Passion for Health: Jeff Vughs
Jeff Vughs, associate scientist at Janssen Vaccines, works on the safety of vaccines. His scientific work also inspires his favorite pastime: painting and drawing. These hobbies, together with his love for tennis, allow him to go to work relaxed each day.
Safety is paramount in Jeff’s work at Janssen Vaccines: the associate scientist works on the safety of vaccines which are based on viruses. ‘Making vaccines is a combination of high-tech equipment and a human factor. We want to make sure that the vaccines do not contain the wrong virus: that is why my colleagues and I subject our vaccines to rigorous safety-tests in the lab.’
‘My colleagues and I subject our vaccines to rigorous safety-tests in the lab’
Specialized colleagues in England conduct large-scale tests and perform control measurements of the Janssen vaccines. If they find a deviation, Jeff and his colleagues are alerted. It’s then up to them to find out what caused the deviation and to fix this issue. ‘Before we even think about testing vaccines on people, we thoroughly research its safety in our laboratory’. Furthermore, Jeff and his colleagues ensure that the vaccines meet all requirements of the regulatory authorities, such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Jeff learnt how to change viruses during the internship of his Higher Laboratory Technician Training (in Dutch: HLO). This experience allowed him to start his career at Janssen in October of that year. In combination with his work at Janssen, Jeff enrolled in a master’s degree program on stem cells to deepen his knowledge. ‘That was an intense period, but everyone in the team thought it was a great move.’ The atmosphere in the team is an important reason for Jeff to work at Janssen. ‘We are a young team: not only age-wise, but also in our mindset. There is a lot of energy in the team. Janssen also wants us to be active, to do fun things. People do not stagnate here.’
Other aspects that contribute to the great work environment are the opportunity for input from each employee, as well as the cooperation between teams. In addition, Jeff is really pleased with the direction of the company and the societal impact it wants to make: ‘We have a strong selection in the pipeline, and we focus on vaccines that are crucial in solving concrete global problems. Ebola and HIV have such a big impact in developing countries, I think it’s important and rewarding we work on possible solutions.'
‘I think it is important we work on vaccines that contribute to solutions for problems in developing countries'
Aside from his scientific work, Jeff keeps himself busy with artistic projects: he has been drawing and painting since he was young. Later, he combined art and science in ‘scientific art’: illustrations he used for reports and presentations during his studies. He continued with that and, recently, one of his works was selected for ‘The Art of Janssen’: a global art competition for Janssen employees. ‘My interest in cell structures was my motivation for this piece of art. During viral replication, there is a moment when the cell bursts open and viruses are released: I wanted to depict that moment.’
Drawing and painting are a great way to relax. ‘I do it because I really like it: if I don’t do it for a few months, I automatically get in the mood to pick it up again. It also brings me a sense of calm and it allows me to maintain my balance.’ Aside from his creative outlet, Jeff also has a physical one: tennis. ‘I play about three to four times a week. That’s quite a lot, but we participate in a doubles tournament, which I want to win. I’m quite competitive outside of work. At work that is different, exactly because I get rid of stress through painting, drawing, and tennis. Even my colleagues have noticed that I do my work in a relaxed way.’