In Sync at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Asia Pacific: A Conversation with Dan Wang and Sharon Chan

By JLABS
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In Sync at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Asia Pacific: A Conversation with Dan Wang and Sharon Chan

Next year, the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Asia Pacific Innovation Center will celebrate its five-year anniversary in Shanghai. The number of partnerships, collaborations and deals that have occurred since the Center’s opening is a testament to its success. Now Johnson & Johnson Innovation is poised for its next big milestone in Asia Pacific, opening the very first JLABS in the region—JLABS @ Shanghai.

Opening JLABS @ Shanghai reinforces the explosion of growth in the region and the increasingly important role it plays as a source of cutting-edge innovative science and healthcare.

Working together, the Innovation Center and JLABS @ Shanghai will nurture an ecosystem of entrepreneurial scientists progressing their transformative science into solutions that can spark the next great idea to change the trajectory of human health.

To help drive that vision, Dan Wang, MD, MBA, MPH, joined the Asia Pacific Innovation Center in February 2018. As Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, Asia Pacific, she is responsible for managing a portfolio of co-investments of new products spanning the pharmaceutical, medical device and consumer sectors of Johnson & Johnson, and expanding the external networks within the region’s innovation ecosystem. Dan has over 20 years of experience in the life sciences sector. Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson Innovation, she worked in the management team with Becton Dickinson, e-Capital Corporation, and Express Scripts, among others.

In July 2018 Sharon Chan, DPhil, MBA, MPH, joined our global JLABS team to lead JLABS @ Shanghai. Sharon joined from Aeras in Beijing, where she launched and led that office for the Bill & Melinda Gates with a focus on tuberculosis. Prior to Aeras, Sharon served on the leadership team at Baxter International in Shanghai. Sharon also has first-hand experience with startups; she worked at a London-based Japanese biotech startup, Sosei. At Sosei, she was responsible for international business development, including M&A, licensing, an IPO and financing. This entrepreneurship experience gave her unique insights into the opportunities and challenges startups face every day.

With significant scientific and leadership experience between them, Dan and Sharon are already making their mark in the Company. Today, they share their perspective on the innovation journey, the synergies of their roles, and diversity, among other things.

You both arrived at Johnson & Johnson within a few months of each other; has this simultaneous arrival impacted your roles in any way?

Dan: The Asia Pacific Innovation Center and JLABS are integral to one another and require a synergistic approach in order to find, attract, and nurture the best new science and help bring it to market.

Sharon: Because we both came on board during the same timeframe, we started our Innovation journey together, and were able to co-create strategies right from the start. This has been enormously helpful, and I believe we have fed into each other’s success, as we both focus on building a strong life science ecosystem in Asia Pacific.

Can you describe the synergies between your roles and how they complement each other?

Sharon: JLABS opens doors for startups by providing residents with “no strings attached” incubator space, global networks, and insights into scientific development and commercialization that help turn scientific discoveries into breakthrough healthcare products. JLABS @ Shanghai can accommodate over 50 start-ups, and Johnson & Johnson Innovation plays a broader role supporting these companies and other innovators across the region.

Dan: That’s right. Our Innovation Center team serves as a one-stop shop for early-stage innovators across the ecosystem, including startups, academics, institutes, and others, providing them with access to the broader Johnson & Johnson Innovation network, which includes R&D and therapeutic area expertise, deal-making teams and a venture capital arm. The synergy lies in how our teams work together to identify and nurture innovation across the ecosystem. Many Innovation Center members also serve as JPALS to mentor up and coming companies on development and commercialization.

What is the one factor that you consider pivotal to encouraging innovation?

Sharon: For me, having the right people is everything. We believe that a great idea can come from anywhere, but it all starts with talented people, or as we call them at JLABS, a Rockstar team. Having the right talent plays a pivotal role in building a vibrant, innovative research environment, and we’re seeing a lot of exciting talent emerge across Asia Pacific. But they need help to succeed, and mentoring and access to a global community of experts is key to their success.

Dan: For me it’s nurturing and accelerating the innovators. It’s great to have a wonderful idea, but if it never reaches the people and patients who need it, it has very little value. That’s why at the Asia Pacific Innovation Center, we focus on helping innovators succeed by providing them with the expertise and resources they need to catalyze and accelerate innovation – transforming great ideas into commercially viable solutions.

There’s been a big focus on female leadership in the media at the moment; how do you feel Johnson & Johnson supports diversity?

Dan: We are fortunate here at Johnson & Johnson in China to have so many women in key leadership positions. For example, in Johnson & Johnson’s China Research & Development business, 68 percent of our total employees are female. Additionally, we have been recognized globally as a diverse and inclusive organization by many external rankings; in May, Johnson & Johnson was announced the top company in America for diversity in DiversityInc magazine and the #1 ranking in the Japanese magazine Nikkei Woman for 100 Best Companies Where Women Play an Active Part.

Sharon: More than a third of our global corporate executive base is female, and in the US, over 40% of management positions are held by women. At JLABS, 23% of the startups in the program are led by women and 18% are led by an ethnic minority – numbers that are significantly above industry standards.

We also continue to invest in initiatives like our WiSTEM2D Scholars Program, which provides funding and mentorship for women in what we call “STEM2D” concentration areas: science, technology, engineering, math, manufacturing and design. Building a diverse STEM2D community is one approach Johnson & Johnson is taking as part of a broader effort to accelerate the development of women leaders and support women at all stages of their lives to improve global health and well-being and to drive sustainable economic growth.

What can we expect from Johnson & Johnson Innovation in 2019?

Sharon: We already have an impressive group of startups ready to join the new JLABS facility, and we look forward to showcasing these companies and their innovative science in 2019, as well as working with Dan and her team to broaden their access to Johnson & Johnson resources. We are also working closely with Bo Liu, our principal China venture lead at JJDC, the strategic venture capital arm of Johnson & Johnson, as we pursue opportunities to solve critical healthcare needs. Stay tuned for information on our exciting grand opening plans!

Dan: Central to what we do at Johnson & Johnson Innovation is our ability to identify and attract new and exciting science that transforms patients’ lives and moves us closer to our vision of realizing a world without disease. For 2019 and in our fifth year at the Asia Pacific Innovation Center, I look forward to enabling the region’s strong capabilities and emerging science technologies on a much deeper level and help Asian innovators realize their potential for translational health care.