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The importance of clinical observation

Innovation Center November 2nd, 2017

At Johnson & Johnson Innovation we believe that a great idea can come from anywhere, and our people are testament to that! Our experienced team comprises people who have their origins in the very sectors in which we are aiming to partner and, as a result, they understand the challenges and aspirations of the start-up community.

The range of science and commercial expertise across the organisation reflects the diversity of ideas and innovations out there and we work side by side with innovators to identify and develop novel solutions with the aim of advancing human health.  However, as an industry, we tend to rely heavily on basic scientific research as a source of drug discovery. We must not forget though to include the important role of clinical observation in our search for the next biological story.

There is no doubt that scientific research is fundamental to the development of new drugs, yet history has shown us that clinical observation in patients has led to some of the most transformational innovations in medicine. The examples below are three of many that led to revolutionary treatments:

  • the discovery of the ‘Philadelphia Chromosome’ in a laboratory demonstrating the specific genetic correlation between that and chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML)
  • the observation of the unusual natural immunity in a group of people in Nigeria towards HIV, showing the link between the CCR5 mutation and the viral infection process
  • the finding of the BRCA1 and BRAC2 genes and the relationship between a faulty copy and breast, ovarian or prostate cancer


These discoveries may be individually rare and unpredictable, but they serve to illustrate how being in the right place, at the right time, can lead to new thinking and new treatment options for patients. If we combine clinical observation with today’s myriad of technologies, it will allow us to find transformative therapies and potentially even shorten development timelines, improving peoples’ lives around the world.

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