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Innovative practice

Cross-sector partnership drives early-stage R&D


Johnson & Johnson


Extensive financial and on-site resources to enable groups behind early-stage projects to overcome limitations associated with development.




To accelerate research and development targeting global health needs.


Early-stage research is often complex and costly, whereas the research groups involved can lack the size and scale needed to overcome these hurdles.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation is an initiative that catalyses R&D by investing in, and partnering with, a wide range of external organisations and research teams across sectors. Johnson & Johnson has run its innovation initiative for several years, but in 2016, it announced an expansion through a new global public health strategy. With this strategy, it seeks partnerships to advance R&D for tuberculosis; HIV/AIDS; maternal, newborn and child health; and other areas of global public health concern, including NTDs.

Johnson & Johnson uses unique partnerships to accelerate early-stage R&D for critical diseases and conditions. ©Johnson & Johnson

The initiative works, in part, by enabling groups behind promising early-stage projects, particularly in academic and start-up environments, to overcome the sizeable costs and limitations associated with developing these projects. By reaching out to potential collaborators, and providing partners with financial investments and the use of its facilities, Johnson & Johnson has succeeded in accelerating a number of early-stage projects for global health priorities.

Through its incubator division JLABS, for example, the company awarded a six-month residency at its US-based incubator in Houston, Texas, to an entire research group from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This project in 2016, under Johnson & Johnson’s “Latin America QuickFire Challenge”, focused on isolating or developing anti-Zika monoclonal antibodies as a potential treatment for Zika.17 Because of the substantial size and scale of Johnson & Johnson’s resources, the R&D projects it selects have significant potential to advance knowledge at a much faster rate.

What makes this an innovation?
The company’s model differs from other open innovation and incubator models by giving chosen partners (with work ranging from early-stage to clinical phase initiatives) access to its extensive financial and on-site resources. Selected partners benefit from being able to use its compound libraries and research capabilities. These partners include a variety of public and private laboratories including universities and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Maryland, USA).

Overall, it aims to use incubation and early-stage investment to establish unique cross-sector partnerships and to accelerate R&D for global health needs. By actively seeking out cross-sector partnerships and by funding promising early-stage projects to address global health issues, Johnson & Johnson has developed an innovative approach to quickly advancing R&D for diseases in scope. In combination with JLABS, its global health innovation model continues to accelerate the development of early-stage projects around the world.

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