“It’s a perfect match!”

Last month EIT Health proudly announced four new partners joining the European network and seven existing partners advancing their status from Associate Partner to Core Partner. One of the „upgrades“ is Janssen-Cilag GmbH (Janssen) – now a Core Partner within the German CLC of EIT Health. We interviewed Günter Huhle, Head of JLABS EMEA, Johnson & Johnson Innovation (JLABS), the main contact for Janssen within the EIT Health ecosystem in Germany, on his motivation, goals and expectations for Janssen in the new role.

EIT Health Germany: „Janssen is a well-known player in the German EIT Health network. Since 2016, the company has been involved as an Associate Partner in various EIT Health projects. Why did Janssen upgrade its membership?“

Günter Huhle: „Actually we intended to be a Core Partner to the German CLC from the very start of EIT Health Germany in 2015. When we first got in touch with EIT Health and started to evaluate internally the benefits this collaboration could bring to both organizations, Janssen practically agreed immediately that we would want to become a part of the network and even – in agreement with our top management – to play a major role in it. Our participation in numerous Innovation Projects since then, demonstrated our commitment to the work of and the opportunities offered by the network. I personally was involved in various strategy discussions in the initial phase of EIT Health in Germany and have been Chair of the German Partner Assembly since 2016. Thus, it was a logical next step for Janssen to grasp the opportunity to become a Core Partner and further intensify the collaboration with EIT Health Germany and its excellent network.

EIT Health Germany: „In general, what is the motivation behind Janssen’s decision to work with EIT Health?“

Günter Huhle: „To give you an answer straight to the point, let me express Janssen‘s DNA: “We discover and develop innovation that addresses unmet medical needs and creates differentiated products that help people live longer, healthier and happier lives.” Comparing this credo to the vision and mission of EIT Health you have what I call a perfect match! In all EIT Health projects there is the opportunity to share findings and expertise in a way that creates fertile ground for insights and helps convert this knowledge into tangible solutions. This is the core value that Janssen and EIT Health have in common.

After nearly three years of playing a major role within the network we are very much impressed by the outcomes of the strategic partnerships and projects we were involved in. These partnerships enabled all stakeholders to share the European spirit, to work together and to successfully reach a common goal. EIT Health provides us and all partners, corporates and start-ups, with external innovation forces that come along with scientific and operational excellence. We are able to bring people in the areas of pharma, medical devices, consumer and health tech in Europe together to develop breakthrough solutions, and to bring products and services to their regional markets that improve their lives.

EIT Health Germany: „Where do you see the pros and cons of the cooperation with EIT Health especially for industrial partners and corporates?

Günter Huhle: „The EIT Health network is huge. You can find in it some of the most well-respected representatives of every stakeholder within the healthcare ecosystem in Europe – and the best part is that you are able to directly connect and work with them. Thus, the biggest benefit is certainly the diversity of the EIT Health ecosystem. In addition, initiating partnerships and joint projects within the network is completely straightforward. The dedicated processes in which projects are developed and implemented are well-coordinated. On the other hand, this coordination can sometimes be a bit tedious especially when it comes to the numerous reports that are required during the lifetime of a project. From my perspective this is a point where improvements could be made, although I recognise that we are talking about EU-funded programmes and a certain transparency is required.

EIT Health Germany: „What was the highlight of your collaboration with EIT Health so far and why?

Günter Huhle: „Actually I do want to mention „BRIDEGEHEAD“ – because it’s our youngest baby. „BRIDGEHEAD“ is an EIT Health Accelerator programme that supports Digital Health companies, e.g., all e-Health, m-Health, Clinical decision support, Big Data and MedTech, Lifetech and Biotech (with a digital component) start-ups and scale-ups in Europe. It allows them individualised internationalisation support and provides young entrepreneurs, who are active in the health domain, with soft-landings. It also facilitates their cross-border mobility and market entry beyond their home market and offers mentoring, services, resources and even office space to start-ups that need support in this area. Working with those young, early-stage companies in these kind of programmes is the best way to identify the brightest health entrepreneurs in Europe. JLABS is excited to collaborate because we believe „BRIDGEHEAD“ will have big potential and it closely aligns with our mission to help emerging companies transform the scientific discoveries of today into the breakthrough healthcare products of tomorrow.

EIT Health Germany: „What do you expect or want from EIT Health Germany in the future?“

Günter Huhle: „As a Core Partner to the German CLC, Janssen is committed to contributing its part to a successful future for EIT Health in Germany. In addition, I would have the following suggestions: The collaboration with start-ups within the different pillars could be further intensified and more start-ups should be encouraged to participate in Innovation Projects. Looking at the partner-side, EIT Health Germany should focus on payer engagement to enthuse them to participate in the network.“

About Günter Huhle

Günter Huhle is Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS EMEA. Prior to joining JLABS, Günter was leading the Business Development Organisation and the Mature Brands at Janssen in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Russia and CIS. Günter received his MD and PhD from the University of Heidelberg and his Master of Science from the University of Witten/Herdecke. He is board accredited in Internal Medicine and Haemostaseology and holds a Professorship at the University of Heidelberg. Since he moved into the pharmaceutical industry in 2001, Günter has held various national, regional and global leadership positions in R&D, Medical Affairs and Business, first at Eli Lilly and later at Merck KGaA before joining Janssen and Johnson & Johnson in 2007.

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