Janssen Leads on Patient-Centric Innovation

Jane Griffiths talks to Paul Simms about how Janssen is leading the way in patient-centric innovation.



Janssen Healthcare Innovation, an entrepreneurial group within Janssen, the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, triumphed at last year's eyeforpharma Barcelona Awards, winning multiple awards at the ceremony – with the Care4Today program crowned ‘Most Valuable Patient Initiative’ and ‘Most Valuable HCP Solution’. As a company committed to transforming healthcare for consumers, the Company Group Chairman of Janssen in EMEA, Jane Griffiths, will be a keynote speaker at eyeforpharma Barcelona 2016.

Griffiths joined the Johnson & Johnson group as a young graduate, armed with a PhD in Plant biochemistry from the University of Aberystwyth, Wales. Through her unwavering alignment to Johnson & Johnson’s Credo, she has become the first female Company Group Chairman of Janssen EMEA. “I would be hard-pushed to find an industry that combines business with its main purpose as well as ours does, which is doing good for patients and society,” she replied when asked where her passion for pharma comes from. “I personally enjoy the notion that our business model is one of bringing medicines of transformational value to patients, addressing areas of high unmet need and, through those advances, funding more research to discover and develop yet more potential innovations that save, or radically improve the quality of lives of people all over the world.”

Innovation – the way forward

Innovation is clearly a core driving force for Griffiths and Janssen alike. It is also something the company excels at. Yet, it could be argued that most companies are trying to improve their reputation and to focus more on patients through innovative practice. So, is Janssen really anything special?

“There are a few areas where Janssen is pretty much out in front,” maintains Griffiths. “One is the way that we source innovation. I’m at the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center in London now, where our mantra is, ‘We’ll go wherever the science is,’ to try to bring transformational innovations into the company.” This embracement of innovation isn’t just traditional R&D, she reassures: “Certain areas of ill health are poorly addressed today and we are searching for new ways to treat, cure, prevent and intercept these illnesses.”

This takes her on to a second area of activity, where Janssen is looking at a strengthened approach to global public health. “In the last 18 months, we’ve set up a new Global Public Health group to support Johnson & Johnson’s long-standing legacy of commitment and partnership to improve global public health for individuals, families and communities worldwide,” shares Griffiths. “This group is dedicated to, in the first instance, addressing infectious and neglected diseases that are affecting the world’s most vulnerable people.” Griffiths feels that since Janssen is a global healthcare company, it is these neglected diseases, which won’t necessarily generate profit, that need attention. She provides the example of the drug, launched by Janssen in 2012, for multi-drug resistant TB, a disease with limited commercial potential in developed countries; multi-drug-resistant TB is present in hundreds rather than thousands of patients in the developed world.1

Janssen’s dedication to global public health is evidenced in Johnson & Johnson’s recently announced new global commitments to end HIV infection in girls and women. Recently on World AIDS Day, Johnson & Johnson announced that Janssen has formed four new public-private partnerships in efforts to make HIV history. Janssen has partnered with PEPFAR’s DREAMS initiative, providing $15 million over 2-years. Janssen is collaborating with CHAI to increase access to fixed-dose 2nd-line therapy, as well as granting IPM an exclusive, royalty-free license to develop its HIV medicine. Finally, Johnson & Johnson’s Corporate Citizenship Trust, in collaboration with the Infectious Diseases Institute, the Ugandan Ministry of Health, have launched a new program that deploys mobile and digital technologies to help patients manage their diseases. “Our goal is to make HIV history,” said Alex Gorsky, Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson stating its commitment to reducing the burden of HIV incidence, especially among adolescent girls, who make up 71% of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa.

It’s always the patient who comes first for us. If patients truly benefit from our innovations, the business will follow.”

A third area where Griffiths believes Janssen is ahead of the game is disease interception, a revolutionary new approach the company is pursuing and leading. “This is where you’re identifying diseases in high-risk people before they actually progress to an illness,” she explains, “and looking for different markers early on, when it is much easier to intervene.” Janssen has set up three units that will further advance such innovation: the Janssen Prevention Center, the Disease Interception Accelerator and the Janssen Human Microbiome Institute. “There’s increasing evidence to show that the microbiome may be the culprit of, and certainly associated with, a number of diseases. And if you can address changes in the microbiome, you might be able to address and intervene in disease pathogenesis a lot earlier,” she highlights.

Patient-centric innovation and culture change

Despite her resolute adherence to a singular way of thinking throughout her career, Griffiths recognizes that the whole industry has been through a major change – a change that requires continual effort to drive away from the old business model, to a new and improved patient-centered model. Often, that means focusing on the company culture rather than more defined tasks. “At Johnson & Johnson, we are defined by our Credo,” she explains.“But, to say we have a Credo that makes us automatically patient-centric, that’s not true. You constantly have to improve what you do, and how you do it.  You can never, at any point, think that what you do is good enough. Where patients are concerned, for example, we have appointed specific colleagues in our companies recently, who are totally dedicated to making sure that all of the groups within our organization are focusing on the patients.”

Even if you have to do something that hurts business in the short-term, it will pay off long-term. I’m convinced of that – and anyway, even if it didn’t, you still have to take the tough decision and do what’s right.

The organizational culture might be changing, but Griffiths own style of leadership has remained constant: “I don’t think I’ve personally changed. If you have a Credo that says the patients always come first, then that’s the way that your company behaves.” She expands, “I remember a major product recall, years ago in the United States. It was a Credo-based decision, where you knew it was going to impact your business, but you knew it was the right thing to do. And that’s always the case in Johnson & Johnson: it’s always the patient who comes first for us. If patients truly benefit from our innovations, the business will follow.”

Is that always the case? Griffiths is confident that, “Even if you have to do something that hurts business in the short-term, it will pay off long-term. I’m convinced of that – and anyway, even if it didn’t, you still have to take the tough decision and do what’s right.”

So, what if an employee in the company performed brilliantly commercially, but didn’t maintain a strong patient focus? “Employees may not last long if they are doing things which are not positive for patients,” she asserts. “In Janssen, evaluation is half about the what, but the other half is about the how. The best numbers in the world, if not aligned with our Credo, would not be rewarded.” Griffiths does point out, however, that in practice she has never had a leader who has performed this way: “In my team, a number of the managing directors are medics – they already have a caring attitude.”

A push for transparency

Part of Janssen’s culture change has been a drive towards meeting company objectives through better partnerships. “We started a journey around 3 to 4 years ago for a new strategy for my EMEA group of countries to become more outcomes-led, rather than purveyors of pills,” Griffiths explains. “That means driving positive outcomes for patients through a combination of great medicines and patient support programs and measuring the outcomes through real-world evidence – and starting to transparently talk about it. You go to see a doctor in order to get better, not to just to get a pill. We want to partner with people outside of the pharma and healthcare industry, but in order to do that, we need to improve our reputation.”

As patients are increasingly provided with the opportunity to participate in decisions relating to their healthcare, demands for the disclosure of clinical trial data have never been higher. Rather than shy away from this challenge, Johnson & Johnson has embraced this growing need. While many pharma companies continue to debate transparency of trial data, at the beginning of 2014 Janssen announced a novel agreement with Yale School of Medicine’s Open Data Access Project (YODA), which, for the first time for any pharmaceutical company, gave an independent academic third party the authority to review and make final decisions regarding every legitimate request for clinical trials data, including de-identified patient-level information. The collaboration seeks to advance science, which is the foundation of medical care and public health.

“We are all patients at the end of the day – if we thought someone was compromising our safety for a quick buck, we wouldn’t like that either,” Griffiths concludes. Considering her track record and passionate beliefs, as well as Janssen’s unwavering commitment to translating science into real-world global initiatives, it can be anticipated that her keynote address at eyeforpharma Barcelona 2016 will be one to inspire further innovation in the industry.


1.     World Health Organization: https://extranet.who.int/sree/Reports?op=vs&path=/WHO_HQ_Reports/G2/PROD...


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