J&J Cuts Ribbon on Boston Innovation Center, Touts Startup Deals

6/27/13Follow @benthefidler

Johnson & Johnson has officially set up shop in Kendall Square.

Today is the day that Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) cuts the ribbon on its Boston Innovation Center, the latest step in a broad initiative by the New Brunswick, NJ-based drug giant to help drive biotech innovation in certain life sciences hotspots around the globe—and strike deals to fatten up its pipeline.

Within the past three months, J&J has opened similar innovation centers in London and Menlo Park, CA, and plans to christen a fourth in Shanghai, China, as well.

“Boston is essentially a carbon copy of Menlo Park and London, and will similarly be designed in Shanghai,” says Robert Urban, the former executive director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, and the head of the new Boston center.

While the model is the same as the other sites, J&J’s Boston Innovation Center represents the first significant move the 127-year-old pharmaceutical company has made to put itself in the trenches in Cambridge. And J&J is opening it up with a bang, announcing partnerships with a research center (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York), two local startup biotech companies (Rodin Therapeutics and Vedanta Biosciences), and a non-profit organization (LabCentral), showing the breadth of exactly what it hopes to achieve.

“We are really on our way to taking off in Boston,” says Urban (pictured).

The Boston Innovation Center is designed to not only help local startup biotechs, medical device makers, and diagnostics companies get off the ground, but also give J&J an outlet to form a variety of early-stage partnerships, investments, and other deals that can ultimately help fill its pipeline down the road.

It will be staffed, generally speaking, with three types of groups: a team of J&J scientists that will work with local entrepreneurs, researchers, and startups to develop their ideas and assess how J&J could best help them move forward; a VC group backed by J&J’s considerable financial muscle that will help seed companies or contribute in more advanced funding rounds; and a business transaction team to help hammer out partnerships and collaborations, according to J&J research and development chief Paul Stoffels.

“We hope to make it simply much easier for innovators anywhere to begin to understand there is a mechanism by which [they] can collaborate with J&J,” Urban says.

The firm isn’t doing that by stampeding into Kendall Square. Stoffels says J&J has no plans to set up a sizeable, Big Pharma-like … Next Page »

Ben Fidler is Xconomy's Deputy Biotechnology Editor. You can e-mail him at bfidler@xconomy.com Follow @benthefidler

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  • Dr. Edgar Shriver

    How do i get in contact with Dr. Urban? Dr. Edgar Shriver, Coronary Bypass Devices LLC