Making the Connection: Q&A with Stefan Hart, New Ventures Lead, Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center, Asia Pacific
As one of the founding team members of the Asia Pacific Innovation Center,
- As a New Ventures Lead, what are your core areas of responsibility?
Innovation can happen anywhere, and I have the amazing privilege of working with stakeholders in India, Singapore and elsewhere in Southeast Asia to identify promising new solutions in need of support and investment. This involves spending most of my time collaborating with a rich network of entrepreneurs, academics, and governments to nurture the local biotech ecosystem. My job is all about building networks and connecting people to the right resources, expertise, and networks to transform ideas into the next generation of game-changing innovation. It’s incredibly rewarding work.
- What is the main value you provide to the biotech community?
Our Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers provide entrepreneurs and scientists one-stop access to the vast resources of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, and it’s my job to help make these connections possible. Our approach is to first understand our partners and find the best way to ensure their success through funding, scientific validation, incubation space, advice and mentorship on how best to move from development to commercialization. It helps to have a powerful Innovation Center team here in the region with the know-how and resources our Asia Pacific partners need.
- What do you enjoy most about your work at Johnson & Johnson Innovation?
Knowing that every day I am helping bring new solutions to patients and consumers is incredibly fulfilling. I love being directly involved in accelerating cutting-edge technology, but it’s the people part of the business that I find most rewarding. I love working closely with talented partners across the region and knowing that what we are doing will ultimately improve people’s lives. That’s what gets me up in the morning and makes me proud to be part of this close-knit Asia Pacific Innovation Center team.
- What excites you most about working in Southeast Asia and India?
Singapore and India are the smallest and the largest countries in Asia, and I really enjoy experiencing the diversity these countries embody. I’m also keenly aware that diseases like diabetes threaten the health of a growing number of people across the region. I am therefore thrilled to have just teamed up with two government-funded organizations, A*STAR and Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) to launch the Singapore QuickFire Challenge - Metabolic Disease Innovation to take on these devastating diseases. I am a big believer that this type of public-private partnership is a powerful model for future innovation and am excited to help make them happen.
- You used to work for a startup company yourself. What brought you to Johnson & Johnson?
After doing my PhD and postdoc in an academic setting, I felt that this early stage research hardly involved any entrepreneurship and was far away from patients. My passion for translational research led me to a startup company where I loved the entrepreneurial mindset and the feeling that I could change the world. I still remember the day the first patient who received our drug, the first partial response, and the first complete response. It was really amazing to see our work save someone’s life, and I’ve been a believer in the value of startup biotechs ever since.
- When you’re not hard at work, how do you spend your free time?
I’m a big outdoors person and love to dive, hike, cycle, and play tennis. I coached tennis for over 10 years and am still an active player on a German team, returning to Europe every summer to play in competitions. When not outside, I really enjoy cooking as a way to relax and fuel up for the late-night phone calls that connect me to our global team.