New J&J Vision CMO Steps onto a Very Large Stage

New J&J Vision CMO Steps onto a Very Large Stage

The stage of ophthalmic innovation has hosted a multitude of new acts, people going from established companies to start-ups and vice versa and back again, but Raj Rajpal, MD, is performing one that few can match. Johnson & Johnson Vision has brought him on board to be CMO and global head of medical affairs, quite a step up from Avedro, where he was CMO and guided development of its KXL System corneal cross-linking platform through Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. He left Avedro last year after Glaukos acquired it.

Working from his home office, Dr. Rajpal has been getting acclimated to JJV’s substantial eye-care organization. He took time to talk with OIS Weekly about his new position, JJV’s innovation strategy, and what he brings to the table.

“I recognized this as a tremendous opportunity to impact eye care in a much broader way,” Dr. Rajpal said when asked why he seized the opportunity to work for JJV. “I thought that it was really exciting to continue to grow the market in eye care while working with my peers on both the surgical side as well as the vision-care contact lens side of the business.”

He also sees an opportunity to help guide the organization’s strategic vision. “I thought it would be really exciting and interesting with my skill set as a clinician as well as someone who has had experience within industry,” Dr. Rajpal added.

As he is a cornea and refractive surgeon who still sees patients, and plans to continue doing so, it’s only natural that the surgical part of JJV’s portfolio intrigues him.

“With presbyopia-correcting lenses, JJV already has a reputation for having excellent quality lenses,” he said of JJV’s intraocular lens portfolio. “Symfony Plus, which is in development, is going to be coming relatively soon. And an updated operating system with the femtosecond laser cataract technology, Catalys, will strengthen astigmatism management and workflow.”

But Dr. Rajpal isn’t overlooking the vision care side. “On the contact lens side, certainly JJV has been the leader in that market, and continues to be in the forefront,” he said. “One significant example of this is the drug-eluting contact lens for patients with allergies.” The CMO noted that JJV is ahead of its plan to introduce two new contact lenses per year.

And he plans to keep seeing patients in the clinic. “I think it’s really important from the perspective of being able to represent what we as clinicians feel is important and valuable and knowing directly on a firsthand basis what patients want and need, what they’re experiencing both surgically and in an office setting,” Dr. Rajpal explained.

He acknowledged that the post-COVID-19 world may bring new challenges to ophthalmology and optometry practices, and pharma and device development.

“Our patients are going to have different expectations,” he said. “They’re going to be certainly concerned about safety as they come into our offices, as they consider having surgery, and what kind of products they’re choosing to use.”

He reflected on what that could mean in terms of technology. “We will find that some patients may have even more interest in refractive surgery, as an example, so that they don’t have to worry about needing any other visual aids,” Dr. Rajpal noted. “I think they will continue to look at presbyopia-correcting lenses or femtosecond laser cataract technology not necessarily just as a luxury item but really as a way to get the best vision that they can for all their activities.”

He expects these changes to impact how optometrists and ophthalmologists deliver patient care. “I think industry will be able to help with that significantly,” Dr. Rajpal said. “There will be virtual education of patients. Telemedicine is changing how we see patients, how patients are going to ultimately make appointments, how we as physicians assess what may be appropriate for a patient and what can be done remotely as opposed to having to be in the office.”

He added, “I think those are all areas we’re going to be collaborating on, and I know that within JJV we’re already thinking about those things and working with colleagues to get a sense of what we all want and need.”

Even though he’s new to the job and working at home, Dr. Rajpal already has a full program for this act.