Johnson & Johnson announced the opening of the Johnson & Johnson Innovation center in Boston, the third of four regional hubs being established in the world's leading life science hotspots.The other three are in California, Shanghai, and London. The Boston center is led by Robert Urban, formerly of the Koch Institute and an entrepreneur/executive before that. Scott Kirsner, at the Boston Globe, interviewed Urban, who has this to say about Johnson and Johnson's presence in these major cities:
"What we really hope to do is try to simplify for the outside world how you might try to interact with J&J," Urban told me this morning. "We have 250 businesses spread across the world. With these innovation centers in Boston, Menlo Park, London, and Shanghai, we're creating four red doors" — red, of course, being J&J's corporate hue — "that innovators can walk through to help them figure out who to work with here." The Boston Innovation Center will be staffed with technical experts in areas like neuroscience, oncology, and vaccines who can evaluate prospective partnerships; a team to craft contracts and then manage those partnerships; and also investors from J&J's corporate venture capital arm.The stimulus behind these kind of moves isn't just about critical mass; Massachusetts has the numbers to support these kind of big research initiatives. More importantly there's political understanding of the importance for industrial biotech research clusters:
"In Massachusetts we invest in the life sciences because we are choosing to shape our own future," said Governor Deval Patrick. "I welcome the Johnson & Johnson Innovation center to our life sciences supercluster and look forward to the jobs and economic opportunities that their new collaborations will bring."Political leaders cheerleading Ontario's life science industry should take note.
So while Johnson & Johnson claims that the local biopharma industry around Boston employs 49,000 people across about 500 companies, the Ontario site tallies the province's numbers as about 40,000 people in 900 companies, though across all life sciences rather than being specific to biopharma as Johnson and Johnson is getting at. The numbers aren't as concentrated as Boston or California, but they're getting there.
Ontario already has presence for a few big pharmaceutical players - GE Healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche, and Teva - so although it might take a few more years, but a big red door as Urban describes should appear in Ontario.