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J.P. Morgan Healthcare Confab: Preview

SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) -- The biotech hordes should be in a jollier mood when they land here Monday for the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference.

The biotech sector enters the new year at least partially recovered from the thrashing inflicted on stocks that began in the fall of 2008 and didn't end until last March. Since then, stocks prices have rebounded -- not back to their previous highs, but they're getting there. Perhaps more importantly, biotech companies were able to raise a lot of cash in the second half of last year to stave off extinction.

For these reasons alone, the 28th annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare confab should be much less austere than the 27th. Last year, attendance was down and the mood was funereal. Monday, I expect to see bigger crowds in the halls of the Westin St. Francis Hotel -- and more smiles.

Biotech investors don't lack for opportunities to hear company executives pitch their stocks, but that doesn't stop people from flying to San Francisco every January for the J.P. Morgan event. This meeting stands out because investors come in with clean slates and companies use the time to set goals and agendas for the next 12 months.

Big-cap biotech stocks fared poorly in 2009, so investors will be listening for reasons to own the stocks as turnaround plays for 2010. Genzyme's (GENZ) Henri Termeer will be on the hot seat about his company's ability to recover from myriad drug manufacturing problems, and perhaps, about his own future as chief executive.
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