Taking a bite out of Big Tech: Outgoing J&J CEO Gorsky takes health tech talents to Apple

Alex Gorsky
After announcing his intent to step down from his decade-long tenure as CEO of Johnson & Johnson at the beginning of 2022, Alex Gorsky has added a new position to his resumé: member of Apple’s board of directors. (Johnson & Johnson)

As Apple continues to accelerate its push into healthcare, the Big Tech company will have a seasoned veteran of the health tech world on its side. Ahead of his imminent departure from the top spot at Johnson & Johnson—a role he’s held for almost a decade—Alex Gorsky has been elected to Apple’s board of directors.

In that role, Gorsky will undoubtedly offer up the expertise he’s gained during his tenure at the medtech and pharma giant to help Apple pursue its own ambitions in the former category, which include building platforms to make health data more accessible to patients, physicians and researchers and adding new diagnostic features to its eponymous smartwatch.

“Alex has long been a visionary in healthcare, applying his tremendous insight, experience and passion for technology to the cause of improving lives and building healthier communities,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “We’re excited to welcome him to Apple’s board of directors, and I know that all of us will benefit from his leadership and expertise.”

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Gorsky originally joined J&J in 1988 as a sales representative for the conglomerate’s Janssen pharma arm. From there, he worked his way up in the sales, marketing and management ranks until he was named CEO and chairman of the board of directors in 2012.

In August of this year, fresh off a successful 2020 that made J&J the world’s largest pharma company by revenue, Gorsky announced his intent to step down from the CEO role at the start of 2022 while remaining in J&J’s orbit as executive chairman of the board.

At the time, he cited “family health reasons” for his decision, adding that “this is the right time for the company as our organization is delivering strong performance across all three segments and is positioned for continued success.”

In a statement about his new appointment, Gorsky said, “I’ve long shared Apple’s belief that technology has the potential to improve lives and create healthier communities. It’s an honor to join Apple’s board of directors and to be part of a values-led company that’s constantly innovating to both enable and enhance the way we live.”

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Apple is currently pursuing a variety of health tech innovations that Gorsky’s expertise could help bring to fruition. Top of mind are a slew of upgrades to the Apple Watch, which is already equipped with an FDA-approved ECG that J&J played a hand in validating—and which could potentially be expanded to detect even more types of arrhythmia, according to a recent analysis of Apple Watch study data.

Other possible new features include blood pressure measurements and continuous glucose monitoring, two “holy grail” additions that Apple has long been rumored to be after. The company is also reported to have recently tapped Biogen and UCLA to explore whether an Apple Watch and iPhone could jointly assess a wearer’s mental health using sensor-gathered activity, sleep and phone use data.