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The world is our laboratory

Janssen's Thomas Stark on his company's approach to innovation, collaboration and research
The world is our laboratory

When Dr Paul Janssen, our company's founder, was still running our research and development operations, he would make a daily circuit around the labs asking each researcher his celebrated catchphrase, “What's new?” To him, the constant quest for innovation was the driving force behind R&D. He became one of the most productive medical innovators and drug discoverers of the 20th century, helping to develop over 80 new medicines - and, in so doing, helping to save or improve the lives of countless people across the globe.

Today transformational innovation remains the lifeblood of everything we do at Janssen. Our goal is to improve patient outcomes in the most serious unmet medical needs of our time, including neglected diseases. We are focused on discovering, developing and delivering differentiated medicines and solutions, often in close collaboration with external research partners. In addition to our ongoing R&D and research partnerships, we have two complementary initiatives to help us achieve this: Janssen Healthcare Innovation (JHI) and J&J Innovation.

JHI is an entrepreneurial group that develops and launches integrated care solutions with cost-effective service models to improve healthcare delivery and quality of care. Our strategy is to harness the best science in the world, whether from our own laboratories, or through partnerships and collaborations with academia, biotech and other pharmaceutical companies.

From our Innovation Centers - located in Boston, California, London and Shanghai - J&J Innovation seeks to enhance our dialogue and interaction on the best science and technology with external research groups around the Globe. We then catalyse, support and invest in highly differentiated early-stage innovations that will turn into products - medical device and diagnostic technologies, consumer healthcare products, pharmaceuticals and healthcare solutions - that extend and improve peoples' lives.

Harnessing collaborations
We currently have more than 100 ongoing collaborations and alliances globally. These strategic relationships take many forms, but our goal is always the same: to advance scientific research to deliver innovative, differentiated solutions that provide value to patients, physicians, healthcare systems, and ultimately societies around the world.

One recent example is a collaboration with the Karolinska Institutet, where we set up an innovation hub to nurture academic research breakthroughs and support the advance of such ideas into life science start-ups. Bridging the gap between academia and industry, the collaboration aims to meet the needs of entrepreneurs in the pharmaceutical, medical technology and healthcare sectors. It will include knowledge sharing, establishment of coaching and scouting programmes, investments into the development of ideas into finished concepts, and funding for start-ups. The collaboration also includes projects to advance the understanding and right use of real-world data in helping to inform healthcare decision-making. So a truly unique collaboration that spans from basic research to assessing real life impact of innovation.

Promoting entrepreneurial spirit
The J&J Innovation Centers were set up specifically to facilitate the exchange of ideas between entrepreneurs and scientists, and to provide a framework to garner support for new initiatives, both of which are critical to advancing transformative innovations.

It's difficult to find seed support for potential breakthrough ideas. We know that. So, along with our parent company, Johnson & Johnson, we created our Entrepreneur Innovator Program (EIP). Our EIP fuels the ecosystem with opportunities for new companies across consumer, medical device and diagnostics, and pharmaceutical sectors. The mechanism is simple; entrepreneurs propose an interesting business idea or area of science for development. Intellectual property is owned by entrepreneurs but we provide financial support and optional advice and guidance as well as offering office and incubator space. After a successful business plan pitch, we may help support the formation of a new company that is 100% owned by the entrepreneur.

Focused specialties
At Janssen, we have focused our research into five important therapeutic areas: Cardiovascular & Metabolic diseases, Immunology, Infectious diseases & vaccines, Neuroscience and Oncology. Through extensive medical research our solutions may be able to alleviate, contain or cure some of the world's most serious conditions and diseases. We developed Sirturo (bedaquiline), the first new medicine for tuberculosis in 40 years, which received the UK Prix Galien Award for most innovative orphan drug in October 2014.

This year, through J&J Innovation, we will invest $10m into the UK government-led Global Dementia Discovery Fund, supporting innovative research into the area. We have also collaborated with the NHS, to launch The NHS Innovation Challenge Prize for Dementia. This was set up in 2013 to identify innovative solutions for dementia care. Designed with input from the dementia community, including healthcare experts, charities, people with dementia and their carers, it aims to identify initiatives that demonstrate improved dementia care via a comprehensive integrated approach across health, care and support services for people with dementia.

We are also dedicated to developing a vaccine for Ebola. We committed $200m to accelerate and significantly expand the production of our Ebola vaccine programme. The vaccine regimen, which was discovered in a collaborative research programme with the National Institutes of Health, combines our preventative vaccine with a vaccine from Bavarian Nordic, a biotechnology company based in Denmark. As part of an overall commitment to advance innovations that address unmet medical needs worldwide, a team of dedicated experts were assigned to focus on bringing this preventative vaccine to people in need. Our commitment also included an equity investment in Bavarian Nordic to provide capital for the development, testing and production of Bavarian Nordic's vaccine. In January we announced the start of phase I clinical trials in the UK and US, production of 400,000 vaccine regimens and formation of Innovative Medicines Initiative-funded consortia to test, manufacture and deploy the Ebola vaccine regimen. Through this summer and into the second half of the year phase I, II and III trials are planned in Europe and Africa, as well as long-term investments in local vaccination infrastructure.

The perceived societal value of healthcare interventions is increasingly based on the positive health outcomes bestowed on the patient

Putting the patient at the centre
Healthcare interventions need to offer value to society and the perceived societal value is increasingly based on the positive health outcomes bestowed on the patient. In the past an 'outcome' was measured as a clinical outcome, but evaluations are becoming increasingly patient-centric, better reflecting patient goals rather than just those of their physician. In addition, evidence from clinical trials may still be sufficient to secure a drug's marketing authorisation, but ongoing 'real-world' evidence from clinical practice is key to comprehensively demonstrate that medicines deliver on their promise once they are used outside the tightly monitored research environment. This is a global, not just European, drive; when I attended this year's Annual Meeting for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), I could see it was a key theme there throughout the programme. At the centre of the many discussions was how best to define benefit and value for cancer treatments. This important dialogue must be continued among all key stakeholders in the health-care system.

As part of JHI, we created the Care4Today master brand. Reflecting our commitment to transforming healthcare for patients, it provides tools and information to patients and caregivers with the goal of improving health outcomes. The outcomes-focused solutions are designed to help deliver quality and customised healthcare when and where our patients need it. At present, there are four sub-branded solutions within Care4Today: Heart Health Solutions, Mental Health Solutions, Mobile Health Manager and Orthopaedic Solutions. These tools help patients feel connected with their health, providing them with guidance and support, as well as reminders to take their medicine and reports tracking their progress.

The future of R&D
We know that R&D can offer huge benefits to patient outcomes and we understand that investment in R&D is essential to improving patient well-being. The new, more holistic research that includes looking into integrated healthcare solutions has enabled us to make progress in areas such as global public health, personalised medicine, orphan drugs and biologics. But innovation comes at a cost - in 2011 alone, the industry invested €27.5bn into research and development in Europe. More rigorous tests and additional trials mean the cost of conducting pharmaceutical research is still rising. This is all set within the intense economic pressure on European health systems and tightening healthcare budgets, with more stringent regulation and greater demand for more tailored healthcare services.

That said, there is a rising demand for innovative medicines and solutions. Today, investment in R&D is more imperative than ever, as scientists and researchers have conquered many of the low-hanging fruits of innovation and are tackling some of medicine's more complex challenges: cancer, diabetes, HIV and more. The R&D processes required to develop such treatments are complicated, costly, and time-consuming - but the benefits are worth the investment, as we are already seeing. 

Article by
Thomas Stark

is VP, medical affairs at Janssen EMEA

5th January 2016

From: Research



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