The view from the JP Morgan: Plenty of (hard) work available in 2011

Over the coming weeks and months, I'll have a lot to say about the JP Morgan event in San Francisco. The key point that I came away with is that there are an awful lot of biotech companies that have some big plans for this year, and they know they're going to have to make things happen in a difficult environment.

IPOs? There will be a few. PTC Therapeutics, for example, is making it clear that after taking a hard look at the data for their lead therapy, this could be the year to turn to the public market. But no one thinks that investors are eagerly embracing high risks and companies with no hard product revenue to look over. And don't look for any sudden shift in those attitudes.

That aside, there is money and opportunity enough for companies able to execute on clinical trial plans. The fundamental driver of the biotech industry is Big Pharma's dramatic need for new products coupled with the tidal shift under way toward more outside partnering. Pacts are in, silos are under assault. If you can play on that field, with science that commands respect, there are ways to fund new work without an IPO.

Third Rock's Kevin Starr told me this week that the venture group has lined up two near-term financing rounds for new companies, with several more to follow in short order. And there will be more biotech rounds and upfront fees to keep the money flowing. So the scrum at the Westin St. Francis was swelled with people eager to make 2011 a good year. It may not be one for the record books, but there is potential for a winning season.

One other note. As usual, we'll be taking Monday off with the markets for Martin Luther King Day. We could use the rest. I'm sure you could as well. -- John Carroll (email | twitter)