be bullish and optimistic on the science, but maybe not on the stock market.” In fact, many companies think the window might be closing.

“Unfortunately we have a pool of CEOs that have never weathered these ups and downs, so the CEOs who have weathered these ups and downs have a better chance of being successful now,” said Pappas.

Blanchard asked the group, at the end of this, how do you ensure that you have all options open to you? “Think about all options from a dollar perspective, and use that cash appropriately,” Sepsis said.

Zisson stayed optimistic. “I don’t think we’re entering a nuclear winter for private companies, there’s still enough money sloshing around out there,” he said. “At the same time, if you can’t raise money publically or privately, maybe try partnering overseas.”

Zisson also cautioned companies to “make sure every trial that you’re doing …is really value added.”

In other words, investors want you to drive one football down the field 100 yards, not five footballs down the field 20 yards, said Zisson.

The pool of VCs has been shrinking and there are concerns in shifting of some of the rights overseas too early. In general, companies need flexible management teams, and those companies who can convey their value proposition are still going to get financed.  

The big picture is that the value proposition is still there. While there might be doom and gloom outside, the sector still has room to grow.


To watch video coverage of Digital Health Showcase program panels and to watch interviews with decision makers from pharma, biotech, and finance, tune in to partnering360:Insight.


Check out the Digital Health Showcase wrap up by Oliver Wyman Health. And view images from the event on Getty Images.


Safe travels and see you next year or at BIO-Europe Spring® 2016 in Stockholm, Sweden, April 4–6.


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