Meet Marian Nakada, Ph.D., Vice President, Venture Investments, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JJDC
- What is Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JJDC, Inc. (“JJDC”), and how does it support innovation?
JJDC is Johnson & Johnson’s corporate venture group, which makes equity investments in areas of strategic interest to research and development across consumer health, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Scientific innovation is what leads to breakthrough therapies and it is essential for us to access the best approaches to be able to continue to deliver high-value solutions for patients. Investing allows us to place more bets and de-risk promising but unproven science. This is crucial because the risk and expense of advancing programs in our portfolio companies is shared with other investors, as we are typically a minority. When the science has matured and the time is right, the goal and intent is for Johnson & Johnson Innovation to implement a strategic deal with the company to allow us to “onboard” the assets or the company.
- How does JJDC identify which companies to invest in and what are the types of investments it can make?
We source our investments through a range of means. Outside venture colleagues share the deals they are syndicating with us. Our therapeutic area leads and new venture partners in the Innovation Centers regularly find opportunities for which investing may be an appropriate part of a deal structure. Entrepreneurs also reach out to us directly to obtain funding for their startups, and accelerators and incubators like JLABS house promising startups that are looking for venture financing.
We invest at all stages, from small de-risking investments that may be made in the form of a simple convertible note, to larger Series A, B or later rounds of venture financing. We also make investments in public companies to support business development deals.
- Beyond financial backing, how else has JJDC supported its portfolio companies?
We consider ourselves “value added” investors, which means we bring more than just funding to our companies. Our deep knowledge of the science – with the help of R&D partners – often provides crucial input into defining specific scientific milestones and funding tranches for our portfolio companies. We have provided expert input from Janssen colleagues in regulatory, CMC (chemistry, manufacturing and controls), clinical and commercial to help companies refine their strategies and plans. Our diligent process that includes data integrity review is helping companies to refine and improve their data capture and recording. We also have facilitated entry into JLABS for several portfolio companies.
- What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking for funding (things to do, have, etc.)?
New companies that are mostly likely to gain traction with us have a clear, differentiated value proposition, a strong and experienced team, and clearly defined milestones that reflect value creation. For us, the companies also must work within our focus areas, which can be found on our website. It is always good to do your homework on the VC firms and investors you reach out to so you know if there is a fit. Make sure that your non-confidential summary includes enough science to entice folks to want to put a CDA in place. No science, no traction.
- Ensuring a diverse and inclusive workforce is an important mission of Johnson & Johnson. How important is diversity and inclusion to the investment world?
Diversity is lagging in the venture and healthcare startup world. In respect to gender, only 11 percent of investing partners’ healthcare VCs are femalei and there is a disproportionately low percentage of female CEOs and board members in healthcare and biotech companies. A 2011 Venture Census survey revealed that racial/ethnic minorities comprise an even lower percentage overall.ii The good news is that diversity is viewed as important and valuable. The bad news is that change is happening too slowly. JJDC is committed to accelerating change and signed a letter with more than 40 VCl firms to support inclusive innovation.