RED HOT Contributors


Episode 31 – Bitten by the Bug with JNJ Innovation


Healthcare innovation thrives with Johnson & Johnson Innovation JLABS. Five years in, they now have nine facilities in the U.S. and Canada, more than 160 healthcare technology startups brewing, and have had numerous significant commercial successes.

Today, we have a very special guest – Melinda Richter, Head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation, JLABS. Once bitten and hardly shy…she’s an incredible entrepreneur who carries the pulse of healthcare innovation in her own blood.

An incredible story of meager beginnings, her teetering on the edge of mortality, as well as her push to take new innovators and powerful healthcare technology to the next level. Hot pools of talent, partnered and grounded by real-world wisdom.

In this ear-opening episode, Dr. Steve and Melinda discuss:

  • Abundance from Scarcity 
  • Bitten by the Bug in Beijing
  • JLABS and its incredible run of growth
  • The Story of Two Average ‘Joes’
  • NYC is Rockin’ With JLABS
  • Future Focus on Healthcare’s Front End

[On Her Beginnings…]

STEVE: “So we’re going to get into JLABS and the impact that its making. But first…you come from very interesting beginnings. I’d like you to share a bit more about that with us. “

MELINDA: “So Steve…I started my life in a very humble place. I was born into a one-thousand square foot house, with five brothers, three sisters and my parents. This house was not only at the end of a little dirt road in Northern Saskatchewan Canada – but this house had no plumbing, no running water, and no electricity.”

STEVE: “Oh…”

MELINDA: “As you can imagine in the winters, life can be pretty challenging. But I had no a platform, but a privilege in many aspects. My parents were amazing in many aspects.

My mom was a creative problem solver. No matter what you threw at her, which was usually a lot of nothing, she was able to create something incredible.

My father has a really interesting story. He and my grandparents escaped from Europe at the time of Hitler. Though he could have been very bitter about that, he used it as a life lesson for us.

He taught us that so many people stood around and didn’t get educated on what was going on in the world. That they didn’t stand up for those, who couldn’t stand up for themselves.

He bestowed on us that we needed to get educated, get involved in what was going on in the world..and [when needed]to change that story.”

[On JLABS Incubation Success…]

STEVE: “Thirty years ago…even ten years ago certain successes from good business ideas were not possible. Now it’s possible.

You can have someone with a cutting edge idea, and they just need the right gates open for commercialization…they need the right coaching. So now, it becomes a gift to everybody.”

MELINDA: “You know, we [JLABS] are seeing so many of these stories. That’s the magic of putting hot, young dynamic new teams…that has never done it before…but that are incredible passionate and talented at what they do.

Together with the experience and wisdom of people like we have at J&J, people who HAVE done it; and we’ve realized they both need each other. It’s incredible what’s happening out there.

That’s why I don’t think entrepreneurship happens only in Silicon Valley or Boston. That it’s this opaque box that we don’t really know what happens – but if you put it there, it will happen.

I believe that its about putting these different pools of talent together, in unique ways, and setting them off to the races. When you do that, we have the opportunity to transform the industry – and make it like the tech industry.

The tech industry has integrated our lives in every single way. Connected to our email, to our photos, our networks. In the future, that’s how our health is going to be – pervasive in how we operate daily.”

STEVE: “Hot pools of talent, grounded by wisdom. That could be a tagline…I love that.”

MELINDA: [Laughing] “Maybe you should get a t-shirt?”


 I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Steve Ambrose on a podcast that covered a range of topics in healthcare information technology. The podcast logistics – communications, interview questions, scheduling and production – were every well managed.
A great experience that I would do again in an instance.

Dr. John Glaser
SVP, Population Health at CERNER

Get Our Newsletter

 Receive podcast updates
Exclusive insights
Patient Engagement Tips from industry experts
We hate SPAM as much as you do and promise to keep your email address safe.
  • Subscribe to the Podcast