The UBS meetingâ€™s annual Global Life Sciences Conference this week in Manhattan confronted a unique nexus of Wall Streetâ€™s manic behaviors resulting from the nationâ€™s financial crisis and the heavy presence of security on the streets and at the conference hotel as the Sept. 22-25 meeting coincides with nearby UN sessions. These events heightened the pre-existing concerns among health care investors and company executives about the closed IPO window, lack of VC funding for start ups and emerging companies and credit crunch. There was a â€œBlack Mondayâ€ mood of resignation and humor heard among the attendees as they shared their reactions to the unfolding Wall Street and governmental drama that seemed impossible not long ago.
UBS publicized an anticipated attendance of 3,000 investors which may be difficult to produce with attention easily diverted by the market swings and lack of appetite to invest. Attendance Monday was sparse in the morning with an increase peaking with a standing- room-only attendance at the 2:00 pm Pfizer presentation. The audience listened intently looking for some favorable news from this industry giant. Ian Read, President of Pfizerâ€™s Worldwide Pharmaceutical Operations, gave a reassuring talk that Pfizer was doing its best to remain strong and produce the future revenues worldwide that stockholders depend upon. But then when the Dow indicator reached a 370 point loss and the price of oil at $120 per barrel (the largest one-day price increase in history) appeared on the MS NBC financial news screen in the major hall outside the presentation rooms, the attendance returned to low morning levels.
It wasnâ€™t surprising that expectations were low as attendees went through the motions of listening in on some private and public companies talks that appealed to them or from whom they wanted to hear reassurance on their pre-existing investments. There wasnâ€™t any of the excitement that marked meetings in previous years. In fact, the high drama of the day was the Hoffman La Roche, Ltd presentation in the morning. Curiosity about the implementation plans for Rocheâ€™s buyout of the remaining 40% of Genentech and Rocheâ€™s access to sufficient funds dominated the questions in the packed Roche breakout session. The audience seemed sadly resigned to the outcome anticipated by the Roche speakers Dr. Jean-Jacques Garaud, Chief Medical Officer & Head of Global Drug Development, and Dr. Karl Mahler, Head of Investor Relations. Genentech presents at the conference on Wednesday.
This weekâ€™s four-day conference includes over 300 companies in biotechnology, genomics and discovery tool, medical technology and pharmaceutical fields. It has been one the largest annual life science investment meetings on the East Coast rivaling that of JP Morganâ€™s (former â€œH&Qâ€™sâ€ January meeting in San Francisco.