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Johnson & Johnson launches global ‘health discovery’ network

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Multinational Johnson & Johnson has launched a global network of research partnerships that aims to speed the discovery of solutions to health challenges.

‘J&J Centers for Global Health Discovery’ will leverage the “institutional strengths of Johnson & Johnson and leading academic institutions” to accelerate research that addresses the “world’s most pressing global health challenges”.

The first J&J satellite centre in the network has been launched at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, with additional centres launching worldwide throughout 2022.

The centres aim to “advance the critical, early-stage discovery and exploratory science needed to develop potentially lifesaving innovations to address diseases that disproportionately impact the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people”.

Each satellite centre will focus on entrenched and emerging threats that are pressing and have a high unmet need, including tuberculosis, dengue fever, flavivirus, coronavirus and antimicrobial resistance.

Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson, said: “COVID-19 has shown us that investments in early-stage research, such as novel vaccine technologies, are critical to accelerate our fight against pandemic threats.

“The[centres] are the latest chapter in our efforts to turn science into solutions for diseases that continue to threaten communities worldwide.

“This collaborative approach to science is essential to accelerate innovations from the lab to the last mile, address the global health inequities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and improve our health security.” 

The initiative could help to stimulate funding for early stage science, innovation and talent development, areas that are traditionally under-funded.

A 2018 analysis found that many innovations and technologies needed to fight some of the world’s most prevalent health threats are not likely to be developed, due in part to significant funding and innovation gaps.

The network of centres aims to stimulate the J&J’s research and development pipeline at the discovery stage by focusing on funding early-stage science, innovation and talent development.

They will “help address the dual innovation and health equity gap by creating a larger and decentralised scientific network that empowers scientists worldwide to drive R&D in the communities where the need is greatest,” the company said.

By joining forces with other institutions and leveraging their regional networks, the centres will help mentor talent and advance the science needed as efficiently as possible.

The J&J satellite centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) will focus specifically on building the next-generation drug regimens needed to treat all forms of TB; an infectious disease that kills 1.4 million people each year globally.

Accelerating this research is critical to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of ending TB by 2030.

This collaboration builds on J&J’s decades-long research on multidrug-resistant TB and an enduring relationship between the company and LSHTM, which includes the development of the J&J Ebola vaccine regimen.

Professor Peter Piot, director of the LSHTM, said: “The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has powerfully demonstrated the importance of investing in basic science and discovery.

“We have long worked with Johnson & Johnson to tackle significant global health challenges, like tuberculosis and Ebola, and are eager to build on this work in pursuit of a healthier, safer and more equitable world.”

The LSHTM enables research and postgraduate education in public and global health, with 3,900 students and more than 1,000 staff working in over 100 countries.

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