Johnson & Johnson Innovation and BARDA Select a Surge Force of Companies with the Aim to Combat the COVID-19 Pandemic as Part of Its BLUE KNIGHT™ Collaboration

Blue Knight is a joint initiative between Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS
and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) that aims to stimulate and accelerate innovation to improve global health security

Blue Knight continues to build on the series of collaborations between Johnson & Johnson and BARDA with the aim to prevent and effectively manage future infectious disease threats

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 27, 2020 - Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC today announced the first companies to be part of its medical countermeasure innovation collaboration called Blue Knight, a joint initiative dedicated to anticipating potential health security threats, activating the global innovation community, and amplifying scientific and technological advancements with the aim to prepare for and respond to our rapidly evolving global health environment. Blue Knight has been developed in collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS), a global network of life science incubators empowering and enabling innovators to deliver potential life-enhancing health and wellness solutions to people around the globe.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation and BARDA selected seven companies from across the global JLABS portfolio for their promising work to fill gaps in the current set of available COVID-19 diagnostic, therapeutic, vaccine and other technology potential solutions. These start-up companies will be the first cohort to enter the Blue Knight collaboration. They will receive combined support of up to $500,000 and mentorship from BARDA and the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies with the aim to accelerate the development of their potential solutions to the patients, frontline healthcare workers and communities who need them.

“We live in an interconnected world where infectious diseases such as TB, HIV, Ebola, Zika and most recently COVID-19 have no borders,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer and Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee, Johnson & Johnson. “That is why at Johnson & Johnson, we work together with our partners to unlock the collective power of the global community with the aim to prevent and respond to health security threats of today while also nurturing the innovative ideas and ingenuity of the scientists and entrepreneurs working to secure our health in the future.”

Blue Knight continues to build on established collaborations between Johnson & Johnson and BARDA with the aim to accelerate potential therapies and vaccines to protect against COVID-19 and other infectious disease threats and seeks to leverage the experience of Johnson & Johnson Innovation to catalyze communities of entrepreneurs, investors and thought leaders to further promote and support the development of related, potential treatments and prevention solutions.

“Our preparedness and response to emerging public health threats as well as existing debilitating diseases requires new, transformational approaches,” said William N. Hait, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation. “Through Blue Knight, jointly with BARDA, Johnson & Johnson Innovation aims to identify and nurture the best ideas of early-stage companies from across our global innovation network to accelerate the development of potentially life-changing new solutions aimed to prevent, intercept, treat and cure serious diseases.”

The following JLABS resident companies have been selected as the first Blue Knight companies:

  • 7 Hills Pharma, JLABS @ TMC: 7 Hills Pharma’s oral immune stimulant is a clinical-stage, first-in-concept treatment aimed to stimulate the body’s immune response against tumor and infectious disease antigens, including SARS-CoV-2.
  • Autonomous Therapeutics, Inc. (ATI), JLABS @ NYC: ATI is developing the first pan-coronavirus prophylactics with the aim of preventing infections by any coronavirus, from COVID-19 to the next threat.
  • Epic Bio, JLABS @ SSF: The technology of Epic Bio leverages the recently discovered Cas13d nuclease molecule to specifically cleave and degrade viral RNA sequences with high efficiency and having the potential to serve as a novel prophylactic antiviral approach to combat SARS-CoV-2.
  • Gabi SmartCare, JLABS @ BE: Gabi SmartCare developed a remote monitoring solution that combines advanced medical wearable technologies and predictive digital analytics aimed at enabling the early detection and recovery surveillance of respiratory issues.
  • Genome Biologics, JLABS @ BE: Through novel approaches using its GENIMAPS® computational platform, Genome Biologics aims to find unknown links between FDA/EMA-approved drugs and disease and to validate those findings singularly and in combination using its patented TrueCardium™ organoid platform to identify the most relevant matches, including identifying a number of high-potential treatments for COVID-19.
  • Persephone Biosciences, Inc., JLABS @ San Diego: Persephone's microbiome therapeutic is envisioned to be used to enhance immunity which may reduce chances of coronavirus infection and could also be used to increase the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines in development.
  • Specific Biologics Inc., JLABS @ Toronto: Specific Biologics is leveraging its research in lung diseases with the aim to develop a nanoparticle-delivered gene editor to target and eliminate the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as a potential therapeutic for COVID-19.

“In our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, we must act with urgency to support the entrepreneurs working on the ‘fragile frontlines’ of innovation. These pioneers in science and research are working, often with limited resources, to bring the potential healthcare solutions needed today over the finish line, as well as advance the vaccines, technologies and therapies of tomorrow.” said Melinda Richter, Global Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS. “Blue Knight was designed to be bold in anticipating emerging threats, activating the global innovation community in new ways and amplifying the technological advances that aim to secure the future health of our families and communities.”

Blue Knight Expands Footprint to Three Additional Innovation Hubs

Blue Knight looks to expand its residency opportunities beyond  JLABS @ Washington, DC by extending the Blue Knight footprint to JLABS locations in New York City, San Diego and Toronto. In addition to joining JLABS at these four locations, all Blue Knight companies will receive dedicated mentorship from the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies and BARDA with the aim to help develop their ideas and navigate research, development and regulatory pathways as they work toward the realization of their prospective health security products and technologies and participate in targeted virtual programming and symposia. BARDA and JLABS will co-sponsor programming customized to the needs of Blue Knight companies, aligned with key areas of interest in infectious disease, public health, and company acceleration. The symposia will seek to convene the Blue Knight community with thought leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs working to bolster our response capacity and capabilities.  

Blue Knight will also offer a virtual residency, whereby companies dedicated to improving the speed and effectiveness of the nation’s response to emerging health security threats can apply to join the JLABS global network. These virtual Blue Knight companies, who are not location dependent and do not require lab space, will receive access to resources and programming along with dedicated mentorship from the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies and BARDA.

“BARDA’s partnership with Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS is part of the whole-of- America approach needed to respond not only to COVID-19 but also to the myriad of evolving health security threats our nation faces,” said Acting BARDA Director Gary Disbrow, Ph.D. “With Blue Knight embedded within the global JLABS network, we can support healthcare entrepreneurs focused on the development of advanced innovations to improve our nation’s response capability and protect us all from future public health emergencies.”

Applications submitted to be selected as a Blue Knight resident are reviewed on a rolling basis. For more information about Blue Knight or to apply for Blue Knight residency in Washington, D.C., New York City, San Diego and Toronto, visit https://jlabs.jnjinnovation.com/blue-knight.  

Blue Knight programs are underway in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation experts from around the world. To view and register for upcoming Blue Knight programs, visit https://jlabshub.splashthat.com/.

* * * *

About HHS, ASPR and BARDA

HHS works to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services. The mission of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats. Within ASPR, BARDA invests in the advanced research and development, acquisition, and manufacturing of medical countermeasures – vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products needed to combat health security threats. For more about ASPR and BARDA, visit www.phe.gov/aspr and to learn more about partnering with BARDA, visit www.medicalcountermeasures.gov.

About Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC focuses on accelerating all stages of innovation worldwide and forming collaborations between entrepreneurs and Johnson & Johnson’s global healthcare businesses. Johnson & Johnson Innovation provides scientists, entrepreneurs and emerging companies with one-stop access to science and technology experts who can facilitate collaborations across the pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer companies of Johnson & Johnson. Under the Johnson & Johnson Innovation umbrella of businesses, we connect with innovators through our regional Innovation Centers; Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS; Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc.; and our business development teams to create customized deals and novel collaborations that speed development of innovations to solve unmet needs in patients. JLABS provides the laboratories, expertise, education, tools and resources needed to help life science startups thrive. A Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center for Device Innovation at the Texas Medical Center (CDI @ TMC) has been established to accelerate the development of medical devices. For more information about Johnson & Johnson Innovation, please visit: www.jnjinnovation.com.

About Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS

Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS) is a global network of open innovation ecosystems, enabling and empowering innovators across a broad healthcare spectrum including pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer and health tech sectors to create and accelerate the delivery of life-saving, life-enhancing health and wellness solutions to patients around the world. JLABS achieves this by providing the optimal environment for emerging companies to catalyze growth and optimize their research and development by opening them to vital industry connections, delivering entrepreneurial programs and providing a capital-efficient, flexible platform where they can transform the scientific discoveries of today into the breakthrough healthcare solutions of tomorrow. At JLABS, we value great ideas and are passionate about removing obstacles to success to help innovators unleash the potential of their early scientific discoveries. JLABS is a no-strings-attached model, which means entrepreneurs are free to develop their science while holding on to their intellectual property. JLABS also produces campaigns to seek out the best science called QuickFire Challenges. For more information, visit www.jlabs.jnjinnovation.com or follow @JLABS.

# # #

For more information:
Rachel Rath
Director, BARDA Alliance
rrath4@its.jnj.com