Merger & acquisition activity at the 2020 J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference has been a little disappointing, but not for a lack of effort on the part of Eli Lilly (LLY 0.73%). The big pharma went beyond the call of duty by announcing the $1.1 billion acquisition of Dermira (DERM) last week, and more recently its CFO John Smiley told investors to expect more deals this year.

The midwest's largest pharmaceutical company hasn't shared any specific details, but it's clear the company will get even larger in 2020. Smiley told Reuters to look for a new deal announcement in each quarter this year in the $1 billion and $5 billion range.

Prescription pills and cash money.

Image source: Getty Images.

What's on Eli Lilly's wish list?

While there are plenty of young growth drivers in Lilly's product line, sales of aging insulin lispro products sold under the Humalog brand are under a lot of pressure. Instead of growing its presence in the increasingly crowded space for diabetes drugs, though, Eli Lilly will probably continue expanding into immunology and oncology.

The recent acquisition of Dermira gives Lilly access to an experimental treatment for eczema which could be an important revenue stream in the years ahead. Last year's purchase of Loxo Oncology showed us management is serious about developing new targeted cancer therapies and we can reasonably expect the company to buy more mid-sized companies developing new tumor blasters treatments.