Attendance is by invitation only. There’s no trade show floor. And, good luck tracking down information on speakers and schedules if you’re not invited — a public website for the event doesn’t even exist. Safe to say, this is not your typical conference or trade show.

The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, to be held January 13-16, 2020, continues to be one of the life science industry’s largest and most frenzied conferences of the year. It reliably draws thousands of investors and executives across the healthcare sector to the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco as hundreds of companies present their latest innovations and dreams in an attempt to pique the interest of venture capitalists and potential partners.

Following long days of sessions and side meetings are lively evenings of cocktail parties and networking events. High energy is a must, and business card supplies dwindle quickly.

Now in its 38th year, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference has become a spectacle — a far cry from the boutique event it once was. Forbes contributor Joon Yun last year likened the event to Burning Man, another under-the-radar meet-up that has become mainstream. “Those who have been to both agree Burning Man is the lesser fire hazard,” the physician-investor remarked in his 2013 column.

Indeed, for one week in January, Union Square — across from the Westin — will literally overflow with attendees and wannabe attendees. In addition to J.P. Morgan, other events including the Biotech Showcase, OneMedForum and RESI Conference have popped up to capitalize on the high density of biotech brainpower.


Need help navigating the crazy? Check out our tips to surviving the J.P Morgan Healthcare Conference.

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So is J.P. Morgan really worth all the fuss? Is it worth the effort of making the trip, navigating the crowds and painstakingly trying to connect with the folks that matter while avoiding the hangers-on? The answer is yes. It’s worth all of those things because so many of the people who matter to healthcare are there — some with tickets, some without. Deals happen unexpectedly and new business connections surface in the coffee shops, bars and diners of San Francisco. J.P. Morgan may be a madhouse, but it’s a productive madhouse.

If you can’t attend, we highly recommend that you soak up the event from afar through the many webcasts and updates on Twitter; follow the hashtag #JPM2020. But we’re a strong believer that nothing beats being there in the thick of the action.

If you’re like us and plan to make this biotech pilgrimage, here are a few things you need to know:

Even though the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is an invite-only event, tickets aren’t necessary to make your trip a valuable one. You can definitely fill your schedule with worthwhile meetings and parties without officially attending the conference.

LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to network your way to a face-to-face meeting.

Troll the after-parties to make new connections. Be open to making new friends and contacts; it usually doesn’t take long to find commonalities with the stranger standing next to you.

Scout out quieter meeting spots around Union Square where you can have a quick meeting when hotel meeting rooms are booked. Be fierce. This is J.P. Morgan. People are open to new ideas but you’ve got to work hard to cut through the noise. This goes without saying, but remember to pack comfortable shoes, your electronics chargers, extra business cards, and weather-appropriate clothes. Oh, and no need to rent a car in San Francisco; use BART, Uber, or a taxi.

If you’re at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference and want to say hello, send us a direct message on Twitter at @cglifeagency. Good luck, have fun and get some deals done.