Johnson & Johnson Is Making Room for Innovative Ideas to Thrive

For more than 130 years, Johnson & Johnson has created value for patients, customers, employees, and shareholders through the development and provision of innovative products and solutions. As one of the largest and most diversified healthcare companies in the world, J&J has been able to devote significant resources to research and development across its three business segments – consumer, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals – with US$12.2 billion invested in R&D in 2020 alone.

Johnson & Johnson Medical Taiwan General Manager Louis Ko

How does innovation come to be second nature for a company? At J&J, there is a distinct emphasis on creativity, and a belief that a great idea can come from anywhere. A prime example of this approach is the innovative hemostatic powder technology devised by J&J’s Principal Scientist of Biosurgery R&D, Allen Y. Wang.

Wang, whose story is one of dedication and triumphing over the odds, is originally from Taiwan. Although he failed his high school and college entrance exams, Wang was taken in during his junior year of college by the head of Tunghai University’s chemistry department, who asked him to intern in his organic chemistry synthesis lab, starting from the very bottom position and working his way up. After graduating, Wang was accepted into National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University’s Biomedical Engineering master’s program and then pursued his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University.

Several years later, after over a decade working at J&J, Wang was researching how to staunch uncontrolled bleeding from hard-to-locate sources that occurs during more than 50% of surgeries. He and his team had already tested several methods, all of which had failed to completely resolve the issue. However, while eating breakfast one morning, he had a eureka moment while looking at the interlacing pattern of shredded potato in his hash brown. He brought the idea of similarly structuring the oxidized cellulose fibers in a hemostatic powder to his team. A few years later, this idea was turned into a great hemostatic product intended to save more lives globally.

In November 2020, Wang and his team were awarded the prestigious Johnson Medal for their invention. Upon receiving this esteemed honor, Wang displayed great humbleness by noting that failure is a part of innovation. Only by accepting that failure and learning from it can one find the right answer. He also encouraged other scientists to be confident and to continue challenging themselves.

Wang’s story is not unique at J&J. The company’s multiple Innovation Centers and JLABS incubators seek to ensure that breakthroughs are continuously achieved. By placing scientific and deal-making experts in these innovation hotspots, J&J provides the space for early-stage ideas to grow into advanced technologies and top-quality products for patients and consumers. The Innovation Centers promote collaboration and have facilitated more than 580 deals with innovators over the past six years. Meanwhile, JLABS facilities give early-stage innovators access to the company’s state-of-the-art infrastructure, commercial expertise, and venture capital provided by the Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation.

In Taiwan, J&J has been partnering since 2017 with the World Without Disease Accelerator of Janssen R&D and the Industrial Technology Research Institute on an annual grant call to foster Taiwan’s academia-industry life science ecosystem. Each year, the partners select several proposals for 1- to 3-year research collaborations, providing funding and mentorship to accelerate these projects, which cover various therapeutic areas. Thus far, J&J has reviewed over 200 proposals and the company plans to expand the scope of the grant’s focus areas for this year’s round.

J&J is also innovating in the marketing realm, determining new and more effective ways to launch its products across the more than 175 countries it operates in. With the introduction of its Launch Excellence (LEX) program in 2019, J&J has created a set of standards for bringing new medical devices to countries around the world. LEX provides a harmonized framework based on industry best practices that enables early and frequent collaboration across organizations. The program challenges marketing and other functions to gain a deep understanding of each market and better promote the J&J brand by leveraging evidence and big picture principles. By standardizing launch plan governance, LEX aims to improve collaboration and efficiency and increase the value of new J&J product introductions.

As J&J maintains its dedication to innovation and creativity, it is also consistently seeking ways of working with the regulators of various countries to improve patient access to innovative new medical devices.

This is particularly pertinent in Taiwan. The island’s healthcare system, while robust, is often less open to groundbreaking medical device technology than its other developed regional neighbors. J&J hopes to continue its dialogue with the Taiwanese government through avenues like AmCham, encouraging flexibility in the official review process for new medical devices so that patients can enjoy better outcomes and an improved quality of life, faster.