Our Research & Development Leadership Team
As Executive Vice President, Pharmaceuticals, R&D and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Executive Committee member, John’s mission is to focus the best research and development teams in the world at the intersection of unmet medical need and innovation to change the trajectory of human health. A biomedical research leader with a distinguished career across nonprofit, academia, and industry, John encourages a culture that is fast-paced and open to reimagining how life-saving medicines and vaccines are discovered, developed and delivered. Employing multiple drug modalities, John’s team works across a wide range of therapeutic areas, including: Oncology, Cardiovascular, Metabolic and Retinal Disease, Pulmonary Hypertension, Immunology, Neuroscience, and Infectious Disease and Vaccines.
Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson in April 2023, John held executive leadership positions at Sanofi and Roche, serving on their respective executive committees. He served as CEO of Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (now Sanford Burnham Prebys) where he established multiple therapeutic area-aligned research centers and platform technology centers. John has authored more than 900 research publications and holds more than 130 patents. He was recognized among the top 10 most cited researchers in life sciences and medicine and still ranks among the world’s top 100 most highly cited scientists. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the recipient of many honors and awards.
An accomplished scientist and leader, John holds a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and an M.D. and Ph.D. (Immunology) from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Neil Davie, Ph.D. is the Head, Late Development, of Cardiovascular, Metabolism, & Pulmonary Hypertension (CVM & PH). He has extensive experience as a drug developer leading projects across multiple therapeutic areas, particularly in specialty/rare diseases with high unmet medical need.
Neil joined Janssen in 2019 and is responsible for research and development within the Janssen PH portfolio. This includes drug discovery and external innovation.
Prior to joining Janssen, Neil worked at UCB Pharma as Development Lead. He also spent five years at Bayer as VP of Clinical Development.
Neil obtained his Bachelor of Science in Human Biology from the University of Leeds and his Ph.D. in Pulmonary Pharmacology from Imperial College London. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado Health Sciences center (Stenmark Lab), in the field of pulmonary hypertension.
He was appointed Assistant Professor of Pediatric Cardiology at the Children’s Hospital in Denver, working in the pulmonary hypertension lab of Dunbar Ivy.
Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, M.D., Ph.D., is Global Head, Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health R&D. In this role, Ruxandra and her team advance Global Public Health into the next era of innovation by leveraging critical discovery, development and regulatory capabilities across Janssen R&D. She provides alignment with the overall end-to-end strategy of Johnson & Johnson Global Public Health, collaborating with the Infectious Disease & Vaccines Therapeutic Area and other Janssen R&D Therapeutic Areas that have assets with potential application in global public health settings. She also collaborates with the J&J Innovation Centers and external partners to build important networks and identify new opportunities.
Ruxandra’ expertise includes more than two decades of impactful work within industry, government and academia. She served as Vice President for Public Health and Scientific Affairs with Merck & Co., contributing to Merck’s global vaccines pipeline and maintaining key partnerships with international organizations and the scientific community. Prior to her role at Merck, she worked with the European Commission, first as Director-Health, Directorate-General for Research and later as Deputy Director General, Directorate-General Research, overseeing programmatic, legislative, and research and innovation policy issues, and contributing to the Commission’s Health Programme, a strategy for improving public health, preventing illness and eliminating dangers to physical and mental health.
Prior to joining the Commission, Ruxandra spent nearly 20 years as a medical doctor and a researcher in Romania, France and the US. She holds a Ph.D. in human genetics from the Romanian Academy of Medical Sciences, University Carol Davila in Bucharest, where she also obtained her M.D. She participated in a fellowship program in the Genetics and Metabolic Pathology Department at René Descartes University in Paris, France, and completed her post-doctoral training in molecular biology at Baylor College of Medicine in the United States. Ruxandra has authored and co-authored more than 100 peered-reviewed papers and book chapters and holds more than 100 patents and patent applications in the areas of gene therapy, vector design, electroporation and other physical methods of delivery of macromolecules, novel vaccines and endocrinology. She is also the inventor of the first gene therapy product ever for use in farm animals. Ruxandra participated in the development and success of several global and European consortia and served on scientific boards, such as the international rare disease research consortium, or the Innovative Medicines Initiative.
Penny Heaton, M.D., is the Global Therapeutic Area Head for Infectious Diseases & Vaccines at Janssen Research & Development, L.L.C. In this role, she leads a global team focused on developing transformational vaccines to prevent some of the most devastating infectious diseases the world faces today.
Penny holds two decades of vaccine research and development experience. She recently served as the Chief Executive Officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Medical Research Institute (Gates MRI), where she led the development of investigational products from pre-clinical through late-stage development against multiple diseases including HIV, TB, malaria, pneumonia, enteric diseases, and polio. She has also led vaccine clinical research and development for companies including Novartis, Merck and Novavax. Notably, during her time at Meck, Penny co-developed a rotavirus vaccine which has been licensed in more than 100 countries and universally recommended by the World Health Organization for infants worldwide.
Penny began her career at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducting diarrheal disease surveillance and investigating outbreaks of foodborne and diarrheal diseases, influencing her life-long passion for vaccine development.
A graduate of the University of Louisville School of Medicine in Kentucky, Penny is board-certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. She is a member of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Najat Khan, Ph.D., is the Chief Data Science Officer and the Global Head (Vice President) of Strategy & Operations for Janssen Research & Development. In this role, Najat shapes the R&D strategic vision and operationalizes across multiple high priority areas to ensure Janssen R&D continues to deliver on transformational medicines for patients. These include building new capabilities such as creating a best-in-class R&D data science organization by selecting the highest priority questions to pursue, systematically deploying Data Science capabilities, while being a key catalyst in forming strategic external partnerships to accelerate on-going efforts.
Najat also collaborates with the various Janssen R&D therapeutic and functional heads, as well as Commercial and Business Development leaders on a wide variety of cross-functional strategic, portfolio related, and operational priorities while ensuring the respective insights are incorporated effectively within the broader Janssen community.
Prior to her current role, Najat was the Head of R&D Strategic Initiatives. In a brief period, she was able to develop and execute a comprehensive program comprising of more than 25 of Janssen’s R&D strategic initiatives, and was instrumental in launching our data science efforts, defining our R&D strategy for pursuing opportunities in new disease areas, enhancing early stage external innovation, etc.
Najat has more than 10 years of global healthcare experience in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, business and academia. Prior to joining Janssen, she was a Principal at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) where she has led and executed multiple strategic initiatives across research, commercial, business and clinical development, mergers and acquisitions and operations. Within R&D, areas of focus included portfolio governance and decision-making, R&D operating model optimization (including both clinical development and operations), external innovation and Digital Health. While at BCG, Najat also led the implementation of the Women’s Mentorship program and recruitment and retention efforts as recruiting director and career development advisor.
Najat received her B.A. in Chemistry with a minor in Economics from Colgate University and her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania with publications in high-impact journals such as Nature, Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, etc. She was also a fellow at the Penn Center for Innovation and led multiple licensee / partnership arrangements between UPenn and leading pharmaceutical and large cap biotech companies.
As Global Oncology Therapeutic Area Head for the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Peter F. Lebowitz, M.D., Ph.D. is responsible for the discovery, development and life cycle advancement of the company’s robust oncology pipeline and portfolio. He leads a global team of scientists that bring together expertise in small molecules, advanced biologics, cell therapies, vaccine platforms, translational research, diagnostics, and immuno-oncology. Under Peter’s leadership, Janssen Oncology has achieved many noteworthy milestones, including major product approvals for several first-in-class therapies; multiple U.S. Food and Drug Administration Breakthrough Therapy Designations; and tremendous, rapid growth within the group’s early development portfolio.
With a strategy focused on driving towards transformational therapies, Peter also successfully established an external innovation strategy to advance science and novel therapeutics in core disease areas, including hematologic malignancies, prostate cancer, immuno-oncology, and lung cancer. The combination of these efforts has led to more than 80 strategic oncology partnerships across the life sciences ecosystem and continues to distinguish Janssen as an industry leader and global oncology innovator.
Prior to his appointment as Global Oncology Therapeutic Area Head, Peter served as the Hematologic Malignancies Disease Area Leader within Janssen Research & Development. In this role, he had responsibility for creating and executing the scientific strategy to advance internal and externally sourced discovery and development programs. Together with his team, Peter is recognized for building an industry-leading hematologic malignancies portfolio that has been foundational for scientific innovation and has progressed important therapeutics that have transformed patient care.
Before joining Janssen R&D, Peter held Vice President positions in Discovery and Early/Late-stage Clinical Development for another pharmaceutical company where he successfully filed 10 Investigational New Drug Applications and played a significant role in the global registration of three oncology medicines. During his tenure, he also directly led major programs from preclinical discovery through pivotal Phase 3 registration trials.
Prior to transitioning to the pharmaceutical industry, Peter served as Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center. There he established an independently funded translational and clinical research program and led numerous clinical research programs as a principal investigator. He also had the privilege of caring for many oncology patients during this time. Peter graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, holds a master’s degree in Health Care Policy from Oxford University, and earned his medical degree and doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He completed clinical training in Internal Medicine at Duke University Medicinal Center and his Hematology/Oncology fellowship at the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Medical Oncology.
David M. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., is Global Immunology Therapeutic Area Head for the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson where he leads a team focused on end-to-end pipeline and a portfolio of treatments for immune-mediated disease. Under his leadership, Immunology researchers are working to build on the success of our current portfolio, which includes STELARA® (ustekinumab) and TREMFYA® (guselkumab).
Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson in September 2018, David was based in Basel, Switzerland, where he served as Global Head, Immunology, Inflammation and Infectious Disease Discovery and Translation Area for Roche, and prior to that, as Global Head of Autoimmunity, Dermatology, and Transplant Translational Medicine at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. In each of these roles, he led on the strategic approaches that fed the companies’ pipelines, prioritized assets, and accelerated their development. His ability to develop external collaborations and lead and develop his teams, was central to his success in each organization.
Before transitioning to the pharmaceutical industry, David was a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School. While there, his research laboratory focused on disease mechanisms in rheumatology and he was also a practicing rheumatologist. As a precursor to his career in industry, while at Harvard, he also participated in co-founding multiple start-ups. Ultimately, one – a biotech – was acquired by a major pharmaceutical company.
He is an active author and speaker, and has completed more than 80 peer-reviewed publications, book chapters, and more than 100 lectures/seminars.
David earned his undergraduate degree at Stanford University, where he discovered his fascination with the intricacies of the immune system. He subsequently earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in Microbiology/Immunology from the Duke University School of Medicine. His passion for developing new medicines is rooted in his experiences treating patients as a practicing rheumatologist.
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As Head of Asia Pacific R&D, Zili oversees all R&D activities within Asia Pacific, leading over 1,400 science professionals dedicated to delivering transformational healthcare innovation across the region.
Zili joined Janssen in June 2019 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) where he served as Associate Director for Global Affairs at the Office of Generic Drugs. There he contributed significantly to the expansion of International Council for Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) to the field of generic drugs, playing a critical role in China’s National Medical Products Administration’s membership in ICH in 2017.
Before rejoining the FDA in 2015, Zili had over 10 years of leadership and program management experience in pharmaceutical R&D at both Merck and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, where he built high-performance and science-driven organizations and drove substantial increases in R&D productivity. At Merck, he served in positions of increasing responsibility in clinical development and regulatory affairs at global, regional and local levels. His roles included Medical Director of MSD China, Head of China and Asia Pacific Regulatory Policy, and Executive Director and Head of Emerging Markets Regulatory Strategy. At the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Zili served as Deputy Director and Head of China R&D.
Zili first joined the FDA in 2000 as a medical reviewer for drug safety. Later he was promoted to medical team leader for overseeing IND and NDA reviews in defined therapeutic areas. In addition, Zili participated in FDA guidance development for the industry and presented at the FDA’s advisory committee meeting on behalf of the agency. Zili was a recipient of numerous FDA awards, including 2003 FDA Scientific Achievement Award and 2014 FDA Distinguished Alumni Award.
Zili is a graduate of Peking Union Medical College and completed his residency training at Johns Hopkins in 2000. In addition to his medical degree, Zili also holds two master’s degrees in public health.
James F. List, M.D., Ph.D. is the Global Therapeutic Area Head of Cardiovascular & Metabolism (CVM), leading a global team focused on creating new solutions for improving cardiovascular and diabetes care and disease interception. Jim has end-to-end research and development responsibility for the Janssen CVM portfolio, including drug discovery, clinical development, and external innovation. Jim joined Janssen in 2014.
Prior to joining Janssen, James served with Bristol-Myers Squibb as Vice President, Diabetes Development with responsibility for the diabetes joint venture alliance with AstraZeneca.
Earlier in his career, James was a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts with clinical responsibilities in General Endocrinology and Thyroid. He graduated from Stanford University in Stanford, California and completed his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He completed his medical training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital and the Massachusetts General Hospital, and is board certified in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Endocrinology.
Bill leads the Neuroscience therapeutic area of Janssen Research & Development, LLC in discovering and developing important new therapies for people living with brain disorders. His role is focused on addressing areas where the greatest unmet needs in neuroscience remain, and where the biggest impacts can be made for patients and society, including serious mental illness (such as treatment-resistant depression and schizophrenia) and neurodegenerative disorders (such as Alzheimer's disease). Despite the rich complexities and challenges associated with brain disorders, Bill and his team are firmly committed to ensuring a future where we can both predict and prevent these conditions, and ultimately improve lives and society on a global scale.
Prior to joining Janssen R&D, Bill held the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of Blackthorn Therapeutics, and previously served as the company's Chief Scientific Officer and Head of R&D. He co-founded Blackthorn, which integrates computational and clinical neuroscience and applies a precision medicine approach to creating novel therapeutics for central nervous system (CNS) disorders.
Before Blackthorn, Bill held multiple leadership positions at Theravance Biopharma, including leading the company's research portfolio planning initiative and serving as a member of the strategic partnership team and project team leader for an advanced clinical stage CNS program. He began his career at Merck, where he contributed to the strategic direction of the company's Neuroscience franchise.
Bill is also a member of the Board of Directors for Brown University's Carney Institute for Brain Science and has held leadership positions in the Society for Neuroscience, the Alliance for Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare, the American Physiological Society and the International Brain Research Organization. He has published extensively on neuroscience and brain disorders, with more than 75 publications in scientific journals.
Bill received a bachelor's in Psychology from Swarthmore College and a doctorate in Experimental Psychology from Brown University. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco.
James Merson, Ph.D., is the Global Therapeutic Area Head for Infectious Diseases at Janssen Research & Development, L.L.C. He is a member of the Senior R&D Leadership Team, leading the global Infectious Disease therapeutics team as they continue to create and advance transformational medicines to help treat, prevent and cure patients with respiratory infections, HIV and hepatitis B.
James holds more than 30 years of R&D experience in antivirals, vaccines and immuno-oncology. Previously at Pfizer, Inc., he held a succession of leadership positions, including Chief Scientific Officer of the Vaccine Immunotherapeutics Research Unit, co-leader of Infectious Diseases and Head of their Antiviral Therapeutic Area.
James is committed to exploring new avenues of research in the fight against infectious diseases. Under his leadership, Janssen continues to deliver on its robust infectious disease therapeutic pipeline, while also applying cutting-edge science and technologies to help accelerate discovery and development.
In addition to James’s antiviral expertise where he pioneered the development of a series antiviral molecules for the treatment of HIV and hepatitis C, his research has focused on novel avenues of science. These include the exploration of gene therapy to treat HIV, prophylactic vaccines to prevent various infectious diseases, therapeutic vaccines to treat chronic diseases such as asthma, smoking and dyslipidemia, as well as combining immunomodulators with vaccines and oncolytic viruses to treat various types of cancers. He has authored and co-authored more than 45 scientific publications and posters.
James is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, the British Society of Immunology and International Society of Vaccines.
He holds a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas and a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Bellarmine College, Louisville, Kentucky.
As Head of Global Development at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Kate oversees a team of 10,000 experts that are the backbone of drug development, accelerating the delivery of medicines to patients around the world.
Kate has more than 20 years of experience leading diverse, multicultural teams and large, global organizations, and has a deep understanding of the healthcare landscape, particularly in clinical trials, as well as the digital-health technologies available to bring trials directly to patients and simplify the experience for them and their care communities.
Kate oversees Global Development’s end-to-end work in planning, executing, and reporting on clinical trials, from trial design to recruitment, operations to portfolio management, and pharmacology & pharmacometrics to data and analytics.
Kate believes education and awareness of clinical research should be prioritized so patients globally have the knowledge and access to consider participation, should it be right for their treatment journey. To that end, the concept of health equity is near and dear to Kate’s heart, making her leadership of Global Development’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Clinical Trials work an important part of her work. She also cares deeply about empowering girls to consider future jobs in STEM and supporting women as they advance in their careers.
Before coming to Janssen, Kate was Senior Vice President and Head of Global Development Operations at Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) and established a new operating model through the integration of BMS and Celgene. Prior, Kate held roles of increasing responsibility during 10 years with Novo Nordisk, where she led efforts enabling DEI in clinical trials.
Kate chairs the Board of TransCelerate BioPharma, a non-profit organization focused on solutions to improve clinical development.
Richard Tillyer, Ph.D, is Global Head, Discovery, Product Development & Supply, Janssen Research and Development. In this role, he leads an integrated discovery, process development and clinical supply organization that comprises all modalities including small molecules, traditional and non-traditional single molecule biologics, and larger, more complex multicomponent biologics including RNA, viruses and cells.
Rich joined Janssen in 2018 from Merck & Co (MSD outside the United States), where he acquired extensive experience in all stages of drug discovery and product development across numerous therapeutic areas and modalities. During his 25-year tenure, he led large and varying aspects of Merck Research Labs, including Process Chemistry, Toxicology, Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, Formulation, Biologics and Vaccines Process Development, High Throughput Screening, Discovery Biology, Medicinal Chemistry, Computational Chemistry and various platform groups. Under his leadership, Rich’s teams contributed to the discovery and development of most major products introduced by Merck over the last two decades and significantly advanced the company’s current pipeline. He led or actively contributed to major strategic initiatives including large and small-scale mergers and R&D integrations (most notably, the integration of Schering-Plough announced in 2009).
Rich obtained his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of British Columbia, Canada, and a post-doctoral research fellowship in Chemistry from the University of Cambridge, UK. He has published more than 70 scientific articles and publications and he holds several patents.
As head of the Global Regulatory Affairs (GRA) within Janssen Pharma, Karin Van Baelen leads an organization of approximately 900 highly qualified colleagues who foster relationships with Health Authorities around the world and deliver innovative healthcare solutions to patients. Under her leadership, the GRA organization influences and interprets global regulatory requirements and enables our company to meet those guidelines. In addition, GRA oversees the development of regulatory strategy for products from all therapeutic areas, as well as the delivery of high-quality, on-time regulatory submissions and approvals. GRA also engages in policy development at national and international levels in the regulatory, biotechnology and clinical development arenas
Previously, Karin served as Vice President of Regional Regulatory Affairs and Global Regulatory Operations, leading activities in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia (EMEA), Asia Pacific and Latin America and overseeing the Labeling & Submissions Management organization. From 2008 to 2013, she led the EMEA Regional Regulatory Affairs team in all regulatory aspects for all therapeutic areas and all operating company regulatory organizations in the region. Karin also served as Vice President of Global Regulatory Affairs for Tibotec BVBA where she created and led its global regulatory team and contributed to the development and approvals of several products in the Janssen Infectious Diseases & Vaccines portfolio. She also worked with GRA at the Janssen Research Foundation and was responsible for the worldwide registrations of several key products, including medications for severe mood disorders and pain. Karin joined Johnson & Johnson in 1993 from Upjohn Benelux where she submitted numerous Marketing Authorization Applications and obtained approvals in Europe and emerging markets.
Karin has a strong record of developing successful leaders and served as the EMEA Diversity & Inclusion regional champion.
Karin obtained her Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree at the University of Antwerp, Belgium in 1988. Karin serves with the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations’ (EFPIA) Scientific Regulatory & Manufacturing Policy Committee (SRMPC) and with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s Regulatory Affairs Coordination Committee (RACC).