The Future of Healthcare Innovation: Top #JPM2021 Takeaways

It’s a wrap for the first-ever virtual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. While #JPM2021 looked very different in many ways, I am inspired by the energy and resilience I witnessed. From the numerous panel sessions, partnering meetings and industry announcements, it was evident there is a sense of optimism that healthcare innovation is thriving and holding greater promise than ever.

Here are a few of my takeaways that capture the essence of delivering meaningful outcomes for people and patients.

  • The validation of new modalities we saw in 2020 will drive the continued creation of next generation platforms that will help overcome current barriers and open new opportunities to address critical needs. Exciting validation drivers include mRNA vaccines going through accelerated development and approval, RNAi shifting from an age of platform development to serial product approvals, and cell and gene therapies moving from promise to practice thanks to important innovations overcoming past barriers.
  • The role of data and digital technologies will be critical in shaping the future of healthcare, as also highlighted during this year’s Consumer Electronics Showcase (CES), which ran concurrently with #JPM2021. In particular, at the convergence of consumer and medical technologies, the promise of 5G connectivity and zero latency enable data to be leveraged in real time for improved patient care – anywhere from the operating room to consumer health products. We will continue to see tremendous opportunity with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) serving as vehicles to help drive decision-making at all levels of healthcare from discovery to clinical development and every “real world” setting. Finally, telemedicine, wearable devices and other tools will continue to live on - beyond the COVID-19 pandemic - as a driving force to making healthcare delivery more efficient, convenient and personal. New tools and technologies will continue to shape the transition from ‘sick care to ‘health care’ through prevention, early detection and interception of disease – an area that is also a focus of Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s World Without Disease approach. Chris Picariello, Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JJDC, Inc., recently described novel advances in digital healthcare solutions and how they can lead to more personalized care and patient empowerment
  • Pandemic preparedness will be at the forefront of future healthcare efforts. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the innovation community managed to pivot with speed to identify and develop new solutions to help address current medical needs as well as the unexpected. The pandemic experience will continue to drive and mobilize a new wave of innovation - from early and real-time detection and diagnostics to manufacturing resilience and health security initiatives - that will expand beyond infectious diseases to other health conditions. Here, too, learnings from the tech industry will be important. At Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JLABS, we are strengthening pandemic preparedness by collaborating 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, to form BLUE KNIGHT™. Blue Knight aims to stimulate the innovation and incubation of technologies that improve health security and response through companies focused on public health threats and emerging infectious diseases.
  • Strong patient engagement will be essential to ensuring new solutions and distribution channels are relevant and accessible for patients, including minority and under-served communities. Here, too, there are many opportunities to adopt customer engagement models and iterative development practices from the tech industry for healthcare.
  • Collaboration will continue to be critical in helping to support the development and delivery of new transformative solutions to people around the world. An unexpected consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the sense of urgency and volume of opportunity for partners in the global life sciences community to collaborate, to learn from each other and to be resilient.

The world continues to change. What remains true, however, is that by embracing transformational, not incremental, innovation we can jointly create a brighter future. In the new normal virtual collaboration reality, this year’s “JPM” week served, more than ever before, as a stimulation to extend productive partnering throughout the year - to connect, share knowledge and translate great ideas into powerful solutions with an ever-expanding community of innovators and entrepreneurs around the world.

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Michal Preminger is Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, East North America, located at the Innovation Center in Boston. She leads the Innovation Center team to build, advance and manage Johnson & Johnson’s external R&D portfolio of collaborations and co-investments spanning across pharmaceuticals, consumer health products and medical devices.