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Beyond the Bench: Creating Life Science Incubators Using a Holistic Approach


While the financial strength of the industry continues to grow, a major barrier for starting a life science company remains the large upfront investment of money and time required to establish labs and other infrastructure.
But what if this barrier could be reduced? Could we provide entrepreneurs with access to the same advantages otherwise reserved for employees in large companies, leaving the primary hurdle the science itself? And if we minimized the many challenges of starting a new company, what are some of the essential elements needed to nurture and grow start-ups?
To explore these ideas further, we recently caught up with Kurt Hertogs, Ph.D., Head Platform Innovation & Incubator Strategy, Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center, London, and Melinda Richter, Head of JLABS to discuss Johnson & Johnson’s life science incubators further.

 Melinda Richter

   Kurt Hertogs

Q. How is Johnson & Johnson Innovation helping start-ups, and how would you describe your approach to incubators?
Dr. Hertogs: We adopt what I refer to as a broad, multifaceted approach to incubation. It is more than a physical building or infrastructure – infrastructure is a component of our incubation strategy but other aspects include our expertise and funding. Our “fit for purpose” approach is a flexible one that is tailored to the innovation venture, location or opportunity.
Ms. Richter: At JLABS, we work to identify the fundamental needs of the innovator, as well as the specific region, and ensure that needs continue to be met. We strive to provide entrepreneurs with access to many of the benefits of a big corporation within a capital-efficient, high-energy, flexible, think-tank environment, enabling the company to truly focus on advancing innovative science.
Q.  Beyond access to facilities, equipment and a physical location, what additional resources are provided by Johnson & Johnson Innovation? 
Dr. Hertogs: Within each region we operate, Johnson & Johnson Innovation provides a comprehensive and tailored solution. We evaluate many key elements in the region from a full ecosystem point of view.
Ms. Richter: In the U.S., the regional Innovation Centers in Boston and California are co-located with Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JJDC investors and JLabs facilities, enabling companies to access to our broader network of capabilities. This integrated solution is a powerful vehicle for identifying and advancing the best scientific innovation and together offers companies one-stop access to expertise, funding, services and facilities. The close proximity allows for a robust relationship to develop and therefore a more tailored solution for each partner, which may not have existed before. 
Q. How would you describe success for Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s incubator model?
Dr. Hertogs: Our ultimate aim is to enable and empower the life science community – we want to help scientists build value in their companies so they’re in a good position to do a deal or secure funding, which benefits the life science ecosystem overall. Where differences will be seen will be in how we execute within our partnerships and collaborations, how we behave as a partner and how we deliver upon our promises. At Johnson & Johnson Innovation we believe in working with entrepreneurs early on and co-creating value from an early moment – we look to create a situation where everyone is incentivised, which is a true partnership.
Ms. Richter: One measure of success is the level of funding and/or frequency of partnership between JLabs companies and our Johnson & Johnson colleagues or other industry players. We are always looking to connect innovators with the resources they might need to take their ideas to the next level – be that directly or through collaborations.