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Carroll School of Management


Alex Gorsky

Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson

Excerpt from remarks to Boston College’s Chief Executives Club  

September 11, 2015

TAKEAWAY: Innovation

Now, what’s some of the good news? Why should we not get too down in the dumps? Why should we look forward? Very consistent with what Jeff said, I can’t think of a more exciting time to be living today in terms of scientific breakthroughs and innovation than what we’re seeing. You know, just this morning, I had the pleasure to visit—we opened up an innovation center here in Boston not too far from here. By the way, let me thank you very much for the ecosystem that you’ve created. I mean the capabilities, the raw intelligence, the skills that Boston provides to the greater health care community is nothing less than remarkable. Any more, yes, we do research and development, but we do much more of what we call search and development.

Even a company our size, we can’t discover everything. Rather, you’ve got to go out, and you’ve got to build the networks, work with the academic centers, work with the venture world, do it early to identify that next breakthrough opportunity. Many times, we’re larger companies, like Jeff’s and mine, where we can actually scale it, bring it to fruition and be able to take it globally.

By having an innovation center here—and we were listening to the ideas that they were presenting, they were talking about the microbiome this morning and how there’s flora and fauna inside of us, and I know it’s just after lunch, so I won’t get into the other parts of that, that have the potential to take on inflammatory diseases in the future, because it’s actually regulated by what’s going on in your gut. It can take on obesity, cardiova—certain aspects of metabolic disease just by better understanding something like that. They showed us a new platform that can help regenerate bone by fusing two things together in trauma surgery.

I think back, and again, I’ve been able to be a student of this industry for some time, that the breakthroughs that we’ve had, the billions of dollars of investments that have been made understanding the genome, and what that is resulting in in terms of productivity across areas like hepatology, like oncology, and neuroscience is remarkable.

I really believe we’re on that cusp now of a new inflection point, where for many years I think there were a lot of critics of the pharmaceutical industry that said you do a lot of me-too drugs, and there’s not differentiation. You think about some of the breakthroughs that we’ve had and that we’re in the process of delivering, it’s nothing less than remarkable.