Returning to his roots: Introducing our NYC, Philadelphia & Boston Leader

By JLABS
Q&A

With a personal mission to help tackle some of the biggest healthcare challenges of our time, Stephen Pitt has joined our team as the newly appointed Head of JLABS @ US North East (NYC, Boston, & Philadelphia). Stephen returns to Johnson & Johnson after building the emerging science and digital innovation teams at GlaxoSmithKline.

For more than 20 years, Stephen has led R&D teams focused on drug discovery, product development and consumer healthcare within global pharmaceutical companies as well as a biotech start-up. He earned his Ph.D. in Molecular Pharmacology from Cornell Medical School and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

His diverse experience at the intersection of science and technology and instinct for inspiring increased connectivity across organizations and industries have uniquely prepared him to take the helm at JLABS @ US North East.

This week we had the opportunity to connect with Stephen and learn more about what drives his interest in life sciences and his vision for JLABS.

Q: You’ve worked in several different roles at Johnson & Johnson and within the biopharmaceutical industry throughout your career. Can you speak to those earlier experiences & how you feel they position you to be particularly effective in this new role as head of JLABS @ US North East (NYC, Boston, & Philadelphia)?

Being in the industry for 20 years, you see firsthand what it takes for early-stage science to succeed. You also understand the risk-taking mentality needed to go after potential solutions for the biggest unmet medical need. Honing those instincts has helped me to pinpoint the most promising up-and-coming research and technologies and channel how best to invest in them. Not every great idea pans out, but at JLABS we aim to give entrepreneurs the tools, resources and mentoring necessary to take the leap towards viability.

Throughout my career, working with and leading cross-functional teams allowed me to develop an entrepreneurial mindset while maintaining the ability to pull back, offer perspective and connect the dots to identify promising opportunities. I’ve learned that building collaborations that are a win-win for all parties is all about being open and transparent. When we follow our passions and are true to being on the forefront of research for an unmet need, it’s then that we have the best minds working to advance early-stage science with huge potential.

Q: Your role covers three vastly different cities. NYC is known for its grit, fashion, Wall Street—and is now host to a flourishing life sciences community. Boston continues to be a hotbed for health innovation and Philly has an extensive academic research and start-up community including seven medical schools. What does the future of the health innovation space for the North East American ecosystem look like for innovators and the community at large according to you?

Our teams in NYC, Boston, and Philadelphia, and across the world for that matter, always seek to look beyond the boundaries of traditional ‘healthcare innovation hubs’ in search of the best science. The healthcare challenges we are up against are just too great to lock our focus in on one location. We need to collaborate with world-class experts in the top ecosystems with the aim to solve complex health issues and this is where new technologies can help solve these challenges.

The northeast region of the United States is ripe with potential—whether it comes from the “most innovative square mile on earth” in Kendall Square, the Pennovation Center (Penn Medicine) in Philly or SoHo in NYC (with access to 3 of the top 10 medical schools in the US). JLABS is a model built to explore what is possible when you have access to a global network.

I see NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, at all different places on the continuum of life science innovation. Boston’s ecosystem is mature and saturated yet continues to churn out novel science; NYC is up-and-coming with a diversity of extremely accomplished scientists and thought; Philly is, in a sense, a diamond in the rough when it comes to the breakthrough science we see coming from early-stage companies. It is our job at JLABS to help entrepreneurs navigate their journey to commercialization by connecting them with the right partners, the right investors and the right lab space and resources to support their success no matter where they reside.

Q: In your view, what are the hottest trends in healthcare innovation?

From my early days working in drug discovery, I have always been interested in the way we can use tech tools to answer biological questions. The world of digital health is complicated, big and more difficult to define. In some ways we’re looking for miracles from digital health—but for me, we will only see success when we strategically deploy it to increase healthcare availability and personalized strategies.

One such avenue that could benefit from health tech applications I feel is chronic disease management through tools that can holistically collect and interpret health data from different sources. We’re starting to see a shift to new personalized chronic disease management paradigms.  Researchers can leverage the data from wearables, advances in biomarkers, and utilize machine learning to garner health insights and more precisely steer treatment regimens.

By using an integrated approach, we could monitor critical changes in an individual’s health status from across the continuum of healthy, to incubation of disease onset, to symptomatic disease. Personalized recommendation engines could integrate diagnostic measurements to warn high-risk individuals when they are still healthy and before symptoms occur to take action or help chronic suffers select the right intervention at the right time.

Q: How will you measure success in your first year at JLABS? What are you most looking forward to? What do you think might be challenging?

It’s invigorating to join a team that has developed JLABS into an engine that has had a global impact – fueling entrepreneurs and start-ups – in such a short amount of time. The JLABS resident company success stories speak for themselves.

For me, further success for JLABS would be making progress against some of our most challenging health problems—digital health technologies to modernize clinical trials and better align with scientific discovery and technology advances, moving toward holistic disease management, or making inroads into Immunology & Neurodegenerative disease treatment and prevention—to name a few. We at JLABS are committed to doing all we can to support entrepreneurs to advance their science in these areas and other areas of great unmet medical need.

Learn more!
Interested in becoming a JLABS Resident, please visit: http://apply.jlabs.jnjinnovation.com/

For more information about JLABS in the US North East, please visit: