Event Recap: How J&J Promotes Innovation

By Dr. Karen Ring, Big3Bio Events Correspondent

How exactly does one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world promote scientific innovation through proactive collaboration and investment?

This month’s BioScience Forum addressed that question by detailing the structure and focus of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in an event featuring Senior Director for New Ventures, J&J Innovation, Thorsten Melcher. It was a change of pace from the Forum’s previous data-driven talks and offered the audience an insider’s view into the workings and aspirations of the world’s leader in healthcare.

Background on Johnson & Johnson

CKkVbb9VAAE05tUMelcher began with an overview of J&J and its three main focus areas: 1) medical device and diagnostic technologies, 2) consumer healthcare products and 3) pharmaceutical research and development (on the pharmaceutical side, J&J’s interests lie in five therapeutic areas: oncology, immunology, neuroscience, infectious disease, and cardiovascular/metabolic diseases.)

Melcher noted that J&J is aggressively pursuing a transformational innovation focus on solving the unmet medical needs of patients. Towards this effort, the J&J family has developed a tour-de-force of resources that include the J&J Innovation Centers, JLABS incubators, and the J&J Development Corporation.

Strategy for Promoting Innovation

The J&J Innovation Centers were established two years ago as a way to accelerate innovation and healthcare solutions by providing support, resources, and in-house expertise to internal and external innovators with game-changing ideas. The centers are located in life science industry “hot-spots” around the world, including Menlo Park, Boston, London, and Shanghai.

Already, the success of this collaborative model is evident with over 200 alliances formed with companies and institutions. Melcher was also proud to note about J&J Innovation opening a new center at the Texas Medical Center in Houston (see the Houston RESI Conference recap video, including some comments from J&J Innovation’s Melinda Richter, for more on that) and will be announcing another center (location TBA) in the near future.

JLABS SSF office

JLABS is part of J&J Innovation and provides an incubator platform to help promising early-stage companies get off the ground. Their goal is to provide space, as well as centralized infrastructure and management, and educational programs to teach companies how to thrive. Currently, there are four JLABS locations — all in Big3Bio areas: San Diego, Boston, San Francisco, South San Francisco — which currently house 90 companies.

Finally, J&J Development Corporation (JJDC) is J&J’s corporate venture arm that identifies and “invests in companies with technologies that we believe have the potential to make significant impact on patient health,” as it says on its website. Melcher also noted that JJDC has funded innovation for over 40 years and invested $200 million towards healthcare solutions in 2014.

More Key Insights from Melcher

  • J&J promotes innovation from internal and external sources and is only biased towards investing in the best science (more on this from another J&J video)
  • J&J’s goal is to develop a single global portfolio and they plan to do this by defining their innovation strategy, scanning the innovation landscape, prioritizing opportunities, and finally, selecting the best asset.
  • When choosing what to invest in, J&J looks for the right opportunity. They consider the stage of development of a company or technology, the space that it’s in, whether it’s a strategic fit for J&J, the strength of the intellectual property, and the time and cost to bring the product to market.
  • jnjstatJ&J Innovation is unique with its approach to investing. Its strategy is to avoid the familiar “buyer/seller” model and instead focus on value creation in a “win/win” concept with external innovator partnerships.
  • Finally, J&J fosters innovation by providing solutions for innovators through mentorship, partnership, sponsorship, and educational programs.

Food for Thought

Melcher concluded by emphasizing the message J&J wants to get across to life science innovators and entrepreneurs: “J&J is your partner along the way. At every stage of development, we are there for you.”

Next BioSF Event: August 26th, Daniel Chen, MD, PhD, Cancer Immunotherapy Franchise Head at Genentech