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Marianne De Backer’s iPhone calendar is a solid block of green.

De Backer, the head of strategy and business development at Bayer, has so many meetings on her schedule that there’s no telling where one ends and another begins. She hasn’t moved for much of the day from her spot in a Hilton conference room in San Francisco, decorated in shades of tan. Over the hours, dozens of biotech startup teams enter the room, presenting a bevy of pitch decks in the hopes of piquing Bayer’s interest in a collaboration deal, before exiting with a round of handshakes.


The ritual was duplicated in conference rooms throughout the week headlined by the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, as investors and business executives — oblivious to the hurtling rain and hail pelting conference attendees — asked people coming into meetings, “how is the weather out there?” (The weather Tuesday afternoon toppled a tree at the nearby intersection of Stockton and Sutter Streets.)

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