Biotech leaders, coming off one of their strongest years, look ahead with hope and wariness

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As the biotech industry caravan rolls into San Francisco for the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference this week, drug makers and dealmakers are basking in the glow of one of their strongest years by financial measures but looking ahead warily.

Biotechnology stocks outpaced the broader financial markets, which soared to record highs in 2013, with the stock price of 81 biotech companies more than doubling. Fifty-two life sciences companies went public on US exchanges last year, including nine from Massachusetts, the largest crop of initial public offerings in over a decade. And the value of mergers and acquisitions of biotech and medical technology companies climbed more than 20 percent to $131.8 billion.

The frenzy was driven partly by the increasing preference of large drug makers to buy smaller companies.

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