Startups

J&J awards $1.5 million to QuickFire Challenge winners

Two U.S., startups and one translational lab from Australia have each been awarded $500,000 grants from J&J and Janssen, as part of the pharma giant’s QuickFire Challenge.

JLABS' San Francisco facility

JLABS’ San Francisco facility

Johnson & Johnson Innovation and its drug development arm Janssen have awarded $500,000 grants to two startups and one translational research lab as part of the company’s latest “QuickFire Challenge.”

According to J&J, the three winners were chosen from a pool of 470 global applicants, spread throughout 40 countries. Along with the funding boost, the successful programs will gain access to JLABS incubator space in a location of their choice.

“We reviewed an unprecedented number of world-class technologies through this QuickFire Challenge and our three grant recipients represent potentially transformative innovations that employ cross-sector approaches to intercepting and preventing disease,” said Barry A. Springer, VP of strategy, technology, and innovation and research at Janssen BioTherapeutics, in a company news release.

Of the three winners, one is from Melbourne, Australia, while the other two are based in the United States. They are as follows:

RMIT University: From the Micro/Nanomedical Research Center at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Leslie Yeo and team have pioneered a portable handheld personalized nebulization platform that can convert drugs into aerosol form, for direct delivery via inhalation to the lungs.

Glyscend: Co-founder and CEO Ashish Nimgaonkar is developing a pill that can produce an intestinal barrier, thereby mimicking the beneficial effects of bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery has been shown to have a profound beneficial effect, not only on obesity but also on type 2 diabetes, independent of weight loss.

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Neurotrack: led by Elli Kaplan, CEO, the California-based company has developed the Imprint™ Check-Up, a five-minute test that uses eye-tracking technology to assess cognitive decline before symptoms appear. A related Cognitive Health Program provides users with tools and lifestyle advice to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and diseases like Alzheimer’s.

The World Without Disease QuickFire Challenge focuses on integrated solutions that combine aspects of pharmaceutical, medical device, and consumer science. Applicants are judged based on their potential to improve a significant, unmet global health need. J&J also screens for startups working in its scientific focus areas.

Alongside the company’s stated aim “to fight for a world without disease,” the QuickFire Challenge works to promote J&J’s network of innovation labs and incubator facilities. Earlier challenges were deployed to recruit promising startups for its newly-established incubators, including those in Toronto, Canada and at the Texas Medical Center.

A major component of the award is the guaranteed space in a JLABs incubator. These are pitched as “no-strings-attached” facilities. Janssen provides many of the resources necessary to launch a biomedical R&D program, but it doesn’t require an equity share of the startup in return.

Deals may be negotiated later in the company’s development life cycle, but the companies aren’t bound to exclusive contracts with Janssen.

Photo: JLABS

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