Johnson & Johnson announced a collaboration to help boost entrepreneurs in China and the region intent on creating transformational technologies to tackle global healthcare problems.
Johnson & Johnson announced a slew of collaborations Thursday and among them is a partnership with a contract research organization in China to help stimulate company formation in that populous Asian nation.
Johnson & Johnson Innovation will work with WuXiApp Tec, a CRO with a venture arm, to identify entrepreneurs and match them with relevant assets and assist them to be incorporated, get funded and develop novel technologies. WuXi App Tec, which will also invest in these early stage startups, will provide broad R&D support and do feasibility studies to assess viability of technologies for a fee to these entrepreneurial firms.
The collaboration with WuXi is intended to focus on stimulating company formation in China focused on biopharmaceuticals, consumer health products as well as medical devices and diagnostics.
It's an interesting move to harness the scientific talent of the country to commercialize transformational technologies that is intended to serve a nation and region that is rapidly consuming more healthcare than before.
"It's not intended to be constrained to China, but it will certainly have a China focus," said Robert Urban, head of the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center in Boston, in a phone interview Wednesday. "Working locally makes a big difference in helping you understand what it is that the communities need. So companies that are developing products closer to the locations that need them, customers that need are often times quite advantaged in understanding what are the right profiles of those products. We consider that to be a particularly advantaged approach to tackling global problems."
Johnson & Johnson has long been a well-known consumer products company in places like China and India and has made and marketed products that appeal to the needs of the local population. Now the same ethos is penetrating the healthcare and innovation ecosystems, and many companies are adopting the "in China/Asia for China/Asia" mantra to reflect a shift from the past when old, de-featured medical products would be shipped off to the third world.
With the current collaboration, the equity investments will be made through Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, the conglomerate's investment arm. While JJDC and WuXi will provide seed funding, Urban explained that J&J will help entrepreneurs access local investors in the Asia Pacific region to help fuel further funding of these nascent companies.
"The companies are seed funded to get started and then working alongside other investors in the region we'll do the best we can to ensure that the companies are sufficiently funded to achieve the work that needs to get done," Urban said.
No limit has been specified on the amount that JJDC will invest or the number of companies the collaboration will look to get off the ground.
"We hope it will be many," he said.
The J&J Innovation Center in Shanghai - modeled after the company's innovation centers in London, Boston, and Menlo Park, California - will assess entrepreneurs and technologies in the Asia Pacific region. In the medical device arena, J&J is interested in specific disease states including lung cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, orthopedics, neuroscience, biosurgery and others.
"We're interest in high impact products — so innovative products that make a much higher, more profound difference in the patients that receive them than what we have available for them today" Urban said.