Stakeholder Series: The Value of Health Tech – Q & A With…
Cris De Luca, Global Director, Digital Innovation, Johnson & Johnson Innovation
Cris De Luca was named a 40 under 40 Healthcare Innovator by the Boston Business Journal and Medtech Boston. He is a seasoned entrepreneur/intrapreneur who is driven to improve human health through technology and innovation. Cris is currently the Global Director of Digital Innovation for Johnson & Johnson Innovation based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He’s tasked with translating Digital and Data-driven external innovation opportunities throughout J&J’s Innovation Centers, JLABS incubators, and JJDC corp ventures across the Pharma, Consumer, and Medical Device businesses. For more about Cris, you visit his Linkedin profile.
Q & A with Cris De Luca:
Q: Where do you see the most significant disruption happening within the health tech sector now?
A: The notion of early detection and disease interception opens an entirely new world of possibilities in terms of treatment and potential cure options for patients. We’re committed to investing in platforms that are focused on disease prevention, interception, and cure. Technology plays a critical role in creating advancements in health solutions that utilize digital or connected health technologies. This opens the possibility to change patient behaviors and improve outcomes while disease insights can be generated from everyday activities people do on a regular basis. An exciting development is digital biomarkers which can from vocal analytics and clinical-grade wearables. Also, Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) is quickly becoming a reality with recent FDA approvals of Digital Medicines as behavioral therapy for example.
Q: Johnson and Johnson commits its resources on innovations in healthcare. What’s their policy or priority where it concerns innovations?
A: Johnson & Johnson Innovation was launched over 5 years ago with the goal of bringing our partnering capabilities to the communities where the innovation was happening. We launched four Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers in the life sciences hotspots of Boston, California, London, and Shanghai with a remit to focus on sourcing collaborations with regional entrepreneurs at startup companies, universities, and institutes who are developing early-stage innovations. Each Innovation Center houses science and technology experts and has full and broad deal-making capabilities to ensure we’re capturing the best external innovation across our strategic areas of focus in Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices, and Consumer.
Q: Others in the space talk about data as being a significant driver for health tech – what are your thoughts on where you could see the best ROI on data research/use?
A: Data-driven health science holds the future to potentially unlocking new insights into the understanding of the biology of disease, precision medicine, and consumer and behavioral science. But it’s not that simple. Depending on the problem you are trying to solve it is important to look at the 4V’s of data – Volume, Variety, Veracity, and Velocity. Having the right amount of data for statistical significance, ensuring it is inclusive with diverse representation to ensure there aren’t inherent biases, being able to trust the provenance of the data, and managing the rate of change are all important factors. Most of the data-driven solutions are progressing towards putting the necessary pieces of the puzzle together. Some of the most obvious applications are in the field of clinical decision support. AI-powered pathology and radiology can help optimize what the human eye sees and speed up the process when examining medical imagery. This type of solution is part of the first frontier of AI that will likely make its way into clinical workflow in the near term and can be a valuable tool for radiologists.
Q: What is the most important healthcare innovation that you see trending up?
A: I believe Deep/Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence will be our operating system of the future. I also suspect that within the next 5-10 years, voice-driven interfaces will be the primary way humans interact with machines. This potentially changes everything with the opportunity to make health a part of every aspect of our lives. Health is still something that is often still reactive to symptoms, a doctor’s office, or a hospital setting with a treatment or procedure. Smoother and passive interaction with computing devices, sensors, and platform solutions will potentially yield better health outcomes via the AI models associated and a behavioral shift towards preventative healthcare.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge innovators face in this sector?
A: Healthtech innovators enter the space for many reasons and come from many diverse backgrounds which is amazing. Some find their spark from a pure systems/engineering perspective, some are driven by a personal story, others from the research or medical community. There is no boilerplate for required experience, backgrounds, no clear road to business model development, and lots of decisions to make along regulatory pathways. The beauty in all of this is also a challenge. Those who succeed are able to connect purpose to science and technology and understand that there are no shortcuts. Building the right team and working with the right strategic partners early on in the process can make all the difference.
(Stakeholder Series shares commentary of thought leader viewpoints.)