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Zeroing in on JPOD @ Boston, the JLABS’ Health Tech Hub: A Conversation with Kate Merton and Cris De Luca

JPOD @ Boston

The JPOD @ Boston is designed to serve as a health tech industry hub for scientist entrepreneurs and life science startups in New England. Nestled in the heart of Kendall Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and co-located with the Cambridge Innovation Center’s (CIC) newly renovated ‘launchpad for exceptional entrepreneurs,’ this JPOD is primed to connect promising startups working in the pharma, medical device, consumer and digital health sectors to Johnson & Johnson experts and resources from around the globe. The site is also located in the same building as Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s Boston office, which has full and broad deal-making capabilities and a team that seeks to collaborate with regional entrepreneurs at startups, universities and institutes who are developing early-stage innovations across our areas of interest. The JPOD @ Boston is the second JLABS’ JPOD to open in the United States, with the JPOD @ Philadelphia being the first.


First things first, what is a “JPOD”?

Kate: The JLABS JPOD is a resource-stocked innovation-activation space. Health science entrepreneurs ― at all stages of discovery ― apply to be residents, and JLABS then selects high-potential start-ups who are focused on promising science that addresses important unmet medical needs to join the JLABS family.

The JPOD concept builds on the JLABS model – removing hurdles that many startups face so they can concentrate on science and discovery. Through this model, we offer “a big company advantage” to a small-stage company, providing residents access to the great knowledge-sharing that takes place across our network. The model is a win for JPOD residents, as it helps to alleviate the time restricted equity sharing model that is common with other health tech incubators. Residents are also free to develop their science, in our space and with our resources, while holding onto their intellectual property.

What’s in it for us? The privilege of unleashing early scientific discoveries that have the potential to make a real difference for the people who need them most.

We’re seeing rapid shifts within the healthcare industry spurred by the adoption of new technologies and advances in science. Often in a highly-regulated environment, such as healthcare, change can be slow and met with resistance. At Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and within the JPOD, we help entrepreneurs navigate these changes, provide access to mentorship, resources, expertise and funding opportunities and experiences that are needed to bring their companies forward.


Why did you select the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) for the JPOD @ Boston?

Kate: We believe there is a great synergy between the CIC and the JLABS vision, with the already accessible lab and coworking space, as well as established programming available for startups.

The JPOD @ Boston is designed to amplify the current CIC programming and connect with the established Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS ecosystem in the greater Boston area. With Cambridge being at the heart of healthcare innovation, the CIC proved to be a natural hub for the JPOD @ Boston.


Why is Health Tech an area of focus for JPOD @ Boston?

Cris: The confluence of healthcare institutions,  entrepreneurs, researchers, engineers, investors and a culture of collaboration has organically made the Greater Boston ecosystem a fertile breeding ground for cutting edge health tech innovation.

Startups are building the future of healthcare experiences from new ways of engagement to digital diagnostics, digital therapeutics and data sciences. The opportunity to work side-by-side such an amazing talent-base is unparalleled and clicks perfectly with our innovation strategy.


How does Johnson & Johnson Innovation “power-up” health tech companies selected to incubate at JPOD @ Boston?

Cris: Johnson & Johnson Innovation equips JPOD @ Boston residents with a mix of resources, including incubator space, subject matter experts, training, mentoring, networking programs, investing opportunities, and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs.

Our JPOD @ Boston will put the resources that health tech entrepreneurs need to advance discovery at their fingertips, while providing innovators with access to the tools necessary to navigate the tenuous journey through early discovery.

Kate: Fundamental to the JLABS experience is the opportunity for early-stage companies to hook into our global network of innovators, subject matter experts, and resources across Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s JLABS, JPODS and Innovation Centers. The 18 entrepreneurs selected for the JPOD @ Boston will build relationships with this community that can support these companies now and as they grow.


What kinds of health tech solutions will be explored at JPOD @ Boston?

Cris: Health tech startups can benefit by tapping into the expertise of J&J (the largest and most broadly-based healthcare company on the planet). Mentorship ranging from regulatory and clinical trial strategies, to disease area expertise can help shape early stage health tech companies during critical stages of early discovery and development.  

JLABS currently supports emerging health tech companies across the pharmaceutical, consumer health and medical devices sectors, working on mobile wellness management, engagement with the patient consumer, disease interception and prevention, smart devices for therapy delivery and healthy aging.  


What are you looking for in the companies that apply for the JPOD @ Boston?

Cris: We never walk in with a pre-prescribed expectation for what innovation should look like. Our health tech companies do not always fit neatly into what we consider a traditional healthcare company. Instead we ask, how is this company trying to address an unmet medical need? Is this solution transformational with plausible science? What have they built and what evidence can be demonstrated to back up their solution? Why are they the best team to solve this problem?

Kate: It all starts with a great idea, which we know can come from anywhere. We want to hear from entrepreneurs who have an idea that knocks us over and inspires us. If you have that idea, we want to hear from you.


How do companies apply?

Kate: Entrepreneurs who are interested in being a resident at the JPOD @ Boston can apply online at http://apply.jlabs.jnjinnovation.com.


JPOD @ Boston