Investing in Innovation – IDea Incubator and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS

The IDSA Foundation recently announced a new collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS to host the 2020 Virtual IDea Incubator, a pitch-style competition taking place on Tuesday, October 20th, 5 – 6PM ET.

Originally launched in 2018 by Javeed Siddiqui, MD, M.P.H., co-founder and Chief Medical Officer of TeleMed2U, the IDea Incubator was created to help drive innovation in the infectious diseases space. “Now, more than ever, innovation is crucial, and the inventions presented here could potentially play a role in solving some of the biggest issues in infectious diseases,” said Dr. Siddiqui. “By providing an incentive of getting funded through this competition, we aim to open doors to help support early-stage ventures. The feedback and visibility the competitors receive through the process could help propel early-stage concepts into their next stages of development.”

Recently, the IDSA Foundation spoke with Rachel Rath, M.B.A, M.P.H, Director of the BARDA Alliance for Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS to learn more about our new partner. Rachel Rath joined Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS at the end of 2019 and is responsible for BLUE KNIGHT™, a collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which is a part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

IDSA Foundation: BLUE KNIGHT™ seems to closely align with what many of our ID doctors are doing. Can you share some more on this new initiative?

Rachel Rath, M.B.A, M.P.H: Through this unique public-private collaboration, we set out to help unlock the collective strength of the global innovation community with the aim to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges—both known and unknown global health threats, including pandemic influenza and emerging infectious diseases.

By bringing together the expertise and opportunities from two global leaders in science and research, we are dedicated to helping foster innovation aimed at improving our preparedness for and response to our rapidly evolving global health environment.

We also hope to make collaboration across this innovative space easier by connecting entrepreneurs and the start-up community through educational programming and symposia. Science and technology innovation can move quickly, but imagine how much faster we can move if together we break through silos?

IDSA Foundation: Why did Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS find the collaboration with the IDSA Foundation’s IDea Incubator to be the right type of collaboration for Blue Knight?

 Rath: We strive to find the most innovative potential solutions aimed at reducing barriers to improving global health security. Infectious diseases—particularly unknown and emerging threats—are part of that work.

While Johnson & Johnson Innovation and BARDA have launched Blue Knight, we can’t do this alone. This collaboration is intended to activate the global innovation community to harness innovation taking place around the world.

The IDea Incubator focuses on original ideas, technologies, science, and potential solutions designed specifically to fight infectious diseases. For us, this opportunity is ideal to align around our shared focus on combating infectious diseases.

By collaborating on this event, we hope to connect with entrepreneurs who may align with our mutual areas of interest and/or may be interested in finding a place as a Blue Knight resident within a JLABS location.

Blue Knight programs – open to innovators from around the world – are underway. I encourage those interested in learning more to join one of our upcoming Blue Knight programs, at

IDSA Foundation:  Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS and the IDea Incubator share similarities regarding innovations for improving healthcare. Can you please share more on what you’re doing in the innovation space?

Rath: JLABS is the global incubator network of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, connecting budding startups in the life sciences to the critical resources, mentorship and community to help support their success.

We’re looking for transformational ideas that align to Johnson & Johnson’s priorities in the medical device, pharmaceuticals, and consumer health sectors. We provide incubation space and expertise across our 13 JLABS sites worldwide. Our JLABS portfolio includes more than 650 current and alumni companies and more than 150 companies have at least one collaboration with Johnson & Johnson.

We don’t know where the next best idea may come from, but our goal is to cast a net wide enough to try to identify promising science early, support the entrepreneurs who are pioneering novel areas of research and accelerate the development of potential solutions to patients in need.

IDSA Foundation: For the first time ever, the IDea Incubator will be going virtual at IDWeek 2020. What are your thoughts on a virtual pitch-style competition?

 Rath: I’m glad that we have the ability to connect virtually! Like many people, I miss the opportunities to travel and connect face-to-face, but I’m glad that technology enables events like this to continue.

The upside of virtual meetings is that individuals who otherwise would not have been able to attend can join the competition and the participants will be pitching to a broader, more diverse audience.

We can’t wait to see the innovative ideas that were submitted from around the world! I expect to hear about cutting-edge technologies and innovations that have the potential to push beyond the status quo.

In just a few weeks four finalists will present their transformational ideas to panel of judges for a chance to win up to $10,000 in funding.  Join IDSA Foundation and JLABS for the first ever LIVE Virtual IDea Incubator on Tuesday, October 20, 5 – 6pm ET. Registration to the event can be accessed here.