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Dive into the Biopharma Space

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JPM 2024 Corporate Development/M&A Highlights

We reviewed the JP Morgan 2024 Healthcare conference presentations from the largest pharma/biopharma companies to understand their 2024 M&A and business/corporate development strategies. Of course, all the large biopharma companies have plans for licensing, collaborations, and acquisitions in 2024. However, most of the largest pharma/biopharma companies stressed smaller deals this year, especially as many of them are integrating big deals from 2023.

A couple of large bio/pharma stand out with respect to M&A and partnering. Merck stands out as more likely than most others to do a major deal based on their JPM 2024 comments.^1 LLY is a company that appears eager ("open for business" according to their CEO) to collaborate with early-stage biopharma companies.

See below for 2024 corporate development/M&A strategy highlights from JPM 2024 for the largest bio/pharma companies.


Abbvie (NYSE: ABBV)

2024 Strategy:

Early stage, smaller-sized deals

Focus Areas:

immunology, oncology, neuroscience, eye care, aesthetics

Key CEO quote(s):

"We continue to look for assets that can drive growth in the next decade. But there will be more early stage smaller-sized deals for the foreseeable future."


2024 Strategy:

Mostly integrating prior deals.

Likely no major acquisitions or licensing deals in 2024.

Early stage deals.

Focus Areas:

Oncology/hematology, General medicine (kidney, bone, cardiovascular, obesity), inflammatory diseases, rare disease

CEO quote from JPM:

"Again, I want to be very clear and very transparent. '24 will be a year that we'll try to consolidate what we already acquired. It's a year of execution for Pfizer. It's a year, that I don't think we will see any major acquisition or any major, let's say, capital going into licensing, et cetera. We will still see licensing deals in early stages, ...."

Astra Zeneca (NASDAQ: AZN)

2024 Strategy:

Not too definitive at JPM 2024 about M&A. However, it appears they will keep doing deals as in 2023. 

See FIG. 1 For AZN 2023 deals from AZN JPM 2024 deck. Major focus on cell therapies.

Focus Areas:

 Cardio/renal/metabolism (CVRM), respiratory & immunology (R&I), vaccines and immune therapies (V&I), oncology, rare disease

Increasing focus on cell therapies including immunology

CFO quote from JPM:

(Question: "Was [2023] an exceptional year? Are you done on BD for a while... or is this the new normal?")

"I don’t think we define a target at the beginning of the year. We always start with strategy.  ... Where can we add value? ... We don’t need to do anything, but as the strategy evolves, things happen." 

FIG 1. AZN 2023 Deals

Eli Lilly And Co. (NYSE: LLY) 

2024 Strategy:

Early stage biotech focus but big deals are possible too

Lots of focus on external innovation in JPM 2024 presentation

FIG 2. External innovation in Lilly’s pipeline

Focus Areas:

Diabetes, Immunology, Neuroscience, Oncology, Genetic Medicines, Digital Health, Molecule Innovation

Key CEO Quote(s):

[On growth strategy to outgrow, in addition to organic R&D investment:]

"One key part, as I mentioned is ramping up of external innovation. And I know a number of biotechs are in the room and at this conference, so it's worth mentioning we're open for business on external innovation..."

"So we can do more things that are smaller and end up with a more valuable portfolio. And you can see the progression that's occurred in the early-stage deals."

"I mean revenue-stage companies have challenges in those business cases for us. But if someone had like a platform or like a really strong pipeline that we could add value to, I don't think the number next to the price takes such a big deal anymore."

FIG 3. LLY M&A Timeline

Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD)

2024 Strategy:

Less active in large deals

Target is late research early development phase

Focus Areas:

Virology, Oncology, Inflammation

CEO quote from JPM:

"So, we’re going to be selective about finding things that, of course, bolt-on and connect to our strategy. "

"and perhaps leverage our shareholders, but we’re really keeping that tight. So yes, we’ll continue to be because we think internal external elevation is critical, particularly in the late research early development phase is where you’ve seen this very active and continue to be active. Late stage, we’ll look at, but we’ll be selective about it."

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) 

2024 Strategy:

Pre and post-proof-of-concept stage assets (commercial unlikely)

Focus Areas:


Oncology, Hematology and in solid tumors, Immunology, Neuroscience


Cardiovascular, Surgery (robotics), Vision, Orthopedic

Key CEO Quote(s):

"Again, the question could be, would you consider a marketed asset? It's not our main area of focus, but potentially if all the considerations were there. But our main area of focus, and we have been very successful there, and I can give you a long list of products in which we have been very successful, is assets that are in this pre or post-proof-of-concept stage and is a very capital-efficient way of building our pipeline."

Merck (NYSE: MRK)

2024 Strategy:

Continue to do deals up to $15B range at a similar pace as last 2 years.

FIG 4: MRK M&A Historical Highlights

FIG 5: MRK Collaborations & Licenses Highlights 2022-23

Focus Areas:

Oncology, infectious disease vaccines, cardio-metabolic, immunology, neuroscience, cutting-edge science

Key CEO quote(s):

"And then lastly, we're going to continue to pursue business development. While I feel very good about what we've done to date, there's more to do. There's more to do and we see more opportunity, we're going to go after it. And most importantly, we have a balance sheet that affords us the luxury of frankly being able to do what we see as value creating in the business. And we will continue to pursue that."

"The strategy we followed from a business development is frankly unchanged. And I do believe we have the opportunity to continue to do more deals and to continue to augment the pipeline. The deals we will look for will be pipeline-focused deals. Obviously, if you look, we've absorbed all of the things we've done so far and we're continuing to drive margin improvement. So that really speaks to the strength of our margin and the portfolio mix we have, as I commented on there, but I believe we have the capacity and that margin affords us the ability to continue to invest, which we will do following the same pace and focus what we've done over the last two years."

Novartis (NYSE: NVS)

2024 Strategy:

Sub $5B deals

They will look at larger deals, but their 2024 M&A strategy is likely smaller bolt-on deals.

Focus areas: 

Oncology, immuno-oncology, ophthalmology, regenerative medicine, neuroscience and immunology.

CEO quote from JPM:

"We'll continue to really look at those deals in that sub $2 billion, sub-$1 billion space to continue to build out the portfolio."

1/9/24 from CNBC:

"Our overall M&A strategy is really to focus on sub $5 billion assets," Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan said in an interview on CNBC. "I can't comment on specific deals."

"We look at larger deals, which is why I think you see the media coverage, it's always something we do and we have an obligation to do that," Narasimhan added. "What I really want to highlight is that while we look at larger deals, our M&A strategy is bolt-ons."

Novo Nordisk (NYSE: NVO)

2024 Strategy:

Primarily early-stage assets

Increasingly using business development and M&A to build a presence, especially in cardiovascular and cardiometabolic space. 

Focus areas:

Cardiovascular, cardiometabolic, blood disorders, rare diseases - (blood and endocrine), growth disorders, Alzheimer's, Technology platforms: esp. cell therapy for chronic diseases (Parkinson's, chronic heart failure, T1 diabetes), digital solutions

Key CEO quote(s):

"we can add a lot of value to our shareholders by taking assets in relatively early and then use our core capability both in development but also in optimizing molecules manufacturing, et cetera and then the global reach we have."

^1 We can’t comment on Roche at JPM2024 since we did not have access to their presentation. However, from info from Fierce Biotech, it appears that Roche may be ready to continue doing large deals in 2024.

Article History:

1/29/24 EJV

This article is not investment or legal advice.


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