Microcaps Mostly Missing from Prestigious JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

The J.P. Morgan Chase Healthcare Conference, held annually each January in San Francisco, is the world’s largest healthcare conference and arguably the most prestigious. Next year’s gathering, to be held Jan. 10-13 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, is the 29th annual event.

While the conference has a colorful and prestigious history, it wasn’t always staged by JP Morgan. It was started by the now defunct San Francisco-based investment bank Hambrecht & Quist, which is actually the firm mostly responsible for building its reputation. And under H&Q’s management the conference used to be an important venue for small, up-and-coming micro-cap stocks. That has changed, too.

This coming January, of the 300 presenting companies, only a small percentage have market capitalizations under $500 million. That’s largely because JP Morgan bankers focus mostly on larger companies, while the old H&Q had many smal healthcare companies as clients. In recent years JP Morgan has suggested it would maintain a roster of the smaller companies, but that promise seems to have fallen off the shelf.

Still, there are a few microcaps on the conference roster, including:

Cranbury, NJ-based Amicus Therapeutics (Nasdaq: FOLD, http://www.amicustherapeutics.com/) is one of the smallest companies at the conference, based on its market cap of $110 million. The biopharmaceutical company develops small molecule oral drugs, called pharmacological chaperones, for the treatment of various human genetic diseases. The company just won a second $500,000 grant from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to develop a pharmacological chaperone to treat Parkinson’s disease. Barron’s recently named Amicus as one of the small biotechs to watch in 2011. The stock traded at about $4 in mid-December.

Carlsbad, CA-based Genoptix (Nasdaq: GXDX, http://www.genoptix.com/), a diagnostics laboratory and diagnostic services company whose shares surged $3 to $20.98 on Dec. 14 based on a Bloomberg report that it was putting itself up for sale. Shares of Genoptix have lost half their value since reporting a disappointing quarter in early May. Genoptix market capitalization of $370 million makes it one of the smaller companies presenting at the JP Morgan conference.

Mountain View, CA-based Hansen Medical Inc. * (Nasdaq: HNSN, http://www.hansenmedical.com/) designs and manufactures medical robotics and catheter-based technologies for the electrophysiology and vascular surgery markets. The stock has been on a downward slide for the past year, from more than $3 about a year ago to its current price of about $1.44. A new CEO experienced in medical devices, Bruce J Barclay, was named to lead Hansen Medical last summer.

Franklin, TN-based BioMimetic Therapeutics (Nasdaq: BMTI, http://www.biomimetics.com/) a biotech company that develops regenerative products for treating bone and skeletal injuries. It has a $322 million market cap and its stock price has been trending upward, from just over $8 last summer to more than $11 in mid-December.

Lexington, MA-based AMAG Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: AMAG, http://www.amagpharma.com/) is a biopharmaceutical company that creates therapeutic iron compounds to treat iron deficiency anemia. Its stock price has been sliding for the past year but got a nice boost in late November on news that the company had reached agreement with regulators over the addition of warnings to the labeling of its anemia treatment. Still, the stock was trading at just over $16 in mid-December after having been more than $50 last January.

* Denotes client of Allen & Caron, publisher of this blog


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