JLABS is attractive to a continuum of innovators from first-time entrepreneurs to serial scientific founders representing diverse experiences across academic, start-up, corporate, and venture worlds.
Their common bond is their mission to develop solutions across a broad range of healthcare sectors, to enhance and save lives. Indeed, we recognized that much of the world’s creative potential and passion was untapped, so we created the QuickFire Challenges, a crowdsourcing platform to reach every type of innovator no matter where they lived, no matter who they were. All they needed was to be inspired to advance solutions for health and to demonstrate an idea, a plan that gave us a reason to believe. We’re proud to curate a robust, industry-leading network of leaders and companies from all corners of the earth who are creating the future of health.
My introduction to JLABS @ Toronto was through the Investor Hub as an investor, where we funded three companies. Based on that success, when I decided to start my own company, I applied to JLABS.
Making the transition from physician to first time entrepreneur
Caleb Hernandez clearly remembers the moment he almost lost a patient because of a dosing error. The emergency room physician recalls seeing a nurse about to administer 10 times the amount of medicine to a 5-year old girl, and called out to stop. That saved her life, but it also made him realize a desperate need to change the industry – where medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to a study by John Hopkins.
Hernandez took a different, color-coded system already used by healthcare professionals and placed it on syringes. His company, Certa Dose, will deliver its first two products this year.
I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be great if docs and nurses could be on the same page?’ But everyone is using different units.”
Caleb Hernadez, President & CEO of Certadose
Hernandez, a refugee from El Salvador, arrived in the U.S. at the age of 3 when his parents sought asylum after fleeing civil war. He first connected with J&J after scouts heard his pitch at a SXSW event. In December 2017, Johnson & Johnson Innovation named Certa Dose the winner of its Advancing the Safe Use of Healthcare Products QuickFire Challenge. Subsequent to the award, Certa Dose raised an additional $5 million and move the company to JLABS @ NYC in preparation for the launch of its first FDA approved product line.
From Diagnosis to personalised medicine by the end of the day
Envisagenics combines biology with machine learning, so finding the right infrastructure and the right community in New York City was essential. Being able to design therapies in-house is important to advance our research.”
Diagnosing the genetic cause of a disease could take months, if not years. Maria Luisa Pineda is hard at work to reduce that time to just hours.
According to Dr. Pineda, her company, Envisagenics Inc., part of JLABS @ NYC’s initial cohort, is combining Artificial Intelligence, high performance computing and RNA sequencing data from patients to discover causes – and treatments – for some of the 370 devastating diseases induced by RNA splicing errors, including acute myeloid leukemia, breast cancer and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
Pineda, a native of Colombia, has always gravitated towards science because she likes tackling difficult problems. This first-time entrepreneur heard about JLABS through her investors, who recommended JLABS after their other portfolio companies in JLABS had successful exits.
Now, as a resident company and winner of the Artificial Intelligence for Drug Discovery QuickFire Challenge, Pineda appreciates the mentorship Envisagenics is receiving.
I’ve been able to present my technology to J&J’s CEO, Alex Gorsky, and have a one-on-one with Paul Stoffels, J&J’s CSO. It’s been invaluable to get feedback from them in order to advance our science and scale the business.
(Not) losing sleep over this new family member
One of the emerging areas of research in healthcare is the microbiome – the billions of bacteria and microorganisms that inhabit our guts and coat our skin may play a role in many different areas of our health. JLABS has more than 20 microbiome companies investigating treatments for areas such as cancer, neurology, skin health, infectious diseases and nutrition.
Holobiome, a JLABS @ LabCentral company working on developing new microbiome therapies, signed a collaboration with Janssen Research & Development in January, 2018 to treat diseases of the central and enteric nervous systems.
The company is investigating whether bacteria could be used to create a unique probiotic or over-thecounter medicine that addresses sleeplessness
Phil Strandwitz, co-founder and CEO of Holobiome, said since joining JLABS in early 2018, he’s been able to attend informative events on subjects such as venture financing and commercialization, and connect with leading experts within the consumer and drug development arenas.
Interacting with the other JLABS companies has provided us a global network that would have been impossible to curate on our own. We've been exposed to tremendous resources within the J&J umbrella – we feel like we're part of a big biotechnology family..
Phil Strandwitz, co-founder and CEO of Holobiome
With the commitment and backing of Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., JLABS created Investor Hubs, a network of global investors, in each site to mentor and potentially invest in JLABS portfolio companies.
Persistence & JPALS
In the future, you may owe your good health to a chicken – or humanized chicken antibodies, to be exact. That’s because chickens offer potentially more antibody diversity than other animal models used in drug development, which could lead to better targets for life-saving therapies.
This is why a Johnson & Johnson Innovation scout in Canada was intrigued by Immune Biosolutions when they met at a remote life science conference outside of Montreal.
When the company became one of JLABS @ Toronto’s first resident companies, she connected them with several JPALS across Johnson & Johnson which culminated into an agreement with Janssen Biotech to identify and develop therapeutic antibodies for multiple targets areas, including cancer.
Immune Biosolutions was persistent and passionate, and once inside JLABS, we were able to put the company in front of the right people, and ultimately sign a deal
JLABS companies have access to a wealth of Johnson & Johnson expertise through the JPALS program. JPALS are experts within J&J that provide mentorship, access to resources, internal assets and contacts to support the companies growth.