The Ontario Government, University of Toronto, and MaRS Discovery District (MaRS) recently announced a collaboration with Janssen Inc. to launch the successful Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS (JLABS) incubator model in Toronto. A major boon for the Toronto region Human Health & Sciences cluster, the new facility, called JLABS @ Toronto, will open in spring of 2016 at MaRS Discovery District and will support start-ups with lab space, programs, and potential investment partners as they work to build important, successful early-stage companies.

Melinda Richter, Head, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS, says Toronto was a natural choice for the first international expansion of JLABS for a number of reasons. “Toronto is home to a vibrant and prolific healthcare and life sciences community led by academic hospitals, world-class research institutions, top scientists, and a strong start-up ecosystem. The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies has long been active within the Toronto community, forming many significant collaborations,” said Richter. “We’re pleased to begin an even deeper relationship with this important community. Our new location, within a University of Toronto site, close to our hospital collaborators, and neighbouring the financial centre of Canada, will deliver great opportunities and impact for emerging biomedical technology entrepreneurs.”

JLABS @ Toronto is a collaboration among Johnson & Johnson Innovation, The University of Toronto, MaRS Discovery District, Janssen Inc., MaRS Innovation, and the Government of Ontario. Hospital participants include: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Hospital for Sick Children, Sinai Health System, St. Michael’s Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and University Health Network.

Planned as a 40,000-square ft. site accommodating up to 50 life sciences and health start-ups, JLABS @ Toronto will adopt best practices pioneered at other JLABS to accelerate the impact and success of this new collaboration. “Our goal is to give innovators access to many of the same benefits that internal R&D teams have in big companies, all as a ‘no-strings-attached’ model,” said Richter.

JLABS @ Toronto joins a network of five other life science incubators in San Diego , San Francisco (2), Boston and Houston. These facilities are home to over 100 early-stage health and life science companies advancing bio/pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer and digital health programs. As JLABS has done for leaders of the life sciences industries throughout the United States, JLABS @ Toronto will bring a wealth of resources to this city and to local entrepreneurs, and will be a catalyst for not only R&D and commercialization initiatives, but also to the regional economy. JLABS @ Toronto will help build on and catalyze the region’s current culture of innovation and entrepreneurism to ultimately deliver novel therapies for the world’s patient population.

JLABS facilities provide emerging companies with many of the advantages of being in an established innovation centre – access to talent and mentors, large existing firms and research universities, capital and convergence opportunities with other sectors. Entrepreneurs can access singular bench tops, modular ‘wet’ lab units, and office and administrative space on a short-term basis, with flexibility to grow. JLABS also provides access to business services, educational forums and partnering events to build capabilities, connections and funding opportunities for the local innovator community.

“Our choice of location is not by chance – it’s by choice,” noted Richter. “Our new MaRS home, within a University of Toronto site, close to our hospital collaborators, and neighbouring the financial centre of Canada, will deliver the greatest opportunity and impact for life science entrepreneurs.”

The life sciences sector in Ontario is anchored by the University of Toronto and its affiliated research and teaching hospitals. Physically located in the heart of the city and adjacent to the government legislature, the University of Toronto is a global scientific powerhouse and the home institution for a significant number of internationally-renowned researchers.

The University’s affiliated research and teaching hospitals receive more than $1 billion in annual R&D investment, with three of the most significant centres lined up along University Avenue – forming Canada’s most important biomedical commercialization cluster.

MaRS Discovery District is a community that encourages entrepreneurial thinking through education programs and events, and helps start-ups launch, grow and scale. MaRS supports over 1,000 ventures that, in turn, employ more than 5,100 people. In the last three years, MaRS ventures have raised $1.3 billion in capital and earned $640 million in revenue.

Supported by the Government of Canada through the Networks of Centres of Excellence, and by its 15 member institutions, MaRS Innovation’s portfolio includes the most promising assets from its members’ pipeline, which it advances into global markets through industry partnerships, licensing and company creation.

Applications are currently being accepted for entrepreneurs interested in becoming a part of the JLABS community at

Photo Courtesy of Connie Tsang Photography.

FROM LEFT: Chris Halyk, President, Janssen Inc., Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid, Melinda Richter, Head, JLABS, J&J Innovation, Meric Gertler, President, University of Toronto and Robert Urban, Head, J&J Innovation Centre in Boston