Healthcare Conference 2008 Centennial Healthcare Conference:

As a $2 trillion industry and 16% of the US GDP, healthcare has sustained a significant growth over the past decade, and healthcare expenditure is predicted to double in the next 10 years. On the weekend of January 19, over 300 people, a mix of HBS, Harvard, MIT and other business school students, faculty, and business and health care professionals, gathered at the HBS campus to attend the Centennial Healthcare Conference. The goal was to create a venue for members of different health care communities, from payors and providers to entrepreneurs and VCs, to engage and interact with each other.

The conference kicked off in the morning with the keynote address delivered by Nicholas Valeriani, Chair of the Office of Strategy and Growth at Johnson & Johnson. Prior to his current position, Mr. Valeriani was the Worldwide Chairman of the Medical Diagnostics and Devices division of the company. He spoke about the convergence of medical technology towards a more consumer-oriented focus, meaning that devices will be
increasingly miniaturized, more portable, and better integrated with consumer products. Indeed, value in healthcare delivery will be enhanced by driving information technology towards remote monitoring and patient-driven care. The audience came prepared with questions for Mr. Valeriani, leading to an active discussion ranging from J&J’s growth strategy to its role in creating affordable devices for developing countries.

In the afternoon keynote address, Sidney Taurel, Chairman and CEO of Eli Lilly & Company, gave us an engaging perspective on the challenges and opportunities faced by the pharmaceutical industry. The idea of blockbuster drugs driving company growth may become a thing of the past, and molecular diagnostics will help hone in on the development of targeted therapy for specific patient populations. Mr. Taurel cited several amusing personal anecdotes related to his tenure at Lilly and engaged a packed Spangler auditorium, answering questions on Lilly’s leadership in pharma, and how he envisioned his company’s future partnership with molecular diagnostic and biotechnology.

The conference closed with a speech by MIT’s Dr. Bob Langer. Dr. Langer is a prolific inventor whose technologies have started more than 20 companies and have been licensed to over 200 companies. He focused on the challenge of discovering and implementing breakthrough medical technology. A discussion of the resistance by the medical community to innovation took us through his experience commercializing his first technology. Dr. Langer used further case studies to highlight his strategy in identifying and pursuing groundbreaking technology, including obtaining broad-blocking patents and publishing in seminal magazines.

Notwithstanding a powerful trio of keynote speakers, audiences actively participated in panel sessions in Biotech, Payor/Provider, Pharma, International Health, Venture Capital, and Medical Devices. The panel mix was as diverse, with speakers offering points and counterpoints on different issues. Attendees felt energized by the discussions, and wished the panel sessions could have lasted longer! In fact, many conversations extended to the lunchtime career fair and closing reception, where industry representatives had the opportunity to interact with HBS students and conference attendees.

Prior to the big day, conference organizers and guest speakers got together for dinner to interact in a more informal environment. It was a fantastic opportunity for HBS students and business leaders to exchange ideas about the health care industry. It was rewarding to hear that most attendees were impressed by the content and organization of the Centennial Healthcare Conference, and fundraising for the event was a record success. We are extremely grateful to the tireless efforts displayed by all the organizers, particularly conference co-chairs Jens Audenaert (OI) and Kevin Brounstein (OC), as well as the partnership with the HBS Healthcare Club. We hope that this conference will serve as a springboard for future collaborations within the health care community and a powerful venue to come up with sustainable solutions to repair our ailing health care system.