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Investing in the Future of Women and Children Worldwide

Investing in Cross-Border Impact Ventures, a women-run fund, furthers J&J Impact Ventures’ mission to invest in tech-forward solutions centered around representation, diversity and equity.
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Cross Border Impact Ventures Managing Partners Donna Par (left) and Annie Thériault (right)

Johnson & Johnson Impact Ventures is a proud supporter of Cross-Border Impact Ventures (CBIV), a Canada-based fund dedicated to investing in health technology that improves the lives of women, children and adolescents living in low-resource settings and strengthens health systems. The objectives of this women-run fund—a rarity in the private investment capital space—reflect J&J Impact Ventures’ priorities of supporting entrepreneurs who are addressing tough healthcare challenges. This is the first investment through Johnson & Johnson Foundation that J&J Impact Ventures has made since increasing its commitment from $15 million to $50 million in purpose-driven entrepreneurs launching healthcare innovations—an emerging focus for companies that care about social impact and improving access to quality healthcare.

The right partner at the right moment

Cross-Border Impact Ventures was created to advance digital, medical technology and diagnostic solutions that extend access to care for women and children—particularly vital as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBIV is run by Annie Thériault and Donna Parr and focuses on health, furthering J&J Impact Ventures’ mission to invest in tech-forward solutions centered around representation, diversity and equity. Now, perhaps more than ever, humanity needs to see an evolution in health. A dedicated health fund is key to realizing this goal.

“We launched Cross-Border Impact Ventures based on the idea that borders should not dictate who gets access to the best health technologies,” says Thériault, Managing Partner at CBIV. “Our firm will play an important role in the health technology market by investing in companies that are creating innovations that have the potential to save lives or transform healthcare in North America, Europe, emerging markets and underserved populations.”

There are a multitude of impact investment funds which, by definition, work to create positive social outcomes and generate financial returns. There are also many traditional for-profit healthcare venture funds that aim to drive new developments in healthcare. Historically, however, there are few funds that combine social impact, financial returns and health innovation. In part because of this, relatively few health products and services are developed for and targeted to underserved populations, creating a powerful need that does not receive adequate attention or resources.

Enter CBIV. CBIV sits at the nexus of impact investing and health innovation with the explicit goal of catalyzing essential investment in the health impact space.

“The new opportunities in impact investing for these early-stage healthcare entrepreneurs and companies are pretty unique, but growing quickly,” says Dana Deardorff, who leads investments at J&J Impact Ventures.

Reaching the underserved

CBIV will invest in companies that are developing easier to use, more precise medical devices, diagnostics and digital health solutions that aim to improve the health of women and children. These include uniquely designed products such as:

  • A new screening and diagnostic tool for cervical cancer
  • An effective, low-cost approach to treat postpartum hemorrhage
  • Prosthetic limbs made to fit a child’s body
  • A small heart valve that can grow as a child develops

These solutions offer a stark contrast with companies that redistribute more “universal” medical products. Pediatric devices are particularly difficult to develop and attract investment funding.

"Women’s health is population health, and we need to start shining a bright light on this issue."
Alice Lin Fabiano, J&J Impact Ventures

The focus on women’s health was also a key distinction that drove J&J Impact Ventures to invest. "Women’s health is often thought of as a niche field or something that is kind of cute to invest in,” says Alice Lin Fabiano, Global Director, Social Innovation and Investment with J&J Impact Ventures. “But women’s health is population health, and we need to start shining a bright light on this issue.”

Further, CBIV’s point of view also aligns clearly with J&J Impact Ventures on the importance of increasing representation of who gets funding. The CBIV fund will apply a gender lens when assessing potential investments, working with portfolio companies to prioritize diversity and ensure products meet the needs of people across differing backgrounds.

CBIV-funded companies spanning clinical areas and conditions will be primed to make a tangible difference in people’s lives: Success will be measured and reported based on health outcomes. Just as important, the fund has an ambitious social impact goal for portfolio companies to save 500,000 lives and improve the quality of life for 10 million underserved women and children in under-resourced communities.

A collaborative commitment

With funding from J&J Impact Ventures and other impact-aligned investors and collaborators Cross-Border Impact Ventures has secured an initial close of $30 million, with a goal of expanding the fund to $100 million.

This investment furthers J&J Impact Ventures’ vision to leverage the resources and reach of the world’s largest healthcare company to spark transformative investment in human health. J&J Impact Ventures works to achieve this aim through creative investing not only financially, but also by cultivating a broader, more diverse and more inclusive network of entrepreneurs to increase access to capital, mentorship and support. Such forward-thinking financing aims to galvanize health solutions that offer access to quality healthcare to everyone, everywhere.

Under this pioneering approach, the companies supported by J&J Impact Ventures will be expected to demonstrate a dual-purpose strategy that balances genuine impact with strong financial returns. Funds like CBIV are accomplishing this, driven by a strong point of view that is helping to re-calibrate investment priorities to help improve the health needs of women and children in low-resource settings. With the fund’s launch, the journey of impact is just beginning.

“This is not philanthropy or grantmaking,” Deardorff adds. “We expect financial returns, and want that to fuel continued re-investment. It’s not easy to achieve that balance of impact and returns, but we believe it’s possible to do good while also doing well.”