Young Houston biotech companies will, by late next year, have a new partner in Johnson & Johnson.
The pharmaceutical giant said today that that it will house one of its J-Labs, formerly known as Janssen Labs, at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. J&J, which runs such programs in San Diego and Boston, will now plant a flag in Texas where it says its incubator program can boost biotechs innovating in therapies, drug development, or diagnostics.
“In the markets we’ve been in already, there’s a ton of great research but also a history of entrepreneurship,” says Melinda Richter, head of Janssen Labs in San Francisco. “In Houston, there’s such a depth and breadth of research here—talented scientists, big-dollar amounts in grant funding. But this area has not reached its translational success potential.”
Richter says J-Labs will be customized to aid in bridging that gap.
How to translate the expertise within and around the medical center into viable commercial enterprises has been the focus of TMC strategy over the past year. Earlier this month, TMC executives unveiled plans for their own accelerator, dubbed TMCx, which could help connect early stage life sciences entrepreneurs and scientists with investors and mentors to shepherd promising ideas from the bench to the boardroom. “The TMC accelerator will be a feeder into our incubator, ” Richter says. “We’ve started talking about the companies they are looking at already.”
As J&J builds out its space at the TMC, Richter says J-Labs will start accepting applications from today and could house up to 50 companies. “We’re going to start bringing funders to the market immediately,” she says. “Our team will be working with research institutions to empower their science in order to become potential patient solutions.”
Typically, J-Labs contains common business and research areas, as well as chemistry rooms, tissue culture rooms, and wetlabs. The J&J incubator manages the equipment and handles administrative chores like permits and licensing. Companies that are accepted into the program pay rent in exchange for J-Labs’s facilities, mentoring, and connections to top life sciences investors, including J&J itself.
“When the company comes in, they don’t have to focus on anything but the science,” she says.