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“Turning Targeted Therapy on Its Head”

Imagine a world where the most complex diseases aren’t just treated but prevented and even cured. Where medicine is personal—and healthcare solutions aren’t just smarter or less invasive, but broadly accessible to all.

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Joshua Bauml, Global Medical Head, Lung at Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine

 To do so, you have to think differently.

“Drug development is sometimes thought of as simply identifying an agent that might help patients, but we approach it differently because our commitment is different,” Josh says. “For example, we aren’t interested in developing ‘me-too’ agents”—or drugs that have the same chemical structures or mechanisms of action as existing drugs on the market.

While such drugs may present benefits to patients, they aren’t clinically innovative or responsive to unmet patient needs. By contrast, at Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine, Josh says, “Our goal is to identify therapies that will be transformative for patients with cancer and their families around the world.”

His team’s recent contributions to an innovative treatment for patients with certain forms of lung cancer is illustrative in this respect.

Historically, this form of lung cancer has been treated with a small-molecule inhibitor that targets the inside of the cell,” Josh explains. “What we’ve created is a treatment that proactively targets both the driver protein for this form of lung cancer and the body’s most common mechanism of resistance to this therapy, inducing a robust immune response.”
 
He adds, “By bringing immunotherapy, or an immune activation, to this form of lung cancer, we’re breaking new ground.”

 “Following the Science to Save Lives”

After completing med school, Josh spent the next 10 years treating patients with lung cancer at an academic medical center. “I saw firsthand how deadly and devastating this disease can be,” he says. 

But he also saw that his academic career path was “stable in ways both good and bad,” as he put it. “You know what you’re doing every day, what the requirements are and what you need to do clinically. At the same time, at least in academic medicine, you tend to become part of a fairly homogeneous group: in my case, physicians with medical school training who were all pursuing research projects essentially similar to my own.”

What if he could continue to impact the lives of patients with cancer, except on a much larger scale? With this goal in mind, Josh decided to join our team.

“One thing I’ve been surprised by at Johnson & Johnson is the intensity and rigor of the learning environment, which rivals most academic research settings in my experience,” he says. “You’ll also likely find yourself collaborating with experts who are doing things you’ve never even thought of before—and who therefore approach the challenges you’re trying to solve from unique and different perspectives. Honestly, I'm learning new things every day right now.”

And while crediting “great cross-functional mentorship” as a key factor in his successful transition, Josh also poses two questions as guideposts to help people in similar situations make the right move:

  • “Is this an opportunity to work on drugs or treatments that you believe in?"
  • “Is this a company whose commitments you believe in?”

Josh found his answers in Our Credo at Johnson & Johnson, the values guiding everything we do: “It makes me proud to see those values in practice, because the reality is that other interests can enter the equation and influence, say, clinical trial design, but not here, where eradicating lung cancer is the shared mission. We can do that by following the science in order to help the most people in the best way. We hope to save lives.

Apply Your Purpose and Passion, Shape the Future of Health

If you’re inspired by Josh’s journey and want to practice rigorous science that matches the courageous will of our patients, check out all of the ways you can join our Innovative Medicine team right now. Plus, sign up for our global talent community to get updates about relevant job opportunities that may interest you in the future.

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