By Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson
True innovators are rebels. They challenge convention and go against expectations in order to make incredible, life-changing breakthroughs.
Tonight we are celebrating a leading scientific innovator and contrarian, Douglas Wallace, Ph.D., of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, with the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research.
This award has a special meaning for me because it honors my mentor, Dr. Paul Janssen, one of the 20th century's most innovative and inspiring scientists. Dr. Paul was a brilliant scientist and a true champion of science who wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo for the benefit of patients.
Dr. Paul was known for saying, “the patients are waiting.” He was deeply concerned about people who were needlessly suffering from disease, particularly those in the most vulnerable parts of the world. He put patients at the heart of everything he did, often challenging scientific dogma, in order to to develop life-saving treatments.
His passion and sense of urgency led to the discovery and development of more than 80 medicines. While Dr. Paul saved millions of lives and improved the quality of life for many more, he never settled, and worked until the very end of his life to make a difference for patients.
Dr. Wallace reminds me very much of Dr. Paul. He is driven by a relentless desire to make a difference for people around the world who are suffering from mitochondrial disease.
At a time when widely-held scientific belief and research focused on anatomy and the nuclear genome, a spark of insight led Dr. Wallace to explore the role of mitochondria in human health. For more than four decades, Dr. Wallace has blazed his own trail, challenging current scientific beliefs and trends along the way, with the singular focus of helping children who are suffering from mitochondrial disease.
His groundbreaking work has major implications for how we understand and manage disease, such as metabolic and degenerative diseases, as well as cancer and aging. Just like Dr. Paul, he doesn’t plan to stop or slow down, not while there are patients waiting for discoveries that will lead to new treatments and cures.
At Johnson & Johnson we often repeat Dr. Paul’s saying, “the patients are waiting.” It’s a reminder to us to always push the boundaries of our understanding, advance innovative treatments as quickly as possible and make sure our innovations reach the people who need them most.
Because when we say “patients,” we are talking about our mothers and fathers, spouses and partners, our friends and colleagues, even our children.
We are fortunate to have champions of science who have come before us, like Dr. Paul, and who walk among us today, like Dr. Wallace, whose scientific curiosity and committment to improving human health will have a lasting impact on our world.