So, that’s the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference done for another year.

For just a few highly energised days it felt as if nearly every pharma, biotech, medtech and diagnostics decision maker from round the world was in San Francisco. Such has become this event’s huge significance as we start each year. JPM seems like the only place to be – as close to the Davos of the life sciences industry as you can get. Drawing breath and looking back in the immediate aftermath, I’m left with contrasting impressions and an optimism that might not be shared by everyone who was there.

Always keep the big picture in mind

The week turned into a roller-coaster as the initial high energy start to another JPM turned south after President-elect Donald Trump’s comments wiped $24bn off share prices. It’s true that as we stand at the beginning of 2017, the life sciences industry is looking forward with more uncertainty than has been the case for many years. The political, economic and social forces at play feel more turbulent and unpredictable even than usual. But to focus on this alone would be to miss the bigger picture.

Geo-political forces can’t stop the train

Because, my other take from JPM, (even with the $24bn hiccup, Brexit and all of the other geo-political and commercial factors), is that the sector is focused and energised to make 2017 another year of significant progress, whatever the macro-events in play. There is so much momentum and appetite from investors, companies and advisers that it feels like an unstoppable force.

China catalysing further growth

China’s total investment in healthcare innovation now exceeds that of the US. It has recognised the value of new technology and is investing across the world, commonly finding European businesses more affordable than those in the US, but rapidly becoming involved everywhere. This level of Chinese involvement is a pivotal moment for the industry as there is no shortage of great science and good technology for it to buy.

Digital health out in front

And if there is one sector that again caught my attention above all others as offering radical and exciting progress, it was digital health. The dramatic explosion in genomics testing, wireless technology and (Big) data analytics has made possible unforeseen combinations of actionable healthcare and research-ready data.

The key is the people

The science is advancing at an unprecedented pace, the money is there for our industry and investors to pump in. As ever, it’s the talent of the people that will determine if the money is put to best use. To a large extent it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The talent, confidence and energy of the people leading the industry will ensure that they are the authors of their own success. The challenge for investors and companies is finding the best talent and the best teams, especially as talented leaders remain in short supply. We will focus on seeing every search for talented leaders for what it is, a corporate acquisition that needs the same rigorous due diligence. Because attracting, selecting and supporting executive talent is vital and these important decisions need to be evidence-based to make sure that every hire is right.

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