J&J stakes out Boston/Cambridge HQ for new innovation center

J&J ($JNJ) is making a big entrance in the Boston/Cambridge hub. The Boston Business Journal reports today that the pharma giant has taken a lease on new digs in Kendall Square for one of its four global innovation centers--putting it right in the heart of one of the busiest biotech regions in the world.

Last September J&J stirred considerable buzz with the announcement that it is establishing four innovation centers in Boston, San Francisco (with a satellite San Diego office), London and China. Each of the centers will be staffed by 15 to 20 science, licensing and business development experts. And they'll be tasked with creating collaborations among academics and biotechs offering potential new advances on a slate of life science efforts, from drugs to devices and diagnostics.

The Massachusetts office is headed by Robert Urban, the former director of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. He and other staffers have been working in temporary digs in the Back Bay area, according to the Boston Globe.

"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 the Globe. "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 that innovators can walk through to help them figure out who to work with here."

This is the first time J&J has planted its standard in Boston, which has become a big center for new drug development for Sanofi and other pharma companies looking to reenergize their R&D operations.

It's something of a switch for J&J, which hasn't had much of a presence in translational research. The pharma side of the giant company has proved masterful at identifying late-stage products like Zytiga--originally a Cougar Biotech program--or ibrutinib, now partnered with Pharmacyclics ($PCYC). But now it wants a bigger presence in early-stage research.

"We want to be partners when they emerge in academics, during the venture capital rounds," J&J pharma chief Paul Stoffels told Bloomberg last fall. "We have a lot of known-how we can deploy. We want to be part of the whole process, which typically takes years."

- here's the Boston Globe report
- get the story from the Boston Business Journal

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