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The Patients Are Waiting – Paul Janssen

The Patients Are Waiting
What drives passion?

It’s hard to put a finger on the exact formula that adds up to someone becoming successful. Sometimes, it’s being in the right place at the right time. Many times, though, it’s the result of much hard work and determination.

Such was the case with Dr. Paul Janssen, one of the 20th century's most innovative and inspiring scientists. His work was responsible for many breakthroughs in several fields of disease, including pain management, psychiatry, infectious diseases, mycology and gastroenterology. Over the course of his long career, he was granted more than 100 patents. Today, 11 Janssen medicines are on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.

Dr. Paul, as he was known throughout the global scientific community, was an exceptionally gifted and passionate scientist who revolutionized modern medicine and inspired a new generation of researchers. Born on September 12, 1926 in Turnhout, Belgium, an event during his youth changed his life: his four-year-old sister died of tuberculous meningitis, a loss that affected him deeply. As he later said, this loss drove him to pursue a career in medicine.

Being the son of a doctor who had set up a family business, Dr. Paul became increasingly convinced of the importance of chemistry in medicine. During World War II, he studied physics, biology and chemistry at the Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix in Namur, Belgium. In his eyes, the biggest challenge was reconciling the two disciplines of pharmacology and chemistry. He attempted to do so, with great results. In 1953, Dr. Paul established Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V., a research laboratory based in Beerse, Belgium. There, in Beerse, he would lay the foundation for the more than 80 medicines that have now saved millions of lives.

One of his medicines was the first antipsychotic therapy that allowed patients to be treated at home. Prior to this discovery, the only treatments for psychosis were associated with significant side effects. Dr. Paul also worked on the development of the most widely used anesthetic worldwide, and also on a treatment for diarrhea, which is still a disabling and sometimes fatal disease in developing countries. He would also go on to research a series of compounds to treat HIV/AIDS. One of his last dreams was to find a medicine to treat multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. This compound would later be discovered and developed further by a Janssen research team, and was finally approved in the United States in 2012 and in the European Union in 2014.

“There is so much more to be done; the patients are waiting.”

Dr. Paul Janssen

Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V. became part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in 1961. In 1985, Dr. Paul set up Xi’an Janssen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., the first Western pharmaceutical company in the People's Republic of China. Dr. Paul’s interest in China would become especially important when he engaged his company to help restore the country’s terracotta warrior army. More than 8,000 terracotta soldiers were buried alongside the first Emperor in Xi’an more than 2,200 years ago. When the burial chambers were discovered in 1974, it was hailed as one of the world's greatest archeological finds. However, after being uncovered the warriors became vulnerable to fungi, which threatened to eat away their façade and destroy them. Dr. Paul was dedicated to finding a way to eradicate the fungi and solve the problem to help preserve this historic wonder. Watch this video to learn more about his resolve to help save China’s national treasure. The terracotta warriors were saved thanks to Dr. Paul, but treatment to preserve them is needed on an ongoing basis. Our company continues to work with museums to continue this preservation.

Dr. Paul passed away in 2003. Throughout his lifetime, he received many awards, including five honorary professorships and 22 honorary doctorates. He was author or co-author of more than 850 scientific publications and was an honorary member of more than 30 scientific institutes and organizations.

In 2004, Johnson & Johnson created The Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research, which aims to extend the legacy of Dr. Paul by honoring the work of an active scientist in academia, industry or a scientific institute who has made a significant, transformational contribution toward the improvement of human health.

For more on Dr. Paul, watch this video about his life and career;  read this personal perspective about Dr. Paul from Sir James W. Black, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1988; and read this March 2015 article from The Pharmacologist about Dr. Paul’s life and mission.

Ultimately, Paul Janssen’s life was dedicated to creating medicines that meet the unmet needs of millions of patients.

After all, as Dr. Paul often said, “There is so much more to be done; the patients are waiting.”

The Patients Are Waiting