It’s the equivalent of the Cannes Film Festival for all rising stars and biotechnology stars. As every year for almost forty years, the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference – named after the American investment bank that organizes it – until Thursday, January 16, in San Francisco, California, all the big names in the sector of pharmacy and health start-ups. French biotechs have been preparing for this event for months, where part of their future is at stake. Whether they are seeking licenses for their technologies, reassuring their investors or preparing for a new fundraiser, they have access to leading contacts here, who are difficult to access the rest of the year.
Co-founder of DNA Script, a start-up that develops a DNA printer, Sylvain Gariel has to do 40 meetings in four days. “Everything is based on a relationship of trust. We take a coffee, we explain what we do, we take the temperature. It’s not when you need money that you have to meet people. ”, testifies the leader. The company raised € 35 million in the spring of 2019, but in the absence of revenue, the respite will be brief. “We are still preparing for the next round”, he says. These highly timed meetings – thirty to forty-five minutes with watch in hand – are also an opportunity to present the technology to potential customers. “There is only one opportunity to make a good first impression, but ideas have to gain ground”, puts Sylvain Gariel into perspective.
Held at the Westin Hotel on Union Square, the conference and its official presentations are just a pretext. “The meetings are linked at such a pace that I barely have time to spend”, testifies a regular. Taken by storm early in the morning, the neighboring cafes and restaurants welcome the “off”, these seemingly casual meetings where science is valued in the millions of dollars.
“2020 will be a pivotal year for French biotechs”
Scoring points with American investors is a matter of survival for French biotechs. “We are here to convince them to buy our shares”, says Gérard Soula, founder, with his two sons, of Adocia, a start-up specializing in diabetes. Valued up to nearly $ 600 million in 2015, the company collapsed on the stock market when the American pharmaceutical giant Lilly ended its partnership with it. With a valuation of less than 80 million dollars (72 million euros), the start-up continues the development of its drugs and now hopes to convince new partners.