J&J pitches plan to spawn new biotechs, strike deals in San Francisco

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) marked the official opening of its new innovation center in Silicon Valley today with a slate of notable events ranging from its new collaboration deal with Second Genome to an expansion of its incubator group in the Bay Area as well as a new program aimed at fostering biotech entrepreneurs.

This is the third of J&J's innovation centers to open its doors, though like the others it's been recruiting talent and mapping operations in temporary digs. The center in Boston was the first to open its doors, with London following and San Francisco making its entrance today. A new center in Shanghai is also being set up, though J&J officials have noted that its China outpost will take a little extra time.

The centers have a simple objective. J&J wants to access new technology and top entrepreneurs and scientists who can contribute to the next wave of new drugs to enter the translational R&D phase. Janssen Labs in San Diego has already become home to 29 companies, and the pharma giant is taking 5,000 square feet at the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) to continue the mission in the Bay Area.

The new Innovator Program is aimed at spawning new biotechs. David H. Kirn, formerly of the oncolytic immunotherapy company Jennerex, is the first entrepreneur that will be funded by the program. Diego Miralles will head up the J&J center at Menlo Park, CA.

Miralles spent the past 5 years running Janssen Labs in San Diego, and he wants to bring the same hometown flavor he fostered there to the innovation center in San Francisco.

"It's about living every day with the entrepreneur," Miralles tells FierceBiotech. "That really is the fundamental concept." He believes he has the space for about 10 new startups in the new Bay Area lab, and he clearly relishes the notion of working with entrepreneurs-in-residence.

"A lot of things we do are experiments, to see what works and how we can make it better," says Miralles, who heads a team of about 25 with a wide variety of expertise. It's up to the team now to track down and execute on new licensing deals.

"Connecting biotech startups to experts in multiple areas of the bioscience industry is critical in helping entrepreneurs launch viable companies," said QB3 Associate Director Douglas Crawford in a statement. "This collaboration can help expand QB3's network of entrepreneurs, while also bridging the gap for many technologies that would not otherwise have a chance to develop."

- here's the release from J&J
- and the release from QB3

Special Report: Johnson & Johnson - Biopharma's Top R&D Spenders - 2012