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Passion for Health: Hugo Ceulemans

Passion for Health: Hugo Ceulemans

As Scientific Director Discovery Data Sciences, Hugo uses his passion for data in his everyday work. It is in his department that data and science meet: his complex data-analyses help develop new innovative medicines. He himself dreams of a healthy world for everyone. At Janssen he continues to work on achieving this dream.


Crazy for data

Hugo Ceulemans joined Janssen in 2008, where he currently leads the Machine Learning team that supports researchers in the early phases of their research. Machine Learning is a type of Artificial Intelligence: self-learning computers continuously get better at analysing data.  The multidisciplinary team of Hugo has access to large data sets and uses complex analysis techniques that focus on computing power. Doing so, the team contributes to the development of new and effective medicines.


Data mining

Machine learning technologies allow Hugo’s team to make a selection of suitable molecules in advance. This increases the chance of finding a molecule that will eventually result in a new medicine. “The most complex analyses also the most interesting ones”, says Hugo. “Janssen already works together with different partners from the academic world, from the IT and pharmaceutical sector in the framework of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). Together we organise programs to analyse and interpret large data sets. We call this data-mining.” Hugo’s team therefore works trans-disciplinary, which will only become more important in the future.



His work at Janssen must ultimately contribute to the health of others. “Health is the driving force of happiness”, says Hugo, who realises this even more as he becomes older. Being able to contribute to a healthier world is therefore a great privilege, which gives him the energy to continue his work with great enthusiasm. He relaxes by spending time with his family, which is very important to him.

”Health is the driving force of happiness."

Golden combination

Hugo started as a medical doctor and developed a passion for research. During his subsequent doctorate in molecular biology he realised that analysing (or ‘crunching’) data is time consuming. “Analysing complex datasets is more satisfying than generating the data itself”, says Hugo.” In other words: I enjoy eating more than cooking.” He therefore continued in the field of bio-informatics. Many of his team members also combine a background in data sciences with another discipline. This is also crucial to make machine learning a success in the healthcare sector: “In addition to the software, the interpretation of data is extremely important. Having conversations with chemists, biologists and medical doctors is easier due to our double backgrounds.”


Stronger together

Where data and science meet, and where innovative solutions must be found, ‘out of the box’ thinking is essential. Cooperating with other partners is just as important. Hugo is therefore proud of the partnerships initiated by Janssen: “It is clear that we will have to cooperate if we want to make the world a healthier place. My team is therefore continuously searching for new machine learning talent. One of my goals is to also incorporate real clinical data in our analyses. It would be amazing if Janssen could play a role in this”.

”We will need to cooperate to make the world a healthier place."