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We depend on innovation

Mar 31, 2016
Tom Heyman
Tom Heyman
CEO Janssen Belgium

The need to innovate requires a willingness to invest from all of us, and this entails even greater risks than before.

Scientific advances of the last two decades have resulted in new treatment options, which were simply unthinkable before. People live longer and can be more productive thanks to new medicines. Today, life expectancy of Europeans is as much as 30 years longer than a century ago.

This progress was also possible thanks to the willingness to take risks, extensive investments and the drive of scientists and companies to innovate. While many simple diseases have been charted today, a large number of very complex, often chronic and common disorders remain hard to unravel.

They are a major challenge and a daily concern for us. We are aiming for a world in which we may be able to prevent cancer, for example, or at least transform it into a chronic or curable disease. We are also looking for ways to prevent Alzheimer's disease, which is highly complex and still largely misunderstood, or to slow down its progress and provide better treatment. Huge research efforts and investments are required in order to be able to offer new perspectives to the growing population of Alzheimer's patients and their caretakers. Efforts that may lead to breakthroughs.

The need to innovate requires a willingness to invest from all of us, and this entails even greater risks than before. We invest in transformational medical innovation with no guarantee of success. In no other industry is the complexity, the lead time, the investment and the risk of failure more pronounced. Launching a medicine onto the market requires at least 10 to 12 years of effort, and costs on average one and a half billion euros. We take those risks, in the knowledge that our efforts and investments may be in vain. We don't have any certainty that we will find the solution. We only have the certainty that, if nobody tries, we're not going to find it.

Cooperation is of crucial importance in this. No organization or company can single-handedly resolve Alzheimer's or cancer, or bear the investments and associated risks on their own. Joining forces with other companies, research institutions, healthcare players, governments, patient organizations, etc., is more important than ever. If we stop investing and working together, innovation will stop, and progress will stop.