J&J grows in­vest­ment fund for en­tre­pre­neurs, sets 2022 fo­cus on health­care work­er gaps and racial in­equities

Al­ice Lin Fabi­ano

Amid the surge of en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and gov­er­nance (ESG) in­vest­ing, John­son & John­son de­cid­ed to look at where the mon­ey was go­ing. It specif­i­cal­ly re­searched im­pact in­vest­ing — that is, fund­ing to help a group com­plete a project or de­vel­op a pro­gram to pos­i­tive­ly ben­e­fit so­ci­ety — and was sur­prised at what it found. Of the $715 bil­lion in im­pact in­vest­ments un­der man­age­ment, on­ly 7% was go­ing to im­prov­ing health.

“Why is on­ly 7% of health­care in­vest­ed in im­pact in­vest­ing? The an­swer we got back con­sis­tent­ly was the re­quire­ment for health to have a deep ex­per­tise, a sci­en­tif­ic bench and a knowl­edge and know how around health­care that’s just dif­fer­ent than mi­cro fi­nance or fin­tech types of in­vest­ments,” Al­ice Lin Fabi­ano, J&J’s glob­al di­rec­tor of so­cial in­no­va­tion and in­vest­ment, said.

J&J thought its own ex­per­tise could make a dif­fer­ence. So it launched J&J Im­pact Ven­tures in 2019. It’s now in­vest­ed $50 mil­lion in health en­tre­pre­neurs and start­up com­pa­nies to help them grow and scale their busi­ness­es that make a dif­fer­ence. The in­vest­ment fund is meant to com­ple­ment J&J grants and do­na­tions by us­ing busi­ness-based eq­ui­ty, loans or even re­payable grants.

Ash­lee Wis­dom

But it’s not on­ly in­vest­ing cap­i­tal in the up-and-com­ing com­pa­nies. J&J al­so pro­vides “our peo­ple, our tal­ent and ex­per­tise hand in hand to work close­ly with the en­tre­pre­neurs to grow their busi­ness and make a big­ger im­pact around the world,” Fabi­ano said.

One of those en­tre­pre­neurs is Ash­lee Wis­dom, founder and CEO of Health in Her Hue, a dig­i­tal plat­form that works to re­duce racial health dis­par­i­ties and im­prove health out­comes for Black women and women of col­or. She found­ed her com­pa­ny based on her own health­care ex­pe­ri­ences and now us­es tech­nol­o­gy and me­dia to con­nect women of col­or to cul­tur­al­ly com­pe­tent health­care providers and in­for­ma­tion.

J&J met Wis­dom through its part­ner­ship with im­pact in­vest­ment group Vil­lage Cap­i­tal, Fabi­ano said. That’s al­so how J&J con­nect­ed with Chris Hedrick and his com­pa­ny NextStep, a cer­ti­fied nurs­ing as­sis­tant (CNA) train­ing and job place­ment pro­gram to help ad­dress the care­giv­er cri­sis in the US.

Chris Hedrick

The pro­gram re­cruits peo­ple in­ter­est­ed in health­care ca­reers from low­er-wage jobs such as fast food or gig work like Uber dri­ving, of­fer­ing free on­line train­ing while they’re still work­ing. The hir­ing health sys­tem or em­ploy­er then pays for the train­ing when the CNAs grad­u­ate and start work­ing.

“These en­tre­pre­neurs are look­ing at re­al so­ci­etal is­sues in the US to­day — and ones that are on­ly grow­ing, ex­ac­er­bat­ed for low-in­come and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic — and us­ing a mar­ket-based so­lu­tion to ad­dress the is­sues,” Fabi­ano said.

Last year, J&J Im­pact Ven­tures com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing front­line health­care work­ers and the en­tre­pre­neurs com­ing up with so­lu­tions there. For 2022, it’s con­tin­u­ing that work with two spe­cif­ic fo­cus ar­eas – clos­ing the health­care work­er gap and ad­dress­ing racial health eq­ui­ty.

J&J Im­pact Ven­tures sits in­side the J&J Foun­da­tion and aug­ments its oth­er ef­forts in­clud­ing the 2020-launched $250 mil­lion 10-year health work­er in­no­va­tion fund to bridge the em­ploy­ee gap. The in­vest­ment fund al­so com­ple­ments J&J’s $100 mil­lion ded­i­cat­ed 5-year com­mit­ment which was al­so launched in 2020 to tack­le racism as a pub­lic health is­sue.

“There is a need for grants and a re­al need for dis­as­ter re­sponse – grants for food and emer­gency re­spons­es, par­tic­u­lar­ly dur­ing Covid-19 – that ul­ti­mate­ly should not and will not get a re­turn and are not busi­ness based. That’s im­por­tant and will con­tin­ue,” Fabi­ano said. “When J&J Im­pact Ven­tures was launched it was with the com­mit­ment that it was com­ple­men­tary and in­cre­men­tal dol­lars to what was al­ready com­mit­ted from a grant-mak­ing and phil­an­thropic per­spec­tive.”

While $50 mil­lion is sig­nif­i­cant, J&J al­so re­al­izes more is more and works with part­ners to boost fund­ing, in­clud­ing com­peti­tors like Mer­ck, Roche and Sanofi, oth­er in­dus­try com­pa­nies like Unilever and Sales­force, as well as with pub­lic health groups and gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

“We’re hop­ing to in­cen­tivize oth­er pri­vate-sec­tor com­pa­nies to al­so in­vest in health en­tre­pre­neurs and help ad­dress some of these big so­ci­etal com­mit­ments. Part of this is all of us work­ing to­geth­er,” Fabi­ano said.

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Tom Riga, Spectrum Pharmaceuticals CEO

Spec­trum im­plodes af­ter a harsh pub­lic slap­down and now a CRL from Richard Paz­dur

The FDA has gone out of its way several times to flatten any expectations for Spectrum’s lung cancer drug poziotinib, including slamming the regulatory door in the biotech’s face four years ago when the their executive crew came calling for a breakthrough drug designation and encouragement from the oncology wing of the FDA.

That stinging early rebuke pointed straight down the path to a corrosive in-house agency review of Spectrum’s attempt to land an accelerated approval for the oral EGFR TKI and a public whipping that included a classic takedown by none other than Richard Pazdur, who slammed the company for “poor drug development” that led to confusion over the dose needed for a slice of NSCLC patients harboring HER2 exon 20 insertion mutations.

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Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO (John Thys/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Pfiz­er CEO un­der fire from UK watch­dog over vac­cine com­ments — re­port

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Children’s advocacy group UsForThem filed a complaint with the UK’s Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) last year accusing Bourla of making “disgracefully misleading” statements during the BBC interview, including one that “Covid in schools is thriving.” At the time, UK regulators had not yet cleared the vaccine for the 5 to 11 age group, though the vaccine did have a positive opinion from the EMA’s human medicines committee.

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The FDA gave Catalent a “voluntary action indicated” response to two inspections at the contract manufacturer’s site in Bloomington, IN, and Brussels, Belgium. Fixing the issues on its own is a preferable outcome to facing an “official action indicated” response, meaning that an official warning would be sent out or a sit-down with the FDA would be required.

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Merck targets vaccine-hesitant parents in its latest 'Why Vaccines' campaign. (Image: Shutterstock)

Mer­ck­'s lat­est 'Why Vac­ci­nes' cam­paign seeks to bet­ter in­form vac­cine-hes­i­tant moms

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Merck’s “Why Vaccines” latest social media and digital campaign spotlights real-life new moms who have questions about vaccinating their children.

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Big Phar­ma's Twit­ter ex­o­dus; Mer­ck wa­gers $1.35B on buy­out; $3.5M gene ther­a­py; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

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Sanofi's new headquarters, La Maison Sanofi, in Paris (Credit: Luc Boegly)

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When Paul Hudson took the helm at Sanofi back in 2019, he promised to reinvent the pharma giant — including its Paris headquarters. This week, the company set up shop in new “state-of-the-art” digs.

La Maison Sanofi, as the new HQ is called, is officially open for business, Hudson announced on Monday. The 9,000-square-meter (just under 97,000-square-foot) space accommodates 500 employees across the company’s government and global support functions teams, including finance, HR, legal and corporate affairs — and it was built with environmental sustainability and hybrid work in mind.

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While Romania may conjure up images of vast mountain ranges and tales of medieval kings, one generic manufacturer has broken ground on a new facility there.

German pharma company Stada said Monday that it has placed a €50 million ($51.9 million) investment into a 100,000 square-meter (1.08 million square-foot) site in Turda, Romania, a city in the Southeast of the country. According to a Stada spokesperson in an email to Endpoints News, the company has developed only 281,500 square feet of the site so far.

Rachael Rollins (Charles Krupa/AP Images)

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The US attorney for the district of Massachusetts late last week called on the state’s district court to sentence the former co-owner of the now-defunct New England Compounding Center to 18 months of jail time for his role in the center’s quality deviations that led to more than 100 people dead from a fungal meningitis outbreak.

Gregory Conigliaro was convicted of conspiring with more than a dozen others at NECC to deceive the FDA and misrepresent the fact that the center was only dispensing drugs pursuant to patient-specific prescriptions.