Dispensed: What we saw at JPMorgan's big healthcare investor conference

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Hello,

It’s been a long, exciting albeit tiring week for the healthcare team as we made our way around San Francisco’s Union Square during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. Hills were climbed, cricket tacos consumed, and healthcare discussed at length.

Many, many stories ahead from those conversations. But to start, here’s what kept us busy when we weren’t bustling from meeting to meeting.

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For starters, the week kicked off with Eli Lilly making an $US8 billion bid for Loxo Oncology. That has Wall Street increasingly optimistic that there’s more M&A to come in healthcare.

And Emma Court spoke to an investor who made $US470 million on the deal.

A top investor who just made $US470 million on buzzy biotech Loxo’s $US8 billion takeover told us where he might place his next bets

  • Eli Lilly & Co.’s about $US8 billion acquisition of biotech Loxo Oncology could mean a $US470 million payday for venture-capital firm Aisling Capital.
  • Aisling Capital was a founding investor in Loxo and most recently held a 6.6% stake.
  • Aisling Capital managing partner Steve Elms told Business Insider about the other biotechs and scientific areas the firm is intrigued by.

Emma also broke down what’s going on with Bluebird Bio’s plan to pay for one-time gene therapy treatments in the way you might pay for a washing machine – that is, in installments over 5 years. Bluebird laid out its plan at the conference on Tuesday.

A biotech is proposing a plan to pay for its pricey rare-disease treatment the same way you’d buy a TV or dishwasher. Here’s the inside story.

  • Biotech company Bluebird Bio proposed a five-year instalment plan for its pricey gene therapy at a major healthcare conference on Tuesday.
  • The company hasn’t put out a price tag for the experimental product, which hasn’t yet been approved, but capped it at $US2.1 million a treatment.
  • Bluebird CEO Nick Leschly told Business Insider the inside story of how the plan came about and what challenges it could face.

Erin Brodwin covered one of the biggest stock movers of the conference, Sage Therapeutics, which revealed on Monday positive clinical trial results for its new depression drug.

A drug that works differently from all existing depression drugs just got a big boost

  • On Monday, a new drug for depression got a big lift from positive clinical trial results. Stocks surged on the news.
  • The drug is made by Sage Therapeutics, a Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company that focuses on brain disorders.
  • Nearly all existing antidepressants, from Celexa to Zoloft, work on the brain’s serotonin network. But the drugs fail for as many as 1 in 3 people and take 4-6 weeks to have an effect.
  • Sage’s new drug targets a different brain system than these antidepressants. As a result, it appears to work faster and last longer.

Zach Tracer and I were closely tracking CVS Health’s presentation at the conference – its first since its deal with Aetna went through. Now with the insurance business in tow, CVS CEO Larry Merlo laid out how it’s going to shake up how we access healthcare.

CVS Health just revealed a key piece of its plan to change how Americans get healthcare

  • CVS Health and Aetna have officially combined to create an entirely new kind of healthcare company.
  • In a presentation Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, CVS CEO Larry Merlo laid out the first steps the combined company is taking to change healthcare.
  • CVS is opening a test store in Houston with more healthcare services, and also plans to test programs to treat chronic diseases and keep patients out of the hospital.

Early in the week, Erin and I sat down with Verily chief medical officer Jessica Mega, who explained to us the common thread unifying all that the life sciences arm of Alphabet is working on.

We talked to the top scientist at Alphabet’s life-sciences company about the common thread uniting all its seemingly random health projects – and how she plans to spend $US1 billion

  • Verily, the enigmatic life-sciences company formerly known as Google Life Sciences, recently raised $US1 billion and appears to have its hands in a wide range of health initiatives.
  • The company is building advanced contact lenses; releasing hordes of bacteria-infected (and thus sterile) mosquitoes in Fresno, California; and building a watch that helps researchers gather data for clinical studies.
  • Verily’s chief medical officer told Business Insider there’s one thread that unites all of its projects: information.

We covered a wide range of topics, so stay tuned for more from that interview as well.

And to end the week, Zach summed up the biggest losers coming out of the conference. Amid a mainly positive week, bad news brought down the stock price of a number of biotech companies, including Rubius Therapeutics and Sangamo Therapeutics.

Looking to digest more of what went down this week at the conference? You can find all our coverage from within and around the walls of the Westin St. Francis here.

With that, I’m going to go recover from the red-eye flight I somehow thought was a good idea. Please feel free to send recovery tips, conference observations, or reminders of what we might have missed while running up and down San Francisco to the team at [email protected] And as always, you can find me at [email protected]

– Lydia

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