Passion for health: Erik van Veldhoven
Erik van Veldhoven, director Vaccines Launch Facility, has been in charge of Janssen’s Vaccines Launch Facility in Leiden since 2016. Every day, he and his team are committed to producing vaccines in the most optimal way. Doing so, he contributes to the achievement of the ultimate goal: a world without disease. Last October, the new factory in Leiden was officially inaugurated – an absolute milestone for Erik.
Single Use Technology
Erik, a mechanical engineering graduate, started working for the former Crucell in 2009. At Crucell he headed the Engineering, Maintenance and Validation department for 6 years, during which time he and his team introduced new manufacturing processes and continued the search for possibilities to improve these processes. His drive for improving processes is also clearly visible in the Vaccines Launch Facility, where 100% of the manufacturing process is now based on single-use technology. “This means that the whole manufacturing process is built from single-use parts, which has two important advantages”, says Erik. “The first advantage is flexibility. This set-up allows us to rapidly shift between different manufacturing processes.” The second advantage is interlinked with the first: “With this method, we avoid a lot of labour- and energy-intensive cleaning.”
On the verge of a medical breakthrough?
The Launch Facility is a unique cooperation between Janssen Vaccines and Janssen Biologics. Situated in the Bioscience park in Leiden, the Launch Facility links the two. Vaccines go through three phases of clinical research: a process that takes up to 12 - 15 years. Janssen is currently working on vaccines against Ebola, HIV, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). “We are currently executing the phase-2b study for the HIV-vaccine in the south of Africa,” says Erik. “At the same time, the Launch Facility is already an investment in the upscaling of the manufacture capacity for the phase-3 study and the possible market introduction after approval by the authorities.” Erik is hopeful that the vaccine will protect people from HIV-infection, which would be an enormous medical breakthrough. He is therefore also convinced of the importance of vaccines: “Vaccines are a cost-conscious and safe way of disease-prevention. They protect us by activating our immune system.”
"Vaccines are a cost-conscious and safe way of disease-prevention. They protect us by activating our immune system."
Running on a moral compass
Health also plays a central role in his private life. Sport is important to Erik and his family. Running a marathon or participating in a triathlon is not a problem for Erik, who prefers to do it in a special city like Rome or Paris. His favourite way to start the day is with an early morning run. He also likes to bike from Rijswijk, where he lives, to Leiden. A general focus on health, be it your own or someone else’s, is something you can see throughout Janssen. Working to improve people’s health, not only in the developed, western world, but also in developing countries, is a priority for him. Because new vaccines can make a huge difference, Janssen likes to contribute to that. “That is why Janssen reacted during the Ebola-crisis,” according to Erik. “In order to combat the outbreak of the disease, we decided to employ all our knowledge and skills to accelerate the development of our Ebola vaccine. It’s great that Janssen has the means necessary to take decisions like that. Even though there was no economic interest, we were still committed to fully focus on a new vaccine. Moments like this show our moral compass: Our Credo. That makes this company so unique.”
"The moral compass of Johnson and Johnson is what makes the company unique."