J&J launches public health innovations space for Africa

Johnson & Johnson has launched its global public health (GPH) strategy, aimed at harnessing the company’s expertise and resources to innovate and collaborate in finding solutions for public health issues, especially those plaguing Africa.
Johnson & Johnson’s new global public health innovation space in Cape Town
Johnson & Johnson’s new global public health innovation space in Cape Town
The initial stages of the strategy starts with a new site located in Cape Town, and will focus on three core areas: HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and maternal, newborn and child health. The company plans to expand its focus areas to address other unmet global health needs and its geographic reach.

A privilege and a responsibility

Paul Stoffels, scientific officer, Johnson & Johnson believes that corporates in the scientific field should regard providing public healthcare solutions as both a privilege and a responsibility.

“By directly engaging with and empowering researchers and the healthcare community across South Africa, we will be better able to direct our resources and advance innovations that can lead to greater impact. We think this can work anywhere in the world, but our urgency right now has to be in Africa because of the patients’ needs.”

One pill a day

Dr Stoffels started his career in Rwanda at the height of the HIV epidemic, with its complex ARV regimen. At the time he found it hard to believe when a colleague envisaged that the disease could be managed by one pill a day.

“Now, 25 years later, an HIV+ person in the western world has a normal life expectancy minus two years,” he explains.

A melting pot of ideas

He points out that the company is ready to make its know-how available and to create an environment where people can work together to find affordable solutions in its incubation space, JLabs.

“We are looking at different options in the mobile and tech space, we don’t want to own the ideas, but rather create a vibrant open house with a diversity of thinking.”

“I’m extremely optimist. Most innovations take 20 years to get from the laboratory to the market, so we need to identify areas of research and start working,” Dr Stoffels says.

He cites an example: “Why do you think we could move so quickly with the Ebola outbreak. It all started with 9/11 when the American government perceived the virus as a potential terrorist threat and began working on a vaccine. Yet, look at Zika, it was not seen as a risk and so no research has been done on it.”

The projects

Expanding R&D skills and capacity among African scientists

Janssen Pharmaceutica is collaborating with the University of Cape Town’s Drug Discovery and Development Centre (H3D), which is pioneering world-class drug development in Africa. By helping to expand critical research and development skills and capacity, the collaboration supports H3D’s vision of discovering and developing innovative medicines for unmet medical needs on the African continent and beyond.

Cultivating Africa’s innovation through health technology hubs

Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS teams will provide local incubators ongoing mentoring support to foster the growth of the community of entrepreneurs developing new health ventures in the region. The engagement will follow the model used by Johnson & Johnson Innovation to provide R&D, product development, and commercialisation, legal and investment guidance to entrepreneurs and start-ups so that they may focus on achieving scientific advances.

Stemming the tide of HIV in adolescent girls

South Africa is among the countries benefitting from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)’s DREAMS Partnership, which Johnson & Johnson is supporting through Janssen Pharmaceutica. The company will provide in-country consumer insights, expertise and financial resources in South Africa and nine other sub-Saharan countries to support a suite of programmess focused on empowering adolescent girls, ensuring improved access to treatment and prevention options, and creating supporting communities. Johnson & Johnson has joined other major partners in the DREAMS Partnership including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Girl Effect.

Pioneering partnership to improve health care delivery in low-income South African communities

Partnering with Unjani Clinics to help strengthen health systems in vulnerable districts by investing to increase vital training and business resources to nurses as well as expanding access to affordable primary healthcare services. The initial investment focuses on 19 clinics, with plans to scale to 50 clinics nationwide by 2018.