At Johnson & Johnson Innovation, we seek to positively impact human health through innovation. As part of our goal, we are introducing a new series called “The Exchange,” where we highlight our leaders and partners who are merging science and collaboration to improve people's lives around the world.
In 2020, an estimated 19.3 million people were diagnosed with cancer around the world; nearly half were in Asia alone. From hematologic malignancies to solid tumors, there remains a significant and urgent unmet need to prevent, manage, and cure cancer. To address this, Johnson & Johnson Innovation is relentlessly committed to advancing oncology science and treatments through an open-innovation, collaborative approach. An area of focus is on immune therapy – one of the most significant advancements in the treatment of cancer.
We recently sat down with Charles Drake, Vice President of Immuno-Oncology at Janssen Research & Development, LLC, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, to discuss emerging industry trends and the types of solutions his team is looking to develop through strategic partnerships.
Q: What is Janssen’s overall goal in the field of immuno-oncology and what is Janssen doing to lead in global R&D?
A: From a global effort, Janssen is seeking to lead immuno-oncology in a couple of ways. One is that we hope to be pioneers in cell therapy. Here we have emerging drugs for multiple myeloma and drugs for other malignancies including solid tumors. The other way is to be pioneers in terms of combining immuno-oncology agents with other agents. In that regard, we are looking at a number of assets in a number of spaces, including some internal.
Q: What are some of the emerging trends that you see in immuno-oncology globally?
A: A major trend we’re seeing is taking the knowledge that we have from using cell therapy to cure hematologic malignancies and applying this to solid tumors, with the goal of curing them. We also see more attention on CD3 redirectors, which are exciting drugs that can turn immune cells on as they drag them into the tumor and recognize that there are suppressive elements in the tumor microenvironment that need to be blocked or eliminated to improve efficacy of the immune drugs.
Q: What do you look for in strategic partners in pursuing solutions for patients with cancer around the world?
A: First, we study the potential collaborator’s asset itself – the science behind it and the actual molecular structure and developability. The second thing we look at is whether there are any clinical data. But honestly, and importantly, we look for compatibility We really value long-term strategic partnerships where we have an ongoing relationship as opposed to a transfer in one direction of an asset or a concept.
Q: Why is the work that you are doing meaningful and what impact do you want it to have for patients?
A: As an oncologist, I have seen immuno-oncology agents cure patients with cancer firsthand. Unfortunately, this scenario is rare, and our goal is to change that. We want to advance and deliver agents or combinations of agents that make these kinds of outcomes more common. This obviously isn’t a short-term goal, but I think it’s achievable.
To learn more about immuno-oncology and partnering with Johnson & Johnson Innovation, we encourage you to join our immuno-oncology webinar on June 23 from 8:30am-9:30am (GMT +8) and apply for a 1:1 meeting if you have a transformational idea in oncology.
If you are based in the Asia Pacific and would like to connect with us on other therapeutic areas, reach out to our
Regional Sourcing Leader, Charleen Nien at email@example.com
 “Global Cancer Statistics 2020: GLOBOCAN Estimates of Incidence and Mortality Worldwide for 36 Cancers in 185 Countries.” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, vol. 71, no. 3, 2021, doi.org/10.3322/caac.21660.