MacDougall Musings

JPM Q&A with MacDougall Leadership

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The annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference is right around the corner. Coming off an unusual past two years of the meeting in 2021 and 2022, we sat down with MacDougall’s JPM veterans to hear their take on what to expect at JPM 2023. Read more below.

What has traditionally been the importance of JPM?

In its early years, JPM was a much smaller, more exclusive conference run by a bank called Hambrecht & Quist, or H&Q, where the crème de la crème of industry investors convened for an annual banking meeting. As the conference’s popularity grew after JPM’s acquisition of H&Q, its purpose evolved – it was no longer just a banking meeting. People would come to hear firsthand the wins and failures across the industry. Everyone wanted to be in the know.

An overflow of people looking for a structured way to connect became the norm each year, as far more people would fly out to San Francisco than could actually participate in the conference. The streets were busy with networking events in the evenings, and everyone would spend the weeks and months leading up to the conferences trying to get their hands on invitations to the most coveted receptions of the year. We at MacDougall recognized the importance of the parties outside of the main conference events, so we developed the party and networking events list.

A number of smaller, satellite conferences began to grow out of the demand for entrance to the JPM conference. These events have long served as a valuable opportunity for companies who aren’t clients of JPM to have a voice. As the years went on, the JPM annual conference snowballed into the spectacle that it is today – a week of presentations and events where life science companies, industry investors and reporters can glean insight into what trends are emerging for the coming year.

Kari Watson, Co-founder & Managing Partner

Does that still hold true?

I believe that the conference reached a point, certainly by 2019 and 2020, where it started to offer diminishing returns to many attendees. The quantity of the daily meetings and events grew to untenable levels for many, and often resulted in shorter duration, lower-quality interactions. Factor in the COVID-19 pandemic, during which virtual meetings became the new norm, and higher-quality more productive meetings quickly became available without the need to travel to San Francisco.

Going forward, I expect JPM will continue to draw the industry together, represent an important part of any company’s investor relations and/or business development calendar and remain an important venue for the financial community as a whole. I think attendance will never return to peak levels as the bar has been raised for executive teams and other prior participants to make the decision to attend. I do, however, expect it to continue to act as the anchor meeting for the industry at a pivotal time of year where it can really set the tone and expectation for what is ahead.

Sara Michelmore, Managing Director of Investor Relations

Are there other conferences people should consider?

It’s hard to say as we are still waiting to see how conferences will adjust to the virtual, in-person and hybrid platforms in the wake of COVID-19. However, it is pretty safe to say that there is no replacement for JPM that combines business development with the financial community.

There are other meetings depending on your niche, like ASCO, ASH and EHA that are important for identifying KOLs/investors/pharma companies. And of course, there is the BIO Annual meeting, that focuses more on corporate marketing and business development, but no other conference has the satellite draw that JPM has amassed where executive teams fly in for an entire week.

Kari Watson, Co-founder & Managing Partner

What if a company doesn’t have news around JPM, should they still participate?

JPM participation should not necessarily tie to a news release. Companies announce larger news items that week partly because it can be an opportune time. JPM is more of an investor and financial conference that weaves in good opportunities for business development meetings. Attendance truly depends on your company goals. JPM is an ideal event for companies in need of raising money or identifying potential collaboration opportunities. It is also a great opportunity to update industry people on the successes and challenges from the last twelve months and lay out what your company plans to focus on in the future.

Karen Sharma, Managing Partner

What trends/innovations do you think will be popular during JPM 2023?

After two years of market underperformance, I do think JPM 2023 is poised to set the tone and expectations for where the industry is headed and what the outlook may be for investment performance and new financings in the coming year. Developments that could get people excited coming out of the meeting include any “big news,” like a notable M&A transaction that could kick-start consolidation, increased confidence in the outlook for earnings that reduces macro concerns, signals that investor sentiment has approved and that capital will deployed at a higher velocity, and better visibility on upcoming catalysts or news flow that could take the sector higher.

Sara Michelmore, Managing Director of Investor Relations

If attending, what strategies should companies take to make the most of their investment?

Set specific goals for yourself and be very clear on why you’re there. Think about what a good outcome would be for you at the conclusion of the meeting and orchestrate your schedule accordingly.

A company should start by identifying what their goals and objectives are for that week: are they looking to make new connections for potential collaborations? Connect with investors in hopes of closing a fundraising round? Reconnect with industry contacts? Build needed banking relationships with JPM or other companies?

This is a smart way to utilize the time on the ground. Be strategic and laser focused – otherwise, you’ll get lost.

Karen Sharma, Managing Partner

Attending JPM 2023? Contact Kara Mazey at to set up a meeting with our team in San Francisco to discuss your strategic communications needs.