- Can you tell us about your new role?
I lead a group that works very closely with Janssen’s Infectious Diseases & Vaccines (IDV) franchise with the aim to identify and secure late stage assets through licensing or M&A deals. We also manage alliances once they are in place. As part of this role, we also work very closely with the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers to align on potential opportunities to pursue for the IDV franchise.
- What excites you about this new role?
IDV is an exciting space. It has suddenly been getting a lot of attention, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, but it has always been an area of exciting science. It is also an area where, as a company, we can have a very significant impact on health, both for individual patients and entire populations. For me as a deal maker, the other attractive feature is that IDV has great potential and opportunity for continued innovation. I find that the combination of exciting science and reasonable valuations is usually a fertile ground for Business Development.
- What kinds of problems are you trying to solve?
Business Development is highly competitive -- for any good asset there are multiple companies interested in securing it. Our goal as a team is to identify ahead of the competition the best assets and transact on them quickly. At the same time, J&J has differentiating scale and global reach, part of what we can uniquely leverage in aiding decisions on a variety of external assets. Furthermore, the business development team is embedded within the IDV Therapeutic Area, which makes it easier to drive decision making.
- Why this, why now?
The world has changed dramatically in the past few weeks. No matter how the current crisis is ultimately resolved, there will be a novel and long-lasting understanding of the threat that infectious diseases pose. This is likely to create novel opportunities in the space and accelerate progress. At the same time, J&J is a well-recognized, respected global healthcare company with a long history and a strong emerging portfolio and pipeline. So, in my view, there is no better time to be in infectious diseases and no better place than J&J.
- What advice do you have for innovators in this space?
My advice is to cultivate relationships with potential partners early and nurture them proactively. As you build your company and advance your science and your programs, that dialogue with potential partners can be fruitful in several ways. It helps to educate your potential partners about your approach, which in turn, can spur them to think about how to collaborate. It also helps to inform you as to what your potential partners will need to see to do a deal down the road and incorporate it early in your plans. And along the way, it builds the personal trust and relationships that I feel are a significant component of any deal.
- What challenges and opportunities do you see for companies pivoting to work on COVID-19? JLABS has several dozen companies who have turned their focus toward coronavirus research. How can we best help them?
For many companies, pivoting to work on COVID-19 can be a great way to accelerate the development of a program and potentially have a very significant impact on the pandemic and its associated human toll. There are public and private non-dilutive funding sources that are available and a streamlined path to the clinic that can be very beneficial. At the same time, this is an approach that has already been taken by many pharma and biotech companies, so this is an area that has become somewhat crowded with many approaches competing for resources.
- What do you find most rewarding about working with founders and start-ups?
I am constantly impressed by the ability of start-up founders to be innovative and craft a path in an uncharted area, whether it is to a pursue new area of science, or to find new ways to discover and develop therapies. What’s most rewarding when working with founders is to explore strategies to build and fund for the long term a business that will hopefully drive their innovation to the market while leveraging partnerships along the way. There is never a cookie-cutter solution and there are many creative ways to combine partnerships with various funding sources to progress innovative science while sharing risks and rewards.