| July 5, 2019

Johnson & Johnson recruits scientists for data-science projects in healthcare

Anca Spanu

Anca's career in journalism spans over 2 decades. She has served as staff writer, editor and deputy chief editor at... Anca's career in journalism spans over 2 decades. She has served as staff writer, editor and deputy chief editor at various media outlets all over the world. At Healthcare Weekly, Anca writes about current events, innovations in the healthcare space and events/ conferences with a focus on investing & startups.

Janssen Research & Development, LLC, part of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), announced June 20th a collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), to find data-driven approaches for health improvement and to help grow the next generation of leaders in healthcare data sciences. Johnson & Johnson Innovation facilitated the agreement. 

A data science health innovation fellowship program, first of its kind in San Francisco

Surprisingly, the San Francisco Bay area, which is a renowned hub for tech and biotech industries and home to two world famous universities, has never had a similar program, making Janssen’s initiative the first of its kind in the region.   

The data science health innovation fellowship program will be run by UCSF and UC Berkeley, but they will work using Janssen product and platform teams. Up to five extraordinary data scientists from industry or academic background will be recruited within the program. These will work towards finding new innovative solutions for unmet patient needs. 

Fellows will be granted access to computer science, engineering, and statistics expertise and technology innovation at UC Berkeley; UCSF will provide clinical expertise and data. These will be combined with other health and biological datasets to safely and respectfully conduct research projects. The program will continue over two years, with mentorship being ensured by Janssen, UCSF and UC Berkeley.

Fellows will conduct their respective research at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) at UC Berkeley and the Bakar Computational Health Sciences Institute (BCHSI) at UCSF. 

From artificial intelligence-driven apps to inform patients about next steps in their treatment, or to give them early warning signs of disease to new ways to manage and recruit clinical trial participants, the program could cover all kinds of research, the main goal being to find new and better ways to help patients and caregivers. 

What is the profile of fellows wanted for this program? 

  • The candidates must have a computational background with several years of post-degree experience. Evidence of their practical accomplishments will be needed.
  • Having worked in the health and biomedical sectors is not a must, but candidates  should be passionate about the AI potential to revolutionize healthcare and be motivated to be a part of that.
  • Candidates must be self-motivated, proactive, forward-thinking, creative, and must have demonstrated their ability to propose, initiate, and carry out ambitious data-intensive projects even with few specifically assigned resources.
  • Candidates must have strong collaboration, interpersonal and communication skills, both with researchers across methodological areas and research domains. Since none of the major problems in healthcare is solved by a single person, the wish is to build a community around and across each cohort of Fellows, so they can continue to work together after the program ends. They will be surrounded by mentors, clinicians, stakeholders throughout the health value chain, and entrepreneurs, so that knowledge can go both ways between fellows and mentors. 
  • The candidates need to be able to transform large and messy datasets into insights, effectively communicate their process and insights to technical and non-technical audiences, and demonstrate a significant business impact.
  • Last but not least, candidates need to be strong technically in modeling, programming, and scientific computing. 

An inflection point where health, technology and consumer industries are converging

There is no doubt healthcare needs to fully embrace AI, letting it help both patients and medical staff, so we all live better, longer lives. For healthcare to finally be an interconnected, fully compatible industry, there is a need for projects that can close the gap between growing healthcare datasets and meaningful insights. This fellowship program is such a project, and could be a game changer.

“We’re at an inflection point where the health, technology and consumer industries are converging in new and potentially life-saving ways,” said Mathai Mammen, M.D., Ph.D., Global Head, Janssen Research & Development. “This fellowship program aims to bring together data scientists, large biomedical datasets and expertise from both industry and academia to find innovative new ways of improving healthcare and bringing meaningful solutions to people in need.”

Meanwhile, with the agreement to create a data science health innovation fellowship program, Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center LLC concluded a broader arrangement that includes a wide spectrum of sponsored research projects among UC Berkeley, UCSF, Janssen and Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices and Consumer companies.

With this new fellowship, Johnson & Johnson hopes to help expand data science research, thus enabling new discoveries in healthcare.

“These agreements with UCSF and UC Berkeley exemplify our commitment to building a thriving network of collaborations that strengthen and leverage data science capabilities and advance compelling scientific research,” said Mammen. “We see major potential to unlock new disease insights, enhance the effective, efficient discovery of transformative medicines and ultimately deliver better health outcomes for patients around the world.”

This is not Johnson & Johnson’s first collaboration to take part in healthcare ventures. In 2018, the company partnered with Mercy to use authentic clinical data to increase patient safety and make sure medical devices are used to their full potential.

In another program, Johnson & Johnson’s advanced VR training modules, designed to give doctors access to a convenient and totally safe hands-on surgical experience, were used to help doctors and medical students.


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