Johnson & Johnson to open its first US ‘networking hub’ at Pennovation

The 400-square-foot space, slated to open this fall, is the first such space in the country. Could it boost local biotech startups?

The Pennovation Center. (Courtesy photo)

Johnson & Johnson announced Wednesday it has picked the University of Pennsylvania’s Pennovation Center to house its first U.S.-based JPOD, a networking hub that looks to create a bridge between J&J researchers and the local life sciences community.

The first JPOD was launched in Alberta, Canada, as a way to connect the Western Canada province to the company’s 40,000-square-foot life sciences incubator, JLABS, in Toronto.

JPOD @ Philadelphia, a 400-square-foot conference room of sorts, looks to deliver on the same goal through a secure telecommunications conferencing system to connect regional innovators to the Johnson & Johnson Innovation network.

Though there will also be “training, mentoring and networking programs” for local entrepreneurs happening at JPOD, perhaps the biggest upside to the local biotech and life sciences community is that J&J will use the hub to “identify and accelerate the development of early-stage healthcare solution,” the company said in a press release.

“By providing access to the expertise and resources of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, we hope the innovators in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania will increase their probability of making a difference for all of us,” said J&J’s Melinda Richter.

By setting up shop at Pennovation, J&J joins the ranks of global telecom giant Qualcomm and chocolate maker Hershey’s, which also picked the Grays Ferry spot, which first opened in 2016, as a place to open Philly beachheads.

“There is a remarkable synergy between the Pennovation Center and the JLABS vision,” said Penn Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli. “JPOD @ Philadelphia is another strategy and implementation tool to help build a Philadelphia regional base of successful innovation.”

For Brianna Wronko, CEO of University City’s Group K Diagnostics, the announcement is a sign of growth for the local biotech community.

“It’s great when corporations want to partner with startups because that’s how we can take an idea and turn it into something that can change the world,” said Wronko, whose company is working on a streamlined patient diagnostics solution. “We’ve seen examples of that all over the ecosystem, and having a partner like them next door is exciting.”

The first move from the hub is the launch of an upcoming JPOD @ Philadelphia “QuickFire Challenge,” where entrepreneurs and researchers compete online to raise funding for their ideas. Winners will receive an award to continue research and get access to educational programs and mentoring from Johnson & Johnson specialists.

Companies: Johnson & Johnson

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