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Ken Drazan on Joining Johnson & Johnson Innovation, California


In retrospect, my early career as a liver transplant physician was excellent training for entering the biotechnology industry. Transplantations are a high risk, high reward procedure, a concept to which I think everyone in the biotech industry can relate. At the same time, I also witnessed first-hand the unmet need that exists for many medical conditions and recognized that surgery shouldn’t be the only treatment option available. To truly tackle tough diseases, we need to explore solutions that may involve therapeutics, diagnostics, health IT and/or approaches “beyond the pill” that streamline healthcare and improve patient outcomes.
Throughout my career, a driving force for me has been a passion for the challenge and reward that comes with developing a breakthrough technological solution. The biotechnology industry is an exciting space for me, because it is a field where solutions can potentially be realized. And key components to advancing cutting-edge solutions include establishing lines of communication with talented individuals and being close to the best science.
It was this goal of streamlining the exchange of ideas between regional academic centers, entrepreneurs and emerging companies, that Johnson & Johnson first established the Innovation Centers (ICs). It was a compelling concept for me: these offices provide direct access to J&J’s deal makers for scientists, entrepreneurs and companies in the region, facilitating conversation. The offices are a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs, with each IC housing science and technology experts and containing full deal-making capabilities, with flexibility to adapt deal structures to the needs of the potential partner.
In order to keep a pulse on cutting-edge technologies, the ICs are physically located in key hubs of innovation, each home to a thriving life science community. Currently the ICs are in San Francisco, Boston and London, and a fourth office in the Shanghai will open later this year.
I continue to be impressed by the diversity of innovation and quality of the science I have seen so far in my role as the head of the IC in California. I believe this is due to the many elements in the region that make it a fertile ground for science and deal making. First, there is a critical mass of world-renown universities, such as Stanford, the University of California, San Francisco, and others, as well as research institutions, such as The Scripps Research Institute, that together fuel early-stage innovation.
In addition, the region is home to a large number of entrepreneurs that come from diverse industry sectors. This includes information technology, software, telecommunications, health services and of course biotechnology, which creates a rich environment that fosters the formation of innovative ideas. Another key element is the existence of a financial structure with VCs, angel investors and corporations that have the capital needed to fund these ideas. Finally, there are skilled service providers and legal minds that can reduce friction in deal making so that value can be created for key stakeholders.
This is an exciting time to be in the life science industry, as our scientific understanding and technological capabilities rapidly advance. The addition of the deft touch of an entrepreneur can be the catalyst needed to advance a breakthrough product.
I am pleased to be part of an organization such as J&J that is eager to bring effective products to patients, and our team looks forward to working with academic centers, researchers, entrepreneurs and others in the life science community to make a difference in the lives of patients around the world. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for more information about the J&J Innovation Center in California.