JJDC at 50: A Corporate Venture Pioneer Looks Back

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Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. was one of the first, if not the first, corporate venture investors in healthcare. On the 50th anniversary of its founding, current and former JJDC execs convened to reflect on the critical role JJDC has played in funding two generations of medtech start-ups.

Twenty-five or so years ago, the venture-backed medical device start-up community was mired in a funding crisis as many of the usual private investors to whom companies normally turned for sustained funding had turned away from the sector, discouraged by poor returns from a disappointing class of new public offerings in the years just before. As a result, small medtech companies were forced to scramble to find new sources of capital. Among the most important of those new sources of capital were large strategics, hoping to fuel a potential future product pipeline through their investments. Without question,one of, if not the most important of, these new corporate funding sources was Johnson & Johnson Development Corp. (JJDC). Founded in 1973, JJDC had already been investing for more than two decades by the late 1990s, but its role at that critical juncture for the industry can hardly be overstated.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of JJDC as an investor in both medtech and biotech. In celebration and recognition of JJDC and its impact on the industry, law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati invited JJDC executives from the past and present to its June 30thAnnual Medical Device Digital Health Conference to talk about JJDC and the role of corporate investors in today’s medtech financing ecosystem.

On the panel were Brad Vale, PhD, a former JJDC president and now founding general partner at Treo Ventures; Renee Ryan, former VP of venture investments at JJDC covering medtech investments on the West Coast, who is now CEO of JJDC portfolio company Cala Health; Samuel Ethiopia, the CEO of DocSpera, also a current JJDC portfolio company; and Biren Mehta, who is a former VP of business development at J&J, having led BD for J&J’s Interventional and Vision businesses, and now VP of venture investments at JJDC. Together with his colleague, Tamir Meiri, they are responsible for JJDC’s medtech investments in the western half of the US.


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