The countdown is on for South by Southwest (SXSW), otherwise known as the coolest conference of the year for biotech and life science companies.

Held every March in Austin, SXSW still upholds its reputation as a hipster-filled festival of techies, artists and musicians. But today, it’s also a whole lot more than that. The conference has dramatically expanded since its founding in the late 1980s, and now includes a growing track of leading-edge science and health topics with notable speakers from all facets of life science.

Drawing roughly 70,000 attendees — not to mention a flurry of peripheral Meetup groups, concerts and discussions that aren’t officially connected with the conference — SXSW attracts people who are impassioned, educated and young (read: millennial), representing a prime audience for companies with high-impact, breakthrough science to share.

But one of the best parts of the SXSW is the social aspect. The conference allows anyone to propose topics and vote on which sessions should be a part of the mammoth conference. In fact, the SXSW PanelPicker voting process accounts for nearly a third of the organizers’ decision on whether to feature a topic.

This year, let’s make life science a bigger part of SXSW. To vote, set up a profile (it takes just a minute) and browse through all Health & Wellness and Intelligent Future tracks to “vote up” your favorite topics by Aug. 25. Here are seven panels that we have deemed especially worthy of your vote. We’re proud to say that all of these sessions feature clients of CanaleComm:

  • Harnessing Nature to Create a Sustainable Future. Like a machine, living cells can be programmed; their DNA code is their operating system. Cell-enabled products are destined to drive future economies and create disruptive solutions for medicine, fashion, energy and design. Hear from people at the cusp of this new bio-industrial revolution, creating solutions once thought impossible. (Featuring Synthetic Genomics) Vote now!
  • Healing Healthcare’s Reputation. Advances in science have shifted the course of deadly diseases, but have done little to improve the biopharmaceutical industry’s reputation. For an industry that innovates and heals, it’s time for change. (Featuring Prothena Corp.) Vote now!
  • These Genome Writers Will Change Medicine. These scientists are creating solutions for healthcare’s biggest challenges, from new therapeutics for devastating diseases to reducing production costs of expensive medicine. This panel features a new breed of bioengineers — the genome writers – who are doing science for good. (Featuring Synthetic Genomics) Vote now!
  • Recruiters Tell All: The Quest for Gender Equality. Ellen’s Pao’s lawsuit. Harassment by tech venture capitalists. Hiring scantily clad models at a biotech party. Join us for a dialogue with two individuals at the front lines of change who will share insights into barriers and solutions that will catapult us towards equality. (Featuring Toft Group) Vote now!
  • Are We Prepared for the Next Influenza Pandemic? In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed nearly 5% of the global population, attacking even the healthiest individuals. One hundred years later, would we be able to stop such a pandemic? See how agencies are synchronizing social, medical and government response to prepare for the next pandemic outbreak. (Featuring Synthetic Genomics) Vote now!
  • Bracing for a New Age of Longevity. With advancements in health, people will live longer, and those extra years will be more vibrant and productive. But the growing number of older Americans will change current economies, and require important societal adjustments — from the workplace and housing to travel and technology. This panel looks at the good, bad and bewildering impacts of a global population expected to include 2+ billion people aged 60+ by 2050. (Featuring Unity Biotechnology) Vote now!
  • How Will We Feed 9.7 Billion People? By 2150 we will need to feed 2 billion more people than today. Some estimate the crop production will need to double to support the population demand. Can we alter diets to put less demand on unsustainable crop production? Are there more efficient ways to grow food? With the population growing by 83 million each year, solutions are needed now. Meet some of the individuals on the front lines. (Featuring Synthetic Genomics) Vote now!
  • Putting the ‘Personal’ in Personalized Medicine. While personalized medicines help narrow down which patient groups are most likely to respond to treatment, they are not truly personalized to the individual. This, however, is changing. Futurists envision treatments where cancer drugs are custom made on-demand based on the DNA signature of the patient’s disease. What is the holy grail of personalized medicine? How far away are we? (Featuring Synthetic Genomics) Vote now!

The 2017 J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference kicks off on Jan. 9, beginning a week of frenzied biotech partnering and investor meetings that expand far beyond the namesake event.

In fact, only about a quarter of the 20,000-plus people who descend upon San Francisco’s Union Square will even step foot into the convention’s headquarters, the Westin St. Francis. Many people will be attending the parallel events (Biotech Showcase, Medtech Showcase, RESI, East/West CEO) that have emerged as the conference’s popularity grew, or they’ll be holding their own meetings with some of the countless decision-makers in town.

Whether you’ve been attending this annual event since before it was called the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, or you’re a first-timer wondering how to adequately plan for a conference that doesn’t even have a website, we’ve got some advice for you. From what you pack to how you manage your calendar, here are some of CanaleComm’s expert tips on how to ensure a smooth and successful week.

  1. Buy a portable battery charger, or maybe two. When your iPhone and laptop contains all of your calendar appointments, investor presentations and contacts, you can’t risk losing power. Check out this list of good options for portable battery chargers. As a backup for your backup, make a printout of your calendar and other important documents.
  2. Create a buffer between your meetings. With the majority of meetings taking place within a two-block radius, it’s easy to underestimate travel time. As you’re setting up your jam-packed schedule, be sure to allow 15-30 minutes between meetings to account for walking, unexpected location mix-ups, prior meetings running longer than anticipated, bump-ins with an old friend and the many other unexpected delays that can (and will) arise. That buffer time can mean the difference between making or missing a meeting.
  3. Plan for some exercise. Yes, we know the week of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is one of the most chaotic of the year, and you’re likely wondering when you’ll even have time to breathe. Hear us out on this one, though. A little exercise will clear your mind and energize you for the important meetings ahead. Have 5-10 minutes? Try an in-room workout. Have an hour? Go for a quick run down to the Embarcadero, or tune into a YouTube yoga lesson. Have two hours free? Ha! That would be a J.P. Morgan miracle.
  4. Pack water and travel-friendly snacks. Restaurants will be booked and lines are long, even at coffee shops and convenience stores. So stock up in advance with healthy snacks and water. Travel-friendly food options include bananas, trail mix and energy bars. Feeling ambitious? Homemade granola, no-bake energy bites and pumpkin seed energy bites are healthy and delicious, though you’ll need to make them at home before you leave.
  5. Make restaurant reservations. Speaking of crowds, getting an impromptu table at one of the nearby restaurants is next to impossible. Use OpenTable or call restaurants in advance to reserve a spot for lunch or dinner.
  6. Don’t book a 7 a.m. meeting on Wednesday. Trust us, you’ll regret it! Tuesday is the busiest night for parties, and it’s likely you’ll stay out later than you intended.
  7. Choose comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking miles every day. If you don’t already own comfy yet presentable shoes, buy them now so you can break them in before you arrive. For some of CanaleComm’s suggestions, check out our ultimate J.P. Morgan shoe guide.
  8. Prepare for chilly weather. Speaking of fashion, don’t forget to pack warm clothes. The average January temp in San Francisco is 51 degrees, and rain is common. Think 51 doesn’t sound so bad? If you’ve been there before, you know that San Francisco is a city that often feels colder than the thermometer would indicate. As Mark Twain famously observed, “The coldest winter I even spent was a summer in San Francisco.” And that was the summer!
  9. Map out your days, then do a walk-through. Scheduling meetings back to back (even if you did follow the buffer rule), leaves little time for error. Review a map before you arrive, and do a practice walk around Union Square to familiarize yourself with the hotels you’ll be visiting throughout the week.
  10. Fly into Oakland. If you haven’t booked your flight yet, this can save you a headache. It takes roughly the same amount of time to drive to Union Square, and the likelihood of a flight delay decreases significantly.

Do you have a great tip for maximizing your week at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference? We’d love to hear it. Send us a tweet via @canalecomm, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #JPM17.

For more advice, check out these other J.P. Morgan guides: Luke Timmerman’s 10 tips for maximizing the JP Morgan Healthcare Experience, which he wrote back in 2013 at Xconomy, remains relevant today, and his recent STAT podcast with Meg Tirrell detailing the birth of the biotech industry, using JPM as a backdrop is a must listen. Or, for a good laugh, read Bruce Booth’s list of 10 little white lies told at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.



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Out of the Lab and Into the Newsroom: Everything Biotech Execs Need to Know About Working With the Media

If you work in biotech, you’re likely familiar with publications such as BioCentury and Xconomy—and, of course, the local newspaper and business journals that cover your industry. But do you know the best way to approach reporters at these publications when you have news to share? Or how to respond when they contact you for a comment?

Two upcoming workshops—one in San Diego, and one in San Francisco—will address these questions and more, putting biotech execs on the road to media magnificence. The events will feature award-winning biotech journalists who will share best practices for working with media and give attendees a chance to pitch their best story ideas on the spot. Media relations experts will be onsite to help you tailor your story ideas to each journalist.

Both panels will be moderated by life science communications guru Carin Canale-Theakston, CEO of Canale Communications Inc. “Attendees will walk away with greater confidence in working with reporters at key life science news outlets,” Canale-Theakston said. “Face-to-face feedback from reporters and coaching from media experts will open new doors for life science executives and communicators.”

Following a rapid-pitch session, in which participants have one minute to convince a journalist why he or she should write about their company, reporters will select the pitch they found most compelling. The winner will get a chance for a follow-up interview (although media coverage isn’t guaranteed).

Register today for the event closest to you:

San Diego: Thursday, Nov. 3, at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS (JLABS)


  • Bruce Bigelow, editor of Xconomy San Diego
  • Brad Fikes, biotech reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune
  • Mandy Jackson, west coast editor of Scrip Intelligence
  • Brittany Meiling, biotech reporter for the San Diego Business Journal
  • Moderator: Carin Canale-Theakston, CEO, Canale Communications


San Francisco Bay Area: Tuesday, Nov. 15, at JLABS @ SSF


  • Victoria Colliver, health reporter, San Francisco Chronicle
  • Michael Fitzhugh, staff writer, BioWorld Today
  • Ron Leuty, biotech reporter, San Francisco Business Times
  • Susan Schaeffer, editor, BioCentury
  • Moderator: Carin Canale-Theakston, CEO, Canale Communications


We look forward to seeing you there!

The 2017 J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is approaching fast – January will be here in a blink of an eye.

Now’s the time to evaluate the state of your investor presentation. Think about ways you want (or desperately need) to improve your presentation to make the best-possible impression with your J.P. Morgan audience. Then, make a plan to get it done.

This may include updating and polishing your PowerPoint template, redesigning those all-important first slides, refreshing your logo, or creating new graphics and illustrations to help tell your story.

You want to ensure that your presentation is clean and memorable, instilling confidence in your company and excitement about where you’re going.

Need Help? 

CanaleComm provides an array of visual communications, investor relations and content development services to take your presentation to the next level. We can help you with:

  • Editing and refining your presentation for maximum impact
  • Developing new opening slides to enable powerful storytelling
  • Visually updating your presentation template
  • Creating new graphics or illustrations
  • Presentation evaluation and training

Note: Because of a consistently high volume of projects before J.P. Morgan, please contact us as soon as possible to discuss the scope of the work needed. By November we hope to have all of our projects identified so we can ensure appropriate time and resources for everything that must be completed before the conference begins on Jan. 9.

Yes, This Is Important!

The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is arguably the most important place for emerging life science companies to be all year. Media, bankers, big pharma — all the players are there, forming opinions and making priorities based on their interactions with people like you. Make sure your company looks its best and your story is being represented as well as it possibly can be. Your business very well may depend on it.

(Getting exciting for J.P. Morgan? Read Bloomberg’s coverage from the 2016 conference.)

Weren’t able to make it to the Precision Medicine Leaders Summit in August? Don’t worry, we’ve got the rundown for you here. And you’re in luck — we just received official word that the conference will return to San Diego next summer (Aug. 21-24, 2017, at Hilton San Diego Bayfront).

The first-annual Precision Medicine Leaders Summit, held Aug. 10-12, brought together pharma executives, insurers, doctors and scientists to talk about how we can advance personalized approaches to health care. We knew there would be a lot to talk about, and the speakers did not disappoint. Here are the top three takeaways.

  1. DNA testing is still not mainstream.

Precision medicine is facing implementation hurdles, especially on the payer side. We heard stories about a boy with a heartbreaking rare disease who was unable to obtain a genetic test that would clarify his treatment path, and about a mother whose insurance wouldn’t cover a test for the breast cancer mutation BRCA (so she tested her daughter instead). Part of the problem is demonstrating value: insurance companies said that if data is compelling, they will reimburse. But even then, another hurdle is physician education. Doctors are seeing 15-20 patients per day, and genomics is a rapidly evolving field. It can be hard to keep up.

  1. But the progress in personalized medicine is staggering.

For every story of heartbreak, there were incredible stories that demonstrated the power of precision medicine. Dr. Stephen Kingsmore, who will lead the new Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine in San Diego, shared the story of a newborn whose life was saved using rapid whole genome sequencing. It really doesn’t get better than saving babies’ lives.

We also learned about the emergence of pre-marital genetic testing in Saudi Arabia from Dr. Brian Meyer of King Faisal of the Specialist Hospital & Research Center. Social norms in Saudi Arabia have led to a very homogenous population, where the risk is high of marrying a relative. Before a couple decides to get married, they can be screened for common genetic disorders and decide to proceed or not with the marriage. A whopping 60 percent of couples who share mutations decide to call off the wedding. The homogeneous population has also uncovered genes linked to rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

  1. Our knowledge base is growing fast. 

Dr. Allen Roses of Duke University reminded the audience that whole genome sequencing will become more powerful as the scientific community learns more about structural variants. This includes genetic rearrangements, such as missing or extra segments of DNA. Such data may shed light on Alzheimer’s and other diseases. The White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative just starting to enroll the 1 million volunteers they seek for their research program, where they will be able to learn more about our DNA. California also has its own initiative to advance precision medicine initiative. One thing is for sure: this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we know about our genome. We are counting down the days until next year’s conference.

For more takeaways from the Precision Medicine Leaders Summit, read coverage in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

San Diego is well recognized for its prowess in early-stage biotech research. But increasingly, it’s also becoming known for cultivating breakthrough companies that are purchased for billions of dollars by global pharmaceutical companies.

On Oct. 28, CanaleComm President and Founder Carin Canale-Theakston moderated a panel she assembled on behalf of the San Diego Venture Group featuring Faheem Hasnain and Pratik Shah, Ph.D.

Hasnain was president and CEO of Receptos, which focused on immunology and metabolic disorders. Celgene completed its $7.2 billion takeover of the company in late August.

Shah served as president and CEO of Auspex Pharmaceuticals, a movement disorders company acquired in May by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. The deal was valued at roughly $3.2 billion.

The event drew a packed auditorium of attendees at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS, in Torrey Pines, providing inspiring takeaways for any life science CEO or entrepreneur seeking to make it big. Among some of the top quotes of the evening:

  • “It’s like peeing in your wetsuit.” In meetings with potential investors, it’s tempting to promise more than your company can deliver. But while it might feel good for a minute, overstating your capabilities or expected milestones will haunt you later, Hasnain said. It’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver: “Sandbag, sandbag, sandbag,” he said.
  • “We did what we did for the patients and their families.” In a society that values body language, patients with movement disorders such as Huntington’s disease are at an extreme disadvantage. When going got tough at Auspex, the team kept in mind the patients they were helping, Dr. Shah said. It was motivation that paid off in the end—and is one big reason that successful biotech entrepreneurs keep returning to the game, even when they don’t need the money.
  • “Don’t ever consider an acquisition as a business strategy.” Your strategy always should be to build a strong and successful company based on solid science, said Hasnain. If a buyout occurs, that’s great. But the exit itself shouldn’t be your strategy.

Both Hasnain and Shah said they are enjoying taking time off to consider their next ventures. But it likely won’t be long until they’re back on the biotech scene in San Diego; Hasnain said he and his core team from Receptos are planning to launch a new venture in 2016.