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JPMorgan Conference Feels Wall Street Pinch

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I'm covering the 27th Annual JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco where I suspect there will be a big crowd for the Roche presentation later this morning (12:30 ET).

The Financial Times reported last Friday afternoon that the Swiss drugmaker may soon raise its bid for Genentech. I'll be shocked if Roche, which has played its cards very close to the vest, says much about it either in the formal presentation or breakout session. But I'll be there just in case.

JPMorgan says as of last Friday 6,600 people were registered for the conference. That's still huge--and, in my opinion, a fire hazard at this old hotel--but it's 900 fewer than last year. Anecdotal evidence, perhaps, of the hedge fund collapse and smaller travel budgets.

Steven Burrill, a longtime biomedical investor, industry observer and conference attendee also suggests that the conference's weighting toward more established big caps may explain the lower attendance. His theory is that some investors figure they can get access to those companies anytime.

All of the JPM conference presentations are webcast anyway. But the formal PowerPoints and q and a sessions are not why people come here. The real action doesn't happen in the hotel meeting rooms and ballrooms, it happens in the crowded, noisy hallways, lobby and at all the cocktail parties, dinners and one-on-one meetings going on all over the place, all hours of the day.

    • Genentech Shares Rise on Report of New Roche Offer

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com