Johnson & Johnson’s New Innovation Center Part of Broader Initiative

6/7/13Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

Investing in biotechnology is a riskier bet these days. The community of life sciences venture capital firms is contracting, despite scientific advances across many fields like genomics, immunology, and diagnostics. Many promising new enterprises fail to produce marketable drugs, and even successful therapies may struggle to gain markets in an environment of health care cost cutting.

That’s exactly why Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) chose to expand its programs that nurture very early stage biotechnology and device startups in the Bay area, J&J executives said as they opened the company’s California Innovation Center in Menlo Park, CA, this week.

The new center, one of four planned by the drug giant based in New Brunswick, NJ, will look for promising collaborations with emerging companies. It will also assist academic scientists and entrepreneurs to form companies—not the standard M.O. for big pharmaceutical conglomerates. But J&J says it is stepping in to reinforce the biotechnology ecosystem that used to fatten up many young companies to get them ready for pharma deals.

Diego Miralles

“There has never been better science in the history of the world—never,” says Diego Miralles, the San Diego-based head of the J&J California Innovation Center. “We need to roll up our sleeves and go further upstream. Otherwise, there’s not enough to sustain the industry.”

The center is intended to operate like a one-stop point of contact for scientists, entrepreneurs, and startup founders looking for help from J&J. The 7,000-square foot center on El Camino Real in Menlo Park is a bike ride away from the Stanford University campus and the venture capital mecca along Sand Hill Road, amid a dense community of entrepreneurs. The staff of 21 includes experts in science, business transactions, and investing who will catalyze interactions between entrepreneurs and J&J’s various divisions. J&J’s venture capital subsidiary, Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, is part of the team.

The new J&J innovation center already has facilitated a wave of new activity in California, where the New Jersey drug company has other affiliated units.

Janssen Labs, J&J’s expanding San Diego incubator for life sciences startups, is opening a branch incubator at a facility run by the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) near UCSF’s Mission Bay campus in San Francisco. The 5,000-square foot Janssen Labs @QB3 will accommodate as many as 10 startups, and it has an option to expand.

• J&J company Janssen Biotech is beginning a research collaboration with San Bruno, CA-based Second Genome to … Next Page »

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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