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Live updates: Here’s a look at local news from the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference

The J.P. Morgan logo on an office building in New York.
The J.P. Morgan logo on an office building in New York.NurPhoto/Photographer: NurPhoto/NurPhoto

The J.P. Morgan 39th Annual Healthcare Conference, which traditionally attracts drug company executives and investors to San Francisco, kicked off its annual event on Monday virtually because of the pandemic.

Instead of booking expensive hotels and networking in fancy restaurants, leaders in the life science space, many in the Greater Boston area, are tuning in this week from home. More than 400 companies are expected to give presentations to more than 8,000 attendees registered for the conference.

Here’s a running list of notable, local announcements:

Tuesday, Jan. 12

Tessera attracts outside investors: Tessera Therapeutics announced Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that it has raised more than $230 million in its second round of funding. The Cambridge startup was founded by Flagship Pioneering about two years ago, but made its debut in July with an early $50 million investment from the venture firm.

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The company is advancing a new technology it calls “gene writing,” entering the field of genetic medicine in which other companies are pursuing approaches such as gene editing and gene therapy.

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Monday, Jan. 11

Valo raises $190m, unveils cancer drugs: Boston-based Valo Health announced on Monday it has raised $190 million in its second round of funding. The startup also said that it has four cancer-drugs in preclinical programs.

The company, founded out of Flagship Pioneering, aims to use patient data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to accelerate the drug discovery and development process. Valo claims this process could help drive down the cost of making drugs and result in fewer failures.

“We have made tremendous progress in creating a fully integrated platform to accelerate the drug discovery and development process, making it far more efficient and less costly to provide life-saving treatments to patients,” said David Berry, the founder and chief executive of Valo, in a press release.

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Life Science Cares expands: Life Science Cares Boston, a nonprofit organization that aims to harnesses the collective power of the industry to fight inequity, said Monday that it’s expanding. Life Science Cares said it launched affiliate groups in San Francisco and San Diego, with the conference’s title sponsor J.P. Morgan committing $1 million to the Bay Area outpost.

Rob Perez founded the nonprofit in Boston five years ago to address a stark contrast: While the Boston area is know as a life science hub with thousands of high-paying jobs, there are also high levels of income inequality in the region. The group will take on the same mission in each of its locations.

“It’s getting involved with your arms and your legs, and that tends to have a bigger impact than just writing the check alone,” Perez said. “We are proud to provide funding to our nonprofit partners, but our impact is much more than that. We try to engage people in solving the problems.”

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EQRx secures $500m: At last year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference a Cambridge startup debuted with a promise to make drugs with dramatically lower prices. On Monday, EQRx said it raised $500 million in its second round of funding, brining the company’s total funding haul to about $750 million.

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Bluebird to split into two companies: Gene therapy leader bluebird bio announced that it will split into two publicly traded drug companies, one devoted to treating severe genetic diseases, the other to forms of cancer. Nick Leschly, the Cambridge biotech’s chief executive, will head the yet unnamed oncology company while the current president of severe genetic diseases, Andrew Obenshain, will become CEO of bluebird.

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“After careful strategic review, it is clear to us that the two businesses are best served by independent leadership and teams to drive strategic and operational objectives,” Leschly said in the firm’s announcement. He added that the company believes “it is the right time to double down on the respective businesses.”

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Vertex says it has ‘financial firepower’ to make more deals: Vertex Pharmaceuticals is looking to acquire “mid- and late-stage assets” to bolster its current research pipeline, CEO Reshma Kewalramani said Monday at the virtual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. Kewalramani’s comments on a more aggressive deal-making approach were the highlight of Monday’s presentation, largely because historically, Vertex has eschewed large M&A deals.

Click here to read more on STAT News.

Biogen stock jumps on Eli Lilly Alzheimer’s news: Biogen added more than $4 billion in market value on Monday after a rival Alzheimer’s disease treatment from Eli Lilly showed promise in a small clinical trial. The preliminary benefit of Lilly’s treatment, “adds momentum and belief” to the idea that targeting a specific toxic brain plaque can slow the cognitive decline associated with the disease, Biogen CEO Michel Vounatsos said at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

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Click here to read more on STAT News.

Jonathan Saltzman of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.


Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8.