(photo credit: Bloomberg)
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is one of the most active companies in M&A
in Israel, the kind that Israeli start-ups love to be bought by, particularly
because of its tendency to allow them a considerable degree of
Since the early 1990s, J&J has bought companies here to the
tune of more than $1 billion: Prof. Shlomo Ben-Haim’s and Lewis Pell’s
Biosense for $500 million, ColBar for $159m. and Omrix for $425m. Biosense and
Omrix remain to this day Israeli R&D centers.
“For every problem in
the world recognized as insoluble, there is one Israeli or more energetically
working on it,” Dr. Garry Neil, corporate vice president at the Corporate Office
of Science and Technology (COSAT) at J&J, told Globes in an exclusive
interview. COSAT is responsible for J&J’s early-stage cooperation with
academic instructions and young companies.
“The book Start-up Nation sums
it up well,” he said. “Israelis aren’t afraid of technology and want to solve
problems. Apart from that, because everybody knows everybody, they gladly
Neil is scheduled to come
to Israel to lecture at the ILSI-Biomed Israel Conference 2011, which will take
place May 23-25 in Tel Aviv. It will be the annual conference’s tenth
Mature companies can approach us The pharmaceuticals and
medicaldevice giant has a strong connection with Israel: investments to the tune
of tens of millions of dollars through its venture-capital fund Johnson &
Johnson Development Corporation, whose vice president for venture investments is
r. Zeev Zehavi, an Israeli.
The fund has invested in Percutaneous Valve
Technologies (sold to Edwards Lifesciences), BrainsGate, Impulse Dynamics,
McRobot, NovoCure, GeneGrafts, Topspin Medical (which became a stockmarket
shell), Medigus, Mazor, Bioness, ApoSense and two other companies that shut
J&J employs 11,000 researchers and engineers around the world
and is active in three main fields: medical devices, drugs and consumer
products. Neil’s role is, among other things, to encourage cooperation between
the researchers in all the company’s areas of activity.
companies interested in working with J&J, COSAT is a good starting point.
Neil has an overview of the company’s R&D needs because COSAT is in touch
with all of J&J’s subsidiaries and partners.
J&J ascribes great
importance to Israel, and so COSAT has stationed a technology hunter here, Dr.
Joni Catalano-Sherman, whose task is to find the hot
Innovative ideas can reach COSAT from within the company or
from outside it.
“We take care of interactivity between the corporation’s
diverse R&D groups, in order to accelerate innovation within, and we learn
from the R&D people what their needs are, in order to know what to look for
outside,” Neil said.
J&J has many collaborations at the academic
stage and has good relations with Israeli universities. Sometimes the
collaboration proceeds directly from the academic institution to the industry
via a PreVenture, a venture that COSAT builds with an academic researcher, in
which J&J finances the researcher’s independent R&D, with the aim of
setting up a joint company later on.
Most of the Israeli companies in
which J&J has invested were at a more mature stage when the two sides met,
“We are a suitable address for mature companies, too,” he
Areas of recent interest to J&J are biological markers and
personalized drugs, Neil said.
“This will gather momentum very soon,
together with improvement in computing capabilities and cheaper genome
sequencing,” he said. “The change will start with cancer. In my opinion, the
pharma industry will improve treatment of the disease substantially in the next
five years. The pharma companies have 800 cancer drugs in clinical trials.”