A former British prime minister, a White House liaison and one of the world’s most powerful bankers are among the thousands packing San Francisco’s Union Square this week for a hallmark health care event now in its 42nd year.
The return of the symposium has been welcomed by San Francisco’s Downtown boosters, who, in recent years, have seen a series of conventions decamp to other cities. While it’s too early to tell how 2024 will shape up for business travel into the city, major events leaving San Francisco have come from big names such as Google, Meta and Red Hat, spreading concern about Downtown businesses losing out on the spending of would-be visitors.
But the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference stood strong to its longtime history of hosting in San Francisco for what’s billed as the largest health care investment symposium in the industry. The event kicked off Monday and is expected to bring more than 8,000 attendees to the city, according to the company.
“Events like this play a crucial role in driving our economy, creating jobs, and bringing vitality to our city by supporting our small businesses, hotels, restaurants and nightlife, and tourism,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
Last year’s conference, the first in-person iteration since Covid pushed the event remote, generated about $86 million in economic impact in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Travel Association. That included spending by conference attendees and workers, as well as the wages paid to local employees staffing the event.
The J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference has a reputation for drawing major announcements from big players in the industry. The 2024 event has not disappointed; companies announced over $6.4 billion in health care deals as the conference launched, Bloomberg reported. That includes multiple billion-dollar acquisitions, such as Boston Scientific Corporation acquiring Axonis Inc. to the tune of $3.7 billion.
Early reports from attendees indicate that artificial intelligence has been a core topic of conversation at the event, alongside presentations from a who’s-who of medical industry companies, such as Pfizer, Moderna and Merck.
Meanwhile, keynote speakers include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Danielle Carnival, who helps lead the Bidens’ Cancer Moonshot initiative to prevent 4 million cancer deaths by 2047; and J.P. Morgan Chase and Company CEO Jamie Dimon.
The event is being held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco’s Union Square. Marisa Rodriguez, who heads the Union Square Alliance, celebrated the conference kickoff, describing it as a boost to the local economy and “the perfect kick-off to an optimistic new year” in a statement.
The Covid era ushered in a series of business closures in Union Square, with many bemoaning the transformation happening in San Francisco’s commercial core. But recent months have brought more positive headlines for the area, including the opening of multiple restaurants, such as Miller & Lux Provisions, headed up by celebrity chef Tyler Florence.
Out-of-town visitors may also feel their hearts warming to the City by the Bay. CNBC host Jim Cramer drew Bay Area locals’ ire in 2022 after saying that he found San Francisco so dangerous that he wouldn’t let his team go out in the city, even during the day.
But Sunday morning, Cramer posted on social media a photo that appeared to be the Bay Bridge framed by the sunrise. “Getting fired up for JPM healthcare conference!” Cramer wrote.