Company Culture
Coworking / Science

Why Philly made sense for Johnson & Johnson’s first innovation office

“We’re going to augment the great life sciences [sector] that Philly already has,” said Kate Merton, the J&J staffer in charge of JPOD Philadelphia.

Based within Pennovation, JPOD Philadelphia looks to offer mentorship to local entrepreneurs. (Rendering courtesy of Johnson & Johnson)

Think of JPOD Philadelphia, a Johnson & Johnson networking and resource center for entrepreneurship, as the company’s way to keep an eye on innovations coming out of the University of Pennsylvania.

Inside a hub officially opening Nov. 1 at Pennovation, the company will combine regular networking events with mentorship for budding life-sciences entrepreneurs.

Kate Merton, a former life-sciences exec who holds a Ph.D. in pharmacology, became head of JLABS for New York, Boston and Philly in November of last year. She calls it her “dream job.”

“JLABS is the no-strings-attached, no-equity-taking innovation incubator of Johnson & Johnson,” Merton said. “JPOD is that minus the lab space, because great partners like Pennovation already offer it. We’ll bring mentorship and investor relationship and networking.”

Through secure videoconferencing systems, the draw for entrepreneurs is the ability to get advice from J&J’s pool of 130,000 global employees.

Thought JPOD Alberta, inside the University of Alberta’s Katz Center, was announced first, Merton said Philly’s will be the first one to be up and running.

Here’s what led the company to choose our city for the first such hub in the country and, really, the world:

“Philly has great strengths,” said the exec, who lives outside of Princeton, N.J. “One is its multiple life sciences, health and medical organizations. The JPOD in Philly will help augment the great life science basis that Philly already has.”

One way the company is starting the outreach to the local community is through its “Quick Fire Challenge” competition: An open call for an “idea, technology, or solution that improves human healthcare” which will be rewarded with a $30,000 prize, space at Pennovation and mentorship.

Companies interested in entering the challenge can apply by Jan. 25.


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