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My passion for vaccines - Blog Hanneke Schuitemaker

My passion for vaccines
Blog Hanneke Schuitemaker, Head Viral Vaccine Development and Translational Medicine, Janssen Infectious Diseases and Vaccines

It has been ten years now since I joined Janssen. It was an exciting period: I came from academic research and didn't know if this was the right step. Looking back on that period I can say that I did not regret it for a single moment. I wanted to use science to develop vaccines. That is what we are doing with our vaccine candidate against Covid-19 and what I am currently working on everyday as head of viral vaccines at Janssen.

Working in a commercial company was totally new to me. I already had to think about what the final product would look like during the early research phase. Moreover, Janssen is a large company in which many experts are involved in a project. That was overwhelming at the beginning, but at the same time it is also the strength of this company. Also our work on Covid-19 is an effort of many teams in many different places. Everyone makes his or her contribution to the development process.

"Every day we work on vaccines that make a real contribution to public health."

Building on previous experience

At Janssen, I have always been involved in vaccine development. For example, I worked on the development of vaccines to combat infectious diseases that mainly occur in developing countries. We learned several important lessons from the approach we took in the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. We were able to use the underlying technologies of these vaccines, as well as those for other disease areas we are working on, in the search for a Covid-19 vaccine.

We also learned a lot from the local population. The results achieved by the population in West Africa during the Ebola epidemic were not possible without the changes in their lifestyle. That was very admirable. I hope that we too will learn from the current COVID-19 period, not only from a virology point of view: I think this period is an opportunity to be more considerable to others, maybe even take more care of each other.

Getting started in good spirits

And although COVID-19 has turned my life upside down as well, my job as head of the vaccine candidate research team fits my passion: working on vaccines that make a real contribution to public health. Treatments are important and save lives, but with a vaccine you can prevent illness. Medicines and vaccines are both needed to fight this pandemic. Every day I go to work in good spirit, and I am curious about the progress of all COVID-19 solutions. As part of the Janssen team, I am very proud to be able to contribute.


EM-42927 - 29-sep-2020