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Biopharma’s Burning Man

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CaliforniaThe Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference is underway in San FranciscoPhotograph by DEA / W. BUSS De Agostini/Getty Images

This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.

Masters of the sprawling biopharma universe are gathering in San Francisco today for the start of J.P. Morgan’s 35th annual healthcare confab, a four-day crush of presentations, panels, and meet-and-greets that will test the endurance of an army of press-release writers. (So far, judging by my inbox, they seem to be holding strong.) The conference has gotten so freakishly enormous over the years—from this morning through Thursday, speakers from over 450 healthcare companies and nonprofits will take the stage in back-to-back sessions that begin at 7:30 a.m.—that is has even spawned a conference within the conference: the StartUp Health Festival (which also opens today).

That said, this year’s meeting(s) come(s) at a tough time for the biotech industry as a whole, as STAT’s Damian Garde explains this morning in a lovely scene-setter. Biotech stock prices and new public offerings are both down sharply from 2015’s bloated levels. (For some helpful perspective, BioWorld’s Peter Winter has numbers on biotech financing over the past decade.) Drug and device makers—rightly—worry that the rubber band will snap back on pricing; investors are at least starting to take a gimlet eye to valuations, particularly in the wake of cost pressures and sliding FDA approvals and as my colleague Sy Mukherjee reports, there are some ugly patent battles on the horizon to whip up the dust even more.

All have added up to what analysts (meaninglessly) call “uncertainty.”

As if anything in the world were otherwise.