2022 Franz Edelman Competition: Janssen

This podcast is part of a special series featuring the 2022 finalist teams for the INFORMS Franz Edelman Award for Achievement in Advanced Analytics, Operations Research and Management Science, the most prestigious award for achievement in the practice of O.R. and advanced analytics.

For more than four decades, the Edelman Award has recognized contributions that are transforming how we approach some of the world’s most complex problems. Finalists for the Edelman Award have contributed to a cumulative impact of more than $336 billion since the award’s inception, as well as countless other nonmonetary benefits. The winner of this year’s award will be announced at the 2022 INFORMS Business Analytics Conference, April 3-5.

Joining me for this episode are Dimitris Bertsimas, professor with the MIT Sloan School of Management and Najat Khan, Chief Data Science Officer and Global Head, R&D Strategy & Operations with Janssen Research & Development, LLC,  to discuss the finalist entry from the team at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen).

To accelerate the development of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, the R&D Data Science team at Janssen worked with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to co-develop and refine a machine learning-based COVID-19 epidemiological disease spread model, building on MIT’s DELPHI scenario analysis tool, capable of predicting future COVID-19 infection spread months in advance at a global level. This model enabled Johnson & Johnson to expedite a highly accurate clinical trial for the first single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, as well as gain valuable insight on virus variants.

One of the big questions from a data science innovation perspective was, can we predict the considered unpredictable, which was where would COVID-19 be spreading many months down the line. And why is this important? If we can predict the right hot spots where COVID-19 is, then we can actually enhance the data we collect, and also accelerate phase 3 trials. Why is that important? Because we can get our vaccines to patients and people earlier. Like I say, in a pandemic, every day counts.

Interviewed this episode:

Najat Khan, Dimitris Bertsimas

Janssen Research & Development, MIT

Najat Khan, PhD, is the Global Head (Vice President) for Strategy & Operations at 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 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 diseases area, 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 BA in Chemistry with a minor in Economics from Colgate University and her PhD 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.

Dimitris Bertsimas is the Boeing Leaders for Global Operations Professor of Management, a Professor of Operations Research, and the Associate Dean for the Master of Business Analytics at MIT.

A faculty member since 1988, his research interests include optimization, stochastic systems, machine learning, and their application. In recent years, he has worked in robust optimization, statistics, healthcare, transportation and finance. Bertsimas was a cofounder of Dynamic Ideas, LLC, which developed portfolio management tools for asset management.  In 2002, the assets of Dynamic Ideas were sold to American Express. He is also the founder of Dynamic Ideas Press, a publisher of scientific books, the cofounder of Benefits Science, a company that designs health care plans for companies, of Dynamic Ideas Financial, a company that provides financial advice to customers, of Alpha Dynamics, an asset management company, P2 Analytics, an analytics  consulting company and of MyA health, a personalized health care advice company.

Bertsimas has coauthored more than 200 scientific papers and the following books: Introduction to Linear Optimization (with J. Tsitsiklis, Athena Scientific and Dynamic Ideas, 2008); Data, Models, and Decisions (with R. Freund, Dynamic Ideas, 2004);  Optimization over Integers (with R. Weismantel, Dynamic Ideas, 2005); and The Analytics Edge (with A. O’Hair andW. Pulleyblank, Dynamic Ideas, 2016).   He is former department editor of Optimization for Management Science and  of Operations Research in Financial Engineering. Bertsimas has supervised 59 doctoral and 31 Master students. He is currently  supervising 22 doctoral students. A member of the National Academy of Engineering and an INFORMS fellow, he has received numerous research awards, including the Harold Larnder Prize (2016), the Philip Morse Lecturship prize (2013), the William Pierskalla best paper award in health care (2013), best paper award in Trapsoration (2013), the Farkas Prize (2008), the Erlang Prize (1996), the SIAM Prize in Optimization (1996), the Bodossaki Prize (1998), and the Presidential Young Investigator Award (1991–1996). He has also received recognition for his educational contributions: The Jamieson prize (2013) and the Samuel M. Seegal prize (1999).

Bertsimas holds a BS in electrical engineering and computer science from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece, as well as an MS in operations research and a PhD in applied mathematics and operations research from MIT.