Johnson & Johnson Vision
Xiao-Yu Song, MD, PhD
Global Head of Research and Development, Johnson & Johnson Vision
What in the ophthalmic field is your team most excited about right now?
At Johnson & Johnson Vision, our purpose is to deliver healthy sight for life. Everything we do within our strong portfolio and robust pipeline focuses on innovating against unmet eye health needs across one’s lifetime. The potential to serve the ophthalmic community by identifying unmet medical needs and developing unique ways to address them is what excites us the most.
Starting with the developing eyes of pediatric patients, we believe it is part of our responsibility as one of the leading healthcare companies in the world to help slow down and stop the progression of myopia, a pandemic in the eye health space. We are advancing the next generation of science, generating new evidence based on innovative research, and bringing new products and services to the market – under our ACUVUE® Abiliti™ brand portfolio – to address this fast-growing threat that is disproportionately affecting children.
In young adults and aging adults, we are focused on developing solutions for refractive/vision correction, allergy relief, dry eye, and beauty. We have a long legacy of innovation across vision correction and recognize that there remains a high level of unmet need across the globe as approximately a quarter of the population experiences some sort of visual impairment. We are making investments in corneal refractive surgery – both excimer and femtosecond laser technology platforms – as well as with contact lenses, that we expect to introduce soon. Additionally, and notably, we recently announced the FDA approval of ACUVUE® Theravision™ with Ketotifen - the world’s first and only drug-eluting contact lens for prevention of ocular itch associated with allergic conjunctivitis that also provides vision correction. Approximately 40 percent of contact lens wearers suffer from itchy eyes due to ocular allergies. Together, our scientists, engineers and cross-functional colleagues were the first to tackle this challenge.
As consumers/patients continue to age, we are focused on providing enhanced solutions to address presbyopia and cataracts with products ranging from our new next-generation presbyopia correcting intraocular lenses (PCIOLs), TECNIS Synergy™ IOL and TECNIS Synergy™ Toric II IOL, that go beyond trifocal technology, delivering the widest range of continuous vision, to rolling out the first monofocal innovation in 20 years for cataract patients, TECNIS Eyhance™ IOL and TECNIS Eyhance™ Toric II IOL, to a next-generation phacoemulsification system, VERITAS Vision System.
We believe the future of eye care is bright with tremendous opportunities for ongoing innovation in technology, products, pharmaceuticals, and care delivery methods across every stage of life.
What role does R&D play in the success of your company?
R&D plays a quintessential role in the success of Johnson & Johnson Vision. R&D scientific innovation – the foundation for all our products and services – is viewed as the critical engine of our long-term business success, and we invest deeply in it. Having clear foresight of future problems that need solutions, our R&D function acts as a growth catalyst by introducing disruptive breakthrough products and solutions to the market. Our innovations aim to help billions of people see better, connect better and live better.
For more than 30 years, researchers and scientists at Johnson & Johnson Vision have been at the forefront of revolutionizing eye care, pioneering wearable technology with the introduction of the world’s first disposable soft contact lens in 1988. Since then, we have introduced innovations to meet a range of vision needs, including TECNIS®, the most advanced intraocular lens platform for cataract surgery. Now we are further revolutionizing the way people see, with exciting advances that help address seasonal allergy symptoms, improve surgical outcomes, manage myopia, and more. Last year alone, our team launched eight new products.
Our decades of experience in surgical care and vision care provide the foundation for the future of Johnson & Johnson Vision. Our team will continue to leverage the power of our iconic brands – TECNIS® and ACUVUE® – and advance a steady cadence of innovation matched with commercial execution excellence, critical to growth.
The curious minds of our R&D team continue to discover new solutions that were once only imagined. Our teams are pushing the boundaries of innovation by constantly asking “what if” questions. We’re doing today what was unimaginable just a few years ago – making seemingly impossible outcomes possible, improving overall health through eye health, and making it simpler and more accessible for all to have healthy sight.
We work across functions and regions throughout the entire product lifecycle – from concept to launch – to create new disruptive innovation and technology led solutions. For when we work together – across borders and boundaries, we can create the next generation of opportunities in eye health and delivering the very best outcomes for patients.
With our heritage of innovation, breadth of scientific expertise, and focus on the entire eye, no one’s better equipped to see and shape the future – and our R&D team is leading the way.
What role does the end user play in your R&D process?
At Johnson & Johnson Vision, we integrate end users, including ophthalmologists, optometrists and patients, throughout our entire R&D process. We believe that the best way to understand and address unmet needs is through frequent interactions with the customers we serve, whether it be patients or eye care professionals.
From generating new ideas based on deep insights, screening those ideas, testing and validating early concepts, designing clinical trials, testing products, and commercializing, we directly work with end users. It is an iterative, systemic cycle in which we are constantly listening, learning and improving.
In 2021, our R&D team delivered on several impactful use cases where end user feedback was incorporated in the product. As examples, critical feedback drove us to innovate and push the boundaries of the monofocal category – a category that’s largely been stagnant for the last 20 years. Additionally, the advancements we were able to make in phacoemulsification technology with our VERITAS Vision System were a result of us listening and tailoring innovations to surgeons’ needs for enhanced user experiences.
Our end user-centric R&D process has driven all our scientific innovation to address unmet needs and reimagine health.
Who are the unsung heroes within your R&D team?
Our Johnson & Johnson Vision R&D team is driven to find new products and technologies that will make a difference to ophthalmologists, other eye care professionals, and patients around the world. They apply emerging technologies, sound science, and vigorous design and development processes to rapidly move our solutions toward the future of eye care.
When it comes to discovery and innovation, our R&D team, together with our end-to-end cross-functional team, pours its heart and soul into design and development – many times through numerous iterations, generating and disseminating clinical evidence, gaining regulatory approvals from health authorities across the world, manufacturing and making our innovative solutions available to the customers and patients that we serve. It’s a tremendous, persistent effort – sometimes taking decades to see a product or solution come to fruition.
So, for us, our entire R&D team is really the unsung hero. The sum of researchers, technicians, scientists, engineers, and support staff – everyone that enables us to fulfil our mission to bring science and sense of sight to life through world-class innovation and customer experience. They are the heroes behind the scenes, maximizing our innovation impact.
Furthermore, there are subsets of teams to call-out. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our manufacturing pilot line and laboratory scientists, engineers, and technicians never stopped working. They soldiered on throughout the pandemic to keep the innovation engine running, as well as business and supply continuity. There was no “return to work” for them, as they never left. Thanks to their perseverance and diligence, they helped ensure minimal disruption to the business and to our pipeline advancement.
The work of the Johnson & Johnson Vision R&D team has a real impact on patients’ lives in every part of the world – and they are all heroes.