2023 SAPA Investment Forum @ 2023 JPM Week

On Jan 9th, 2023, The Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association (SAPA) successfully hosted its Investment Forum during the 41st JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, California. SAPA invited a group of executives, experienced investors, business consultants, and legal professionals to present and discuss perspectives on market sentiment and outlook as well as exchange wisdom regarding post-pandemic business transactions. This event attracted an audience of more than 150 attendees.

SAPA President-Elect and the Conference Chair Dr. Jack Wu kicking off the event

Dr. Jack Wu (PhD, MBA, Head of Business Development, Search & Evaluation at Antengene Corp.), the SAPA President-Elect and the Conference Chair, started the event by welcoming all attendees. He emphasized the heart-warming sensation of finally reuniting and meeting everyone in-person after three years. Dr. Wu introduced SAPA as one of the largest and most active Chinese-American pharmaceutical organizations, with multiple chapters across US and in China. He welcomed everyone to join SAPA community and attend SAPA upcoming events, among which the SAPA Annual Conference will be held on September 30 in New Jersey to celebrate SAPA’s 30-year accomplishments. Ms. Lili Zheng (Partner, International Tax, AP Cross-Border Services Leader at Deloitte Tax LLP) as the Title Sponsor also welcomed the audience and introduced Deloitte’s overall life science and healthcare practice.

The Title Sponsor, Ms. Lili Zheng (Partner, International Tax, AP Cross-Border Services Leader at Deloitte Tax LLP), Welcomed the Audience and Introduced Deloitte’s Overall Life Science and Healthcare Practice

To kick off the event, Sheryl Jacobson, a Principal and Medtech Practice Leader from Deloitte Consulting LLP, delivered the keynote speech by giving a summary analysis of the dynamic environment for Sino-American healthcare collaborations. Prospects for China’s Life Sciences & Health Care sector are bright as the world fully recovers from the pandemic, spurred by megatrends like Healthy China 2030. In light of the earlier audit paper inspection of US-listed China concept stock in Hong Kong, CMSG (Capital Market Services Group, a multidisciplinary group from Deloitte) anticipates that the market will become more active in 2023 on the strength of stronger fundamentals as US interest rate hikes slow and China’s economy regains its vigor.

Sheryl Jacobson delivering the keynote speech, “Optionality – Navigating the Dynamic Environment for M&A and Cross Border Partnerships”

The second session was a panel discussion about life sciences investment and business opportunities in the post-pandemic era. Wansheng Jerry Liu (PhD, JD, Partner, and Chair of China Practice at Fox Rothschild LLP; SAPA President 2019-2020) moderated this session. The panelists include Matthew Kittay (JD, Partner, and Co-Chair of M&A Practice at Fox Rothschild LLP), Brad Loncar (CEO of Loncar Investments), Albert Wong (CEO of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks), Hongjian Zhang (PhD, CEO of Viva Star Biosciences (Suzhou) Co., Ltd.) and Lili Zheng (Partner, Deloitte Tax LLP).

During the session, the panelists provided overviews and perspectives on the current public and private investment environments in biotech/pharma industries, how start-up and developing biotech/pharma companies get financed during a bearish market and the so-called “capital winter,” and the IPO pathway for biotech/pharma companies in the post-pandemic market.  They also exchanged ideas about the future of investment and business opportunities in life sciences after the pandemic as well as how to navigate through the evolving U.S.-China relationships, especially the increasing governmental oversights and regulations.

Lili Zheng suggested that M&A activities may pick up in 2023. Small public companies may implement merger strategies to consolidate resources and prioritize, large companies may look for opportunities to acquire assets to enhance pipeline of products, so M&A market will be active and optimistic.  Lili also mentioned two recent reports done by Deloitte with one covering the IPO and the other covering the M&A (see links at the end for report full text)) Brad Loncar agreed and added optimistically that globalization is the key here as we evaluate future investment and business opportunities. Although the China market may be newer to the public, China is not merely on the sidelines anymore. China will be a strong impactful player post-pandemic.

As an example of the global collaboration, Albert Wong introduced the Hong Kong investment corporation backed by the Hong Kong government with twenty-eight world-class centers, serving as a gateway for startup entrepreneurs in the Bay Area. The Hong Kong area is a home to a working population of 18,000+ professionals, creating a thriving ecosystem for the healthcare industry.

From an entrepreneur’s perspective, Hongjian Zhang emphasized that good science would determine the success of a company. As we know, the investment market felt slower-paced last year.  We should take extra diligence in being patient, focused, and selective, making sure our efforts result in deliverables in order to attract investors.

From an M&A practitioner’s perspective, Matthew Kittay said that actually, the M&A market is getting hard and challenging from the US perspective. Investors are looking more aggressively, zooming in on quality via metrics such as liability, cash-heaviness, and assets. These are the targets they are looking for.

Panel I: Investment and Business Opportunities in Life Sciences in the Post-Pandemic Era. From left to right: Jerry Liu, Lili Zheng, Brad Loncar, Albert Wong, Hongjian Zhang, and Matthew Kittay.

Following the active discussion in Panel I, the second session was a panel discussion about the competitive advantage of global collaboration in advancing innovation. Dr. Xiao Dong Chen (PhD, Director of CMC Operations at Roivant Sciences; SAPA President 2021-2022) hosted this session. The panelists included Jingsong Wang (MD, President and CEO of Harbour BioMed), Zhenhua Wu (PhD, Founder and CEO of Exgenesis Bio Inc), Bob Ai (PhD, MBA, Founder and Managing Partner of Goby Global LLC), Hong Xiang (PhD, SVP, Head of Development Sciences at Immune-Onc Therapeuctics) and Li Yan (MD, CMO of Brii Biosciences).

Many great insights were offered by the panelists on what investors are looking for and the challenges companies may face at various stages of development. In Jingsong Wang’s perspective, he provided commentary on how companies can succeed. He offered Moderna as a great example, which succeeded by broadening their technology portfolio. He also shared some insights on what investors are looking for and the challenges companies may face at various stages of development from his own experience. Finally, he emphasized the importance of generating value through technology regardless of the market. Zhenhua Wu commented that investors are pragmatic, focused on quality. By sharing these values, companies can catch waves and increase their chances at obtaining funding. He also noted that the gene therapy environment is very competitive.

When talking about the startup process, Li Yan offered valuable advice on dealing with adversity at various stages, especially the more difficult later stages of development. He believed in the next two years, companies will need to prepare to survive the harsh environment with two important points, that are strong collaboration and a good strategy. Hong Xiang shared that the accomplishment of closing of additional $25 million through a series B extension last year was built on Immune-Onc’s strengths: 1. Follow the science; 2. Own first-in-class myeloid checkpoint inhibitors; 3. Establish collaborations. She encouraged the start-up companies to follow the science and focus on collecting key data, which could advance them to the next level and to survive in the current hash environment.

Bob Ai provided insight on how Chinese companies can reach their full potential. Western companies are better at using public relations to increase their publicity. Chinese companies can increase their media exposure to reach more potential partners.

Panel II: Global Collaboration: A Competitive Advantage in Advancing Innovation. From Left to right: Xiaodong Chen, Bob Ai, Jingsong Wang, Zhenhua Wu, Hong Xiang and Li Yan .

After the immersive panelist discussions, the speakers and attendees attended the networking cocktail reception sponsored by Fox Rothschild LLP.  Participants had a great time reuniting and reconnecting with each other in-person after several years apart due to the pandemic. At the end of the day, all the participants left the event with optimisms and passion for the year ahead.

Group photo of speakers and organizing committee members

QR code:

1) 2022 Review and 2023 Outlook for Chinese Mainland & HK IPO markets (CN only)

2) 2023 China Life Sciences and Health Care Investment and M&A Market Outlook (CN&EN)