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Big Pharma’s Role in Supporting the Life Science Innovation Ecosystem


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responsibility to support it.

It has been an honor for me to be a part of founding San Diego’s Janssen Labs, a life science business accelerator located at Janssen Research & Development’s West Coast Research Center. It offers a capital efficient environment where emerging life science companies have access to turnkey laboratory space as well as shared core facilities offering specialized equipment and administrative resources. Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson also announced the launch of four regional innovation centers in major life sciences communities (California, Boston, China and London) as part of a novel approach to accelerate early innovation and enhance opportunities for collaboration and investment across its global healthcare businesses. Other efforts by big pharma to support an environment where innovation can thrive include Merck establishing the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr) in San Diego to conduct early-stage drug discovery work before in-licensing or passing drug candidates off to others in industry for clinical development. And Bayer has partnered with University of California, San Francisco, to establish an innovation center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay area aimed at moving basic research discoveries to the drug development stage.

While these experiments are still in the early stages, there are some preliminary signs of success. Since we first announced Janssen Labs last fall, we have been inundated with more than 200 inquiries from companies all over the world interested in seeking space there, and 15 companies have now moved in, putting us ahead of schedule at more than 75 percent capacity. We have welcomed companies not just from the San Diego area where Janssen Labs is based, but from other regions around the world, including the Bay Area; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Mexico City, Mexico and Bologna, Italy. This suggests we have created a highly attractive ecosystem for discovery and development. This is exactly what we were striving for, and why we spent so much time trying to understand what barriers life science entrepreneurs are facing and what they need before developing the “no strings attached” Janssen Labs model.

In speaking with entrepreneurs who have inquired about space in Janssen Labs, they have expressed the most important things they need are:

• Flexible space for companies as small as one or two people, with room to grow

• Access to capital intensive equipment

• Access to relationships with potential investors and partners without any strings that inhibit entrepreneurial freedom

It is very exciting for me to see Janssen Labs so full of life. There is an energy that emanates from the entrepreneurs there that is palpable, and it makes me hopeful for the future of our industry—hopeful that our efforts to create an environment where these companies can thrive will result in not only new medicines and medical devices for patients who need them, but also hopeful a healthy recovery in our industry could in turn contribute to a strengthened economy.

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Diego Miralles leads Janssen Healthcare Innovation, an entrepreneurial team in the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. He also is an adjunct full professor in the UC San Diego Pharmacology Department, and has extensive experience in clinical research, mostly in HIV/AIDS, and as an HIV clinician. Follow @

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