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Making the Connection
How does the diversity program alliance between Centocor and the University of Michigan align with J&J’s overarching diversity programs?
Barbosa: Within Centocor, as well as across Johnson & Johnson, there are fundamental principles that define the company and how we work. The first is a deep passion for drug discovery and development; the second is diversity in who we are and how we work; and the third is an emphasis on innovation, which leads to a broad set of interactions throughout a network of key academic centers as well as partnerships with other organizations in industry. We have had several collaborations with key scientists at the University of Michigan, particularly in the area of immunology. Based on the success of these collaborations along with the outstanding reputation of the academic center, we believed there was an opportunity to extend the research collaboration into a diversity initiative. We believe this collaboration has the potential to strengthen a pipeline of diverse talent; some of these individuals may even become candidates for future positions in the organization. Fostering Opportunity What initiatives are being planned by Centocor and the university to encourage greater diversity in the sciences? Barbosa: By initiating a postdoctoral fellowship program, we are providing a broader set of opportunities for research collaborations. Candidates can submit their research proposals to a joint committee comprised of representatives from Centocor as well as principal investigators from the University of Michigan. This initiative covers a broader set of potential programs underlined within our drug discovery strategy in immunology, as well as programs aligned with our broader interest in drug discovery and biologic drugs. Johnson & Johnson and Centocor have sponsored several diversity training programs, for example GEM, a national consortium for graduate degrees for minorities in engineering and science, and the Temple University minority access to research careers PSTP program. The Temple University program engaged minority students in the very early stages of their academic careers; this longitudinal program involved students in middle school, high school, and college. We have hosted interns over the past three years, providing them with greater exposure to the opportunities available in the industry. Broad Perspectives The partnership aims to both foster greater diversity in the sciences to help change the questions being asked within the discipline and to create more diverse ways of identifying problems and solutions. Can you please elaborate? Barbosa: Centocor is a global organization, so it is fundamentally important for us to have global — not just international, which means representation from the communities that we’re working in and seeking to find medicinal solutions for. Through this diversity effort, it is our goal to have individuals with diverse experiences and backgrounds participate in our drug discovery programs and our internal scientific discussions. In so doing, I believe this will help broaden the scientific discussion, and we will begin to consider more diverse approaches for drug discovery, as well as uncovering healthcare solutions that can be targeted to individual patients. This effort includes a broader discussion and understanding about the diseases, the therapeutic mechanisms for treating diseases, and then the mechanisms by which the therapy itself is delivered to the community. These types of complex dialogues can only be accomplished if discussions take place starting at the very early stage of concept and continuing all the way through the commercialization of a product. Having a more diverse set of views represented in these discussions ensures more solid decisions and stronger outcomes. United Missions Why are relationships between academia and the industry valuable when it comes to diversity initiatives? Barbosa: In the scientific-academic setting there are essentially two missions: developing knowledge and serving the community, which are not so different from the industry’s goals. The fundamental principle is to achieve the broadest range of diversity in how we conceive ideas for drug discovery and development. Working with academic organizations gives us greater exposure to diverse communities in a variety of ways. Some academic organizations have global representation in their postgraduate programs; others have strong local representation, which may serve as a conduit to unique pools of candidates. The University of Michigan collaboration includes a combination of all of these factors: a deep scientific expertise, an active program supporting diversity, and a match between academic expertise and our strategic interests in this area. F PharmaVOICE welcomes comments about this article. E-mail us at email@example.com. Our goal is to open up opportunities to diverse populations for those interested in a career in the life-sciences industry.
Centocor’s Dr. Miguel Barbosa Discusses the Company’s Diversity Initiative with the University of Michigan
A new joint program launched by Centocor Research and Development and the University of Michigan provides an innovative model for industry/academic fellowship programs. Centocor designed the program to continue to build and diversify its pipeline of talent while supporting postdoctoral researchers in populations that are traditionally under-represented in the science and medical communities.