Making good health available in developing countries, that is the daily inspiration for Tine de Marez. Because of her traveling experience, she noticed early on that many people are living in very poor conditions. She wanted to change this. Tine is doing this her role within Global Public Health, part of Johnson & Johnson, where she is working on the development of medicines for diseases that primarily affect developing countries.
A passion for health
Tine thinks that her interest for biology got sparked by her parents. Her mom was a biology teacher and her dad had a passion for animals. She further developed her interest in health during her studies, as well as during backpacking in different exotic countries at quite a young age. On the one hand because it was a cheap way to travel as a student, on the other hand because she was intrigued by the world outside of Belgium. These experiences motivated her to further develop her knowledge on infectious diseases which mainly affect developing countries. In many countries infectious diseases are actually the primary cause of death. After obtaining her PhD she moved to the United States to work as a post-doctoral fellow, where she has been living now for 20 years.
Closer to the patient
Tine started her career in fundamental research, but she quickly figured out that she wanted to be closer to the patient. That is why she started working in clinical research. First she joined the ‘National Institute of Health’ after which she started working for Janssen, part of Johnson & Johnson. At Janssen she got the opportunity to conduct clinical research for a potential drug to treat tuberculosis. A great challenge for her, as she always wanted to make a difference for people in developing countries.
"Tuberculosis is one of the deadliest diseases. It is a blessing to be able to work on a new drug that could impact so many lives."
Different countries, different rules
Apart of the challenges in drug development, the organization of clinical trials comes with many challenges. One has to take into account cultural differences and logistic challenges. Tine always saw this as a great challenge. Ten years of research and development finally paid off. The drug was approved and was ready to be used. But this is not where the challenges stop according to Tine. The next one is to make the drug available for those who need it the most.
"When you are on site, you see the needs. You for whom you are doing this."
A new medicine, how to proceed?
Tine often works together with public institutions to make the tuberculosis drug available and to train healthcare professionals in different countries in order to properly administer the drug. Next to that, research and development into tuberculosis also continues. Tine and her team are currently investigating the possibilities to shorten the treatment periods in order to limit the period of infection. Next to that they are testing whether the tuberculosis drug could also be beneficial for other infectious diseases. There is still a lot to do according to Tine. This motivates Tine daily.
"I am really proud on what we achieved with our small team."
Global Public Health
The department of Global Public Health, part of Johnson & Johnson, investigates conditions that primarily affect people in developing countries. Within this department, people investigate Dengue, HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Tine is happy that Johnson & Johnson invests in not-for-profit treatments. This allows her to do what she is good at.
"We use our expertise for the benefit of people who need it."
Being healthy, living healthy
Tine makes her own health a priority. To relax she tries to spend as much time as possible outside. Her passion is horseback riding, this keeps her healthy both physically and mentally. Next to that she enjoys doing fun activities and traveling with her 2 young daughters and her husband. Every year she and her family travel back to Belgium, but Tine is unsure whether she will ever move back definitively.
"I have built my life here. I miss things, but at the same time my life is here now."