Paul Stoffels - Janssen

Making J&J a prized partner in the perilous world of drug research

Name: Paul Stoffels
Title: Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson, and Worldwide Chairman, Janssen

Paul Stoffels is ideally situated to have a major impact on biotech. As head of R&D, business development and global strategy at Johnson & Johnson's Janssen, he and his team arrive at every deal table with the deep pockets needed to command attention. And Stoffels has helped drive J&J's ($JNJ) ambitious partnering efforts, demonstrating its cash-up-front approach last summer when the pharma giant committed $135 million in a $1.1 billion deal for an intriguing program at Genmab.

J&J was never known for doing a lot of deals, but it's been very influential when it comes to demonstrating how Big Pharma should partner with biotech. Stoffels enjoys making the kind of payments that provide major support for up-and-coming biotech companies, and its blockbuster development program for Zytiga--acquired in the $1 billion Cougar Biotech buyout--provides ample illustration of its commitment to following through on the programs it selects.

Last year, the industry paid close attention when Stoffels fielded a group of deal teams around the world--in London, Boston, California and China--with an eye to adding 5 to 10 new partnerships a year to the 80 or so now under way. And each new deal they make will be studied for every nuance as industry insiders look for some fresh insights on the influential group's disease focus and deal terms.

As many well-paid litigators can tell you, J&J doesn't always make headlines for its sterling corporate ethics, but the R&D side of the Big Pharma business has remained distinct from the commercial arm and a star-crossed manufacturing division. Stoffels has also helped repair some of the damage, spearheading Janssen's move to allow generics companies to make and distribute copies of Prezista in HIV-ravaged sub-Saharan Africa and teaming up with 12 other big pharmas to attack neglected tropical diseases in the developing world.

But Stoffels still runs a modern R&D shop, and one that posted some major successes last year. Janssen developed the tuberculosis drug Sirturo, designed to target adenosine triphosphate synthase and halt the onset of the disease. The FDA signed off on the treatment on the last day of 2012, making it the first new therapy approved for tuberculosis in 40 years. Janssen's Alzheimer's-targeting team-up with Pfizer ($PFE), bapineuzumab, was a colossal Phase III failure, leaving J&J to slash 130 jobs and rethink its strategy for the disease. But there was never any hesitation on display when it made one of the biggest late-stage development plans in the industry.

Despite the setback, Janssen may have another blockbuster on its hands with canagliflozin, a diabetes-fighting SGLT2 inhibitor that won a 10-5 FDA panel vote last month and, despite concerns over cardiovascular risks it may present, could be headed for a big approval where competitors like Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) have failed.

All that said, Stoffels remains focused on the goal that got him into biotech more than 20 years ago. "At the end of your life, what are you saying to your grandchildren?" Stoffels told ExitCampus. "You don't talk about your title; you don't talk about what your position was in the company. But one thing you will remember is: Where did you make a difference?"

-- Damian Garde (email | Twitter)

Paul Stoffels - Janssen