A Daily Dose of Collaboration Could Be Just What Healthcare Startups Need
May 19, 2016
GE Reports Canada
As Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels rode the elevator up for the launch of Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s new JLABS @ Toronto incubator this week, a young life-science innovator — soon to be a new occupant of the facility — turned to him and said: “Thank you for inviting us to set up here. We’re going to cure Alzheimer’s.”
For Stoffels, the brief encounter stood out as an example of the drive that arises when an ecosystem of scientific innovators is brought together. A facility like Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS (JLABS) — a research and development facility for early-stage health-science entrepreneurs — is where the ambition to cure major diseases will become a faster reality due to the collaborative efforts of companies large and small, from start-ups to multinationals.
Located in a new, 3,700 square-metre facility in Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, the incubator features labs, offices and meeting rooms for up to 50 startups on “no strings attached” leases. It will welcome 22 companies this summer from sectors including therapeutics, medical devices and consumer-health solutions.
The companies will benefit in several ways, including access to costly laboratory infrastructure, which can be a major hurdle for young health-science enterprises. As a partnership between Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, the University of Toronto, MaRS Discovery District, MaRS Innovation, Janssen Inc., the Ontario government and six Toronto hospital partners, JLABS @ Toronto will also give the startups access to scientific and business expertise to accelerate their work and help them scale and commercialize their innovations.
GE is a major contributor of equipment to the facility, which builds on the company’s collaborative approach to innovation, scale and sharing of expertise. GE’s Life Sciences equipment, including Protein Purification and Protein-Protein interaction tools, will give JLABS @ Toronto startups the tools they need to test and validate game-changing concepts. And it’s the kind of space where GE wants to be — in the labs where the next great ideas are being forged.
JLABS @ Toronto is Johnson & Johnson’s sixth incubator and the first to open outside the United States. The model is a proven success — more than 140 companies are working out of JLABS facilities across the continent — and it has nurtured life-science clusters in cities such as San Diego, San Francisco, Houston and Boston.
Close proximity to the University of Toronto and local hospitals is integral to the ecosystem. “The University of Toronto is second only to Harvard in the number of peer-reviewed papers published in academic journals,” says Rebecca Yu, head of JLABS @ Toronto. “And the hospitals are doing excellent science.” This is their laboratory, Yu continues. Instead of working in silos, partners can work together. “Everybody is vested,” Yu says.
During the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the facility on Wednesday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne also noted that the JLABS @ Toronto partnership will entice a new wave of startups, attract and retain talent, and strengthen the province’s economy.
This is all part of the main goal behind the program — assisting scientists to commercialize their work, helping them with funding, and guiding them to find the right markets, wherever they might be in the world. That begins, Yu says, with building a “world-class” health-science ecosystem here in Toronto, a community that GE Life Sciences is eager to build right alongside Johnson & Johnson.