By Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson
The long road to scientific discovery starts with a question. For Dr. Paul Janssen, that question was “what’s new?” This was the basic inquiry - and profound challenge - that he posed to the scientists who worked in his lab, a reminder to always continue innovating medicines to meet the needs of patients who are waiting eagerly for new solutions.
It was a simple question that led to the discovery and development of an astounding 80 new medicines and made a difference for millions of patients.
Dr. Paul was the founder of Janssen Pharmaceutica, which became part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in 1961. He was also one of the most innovative pharmaceutical researchers of our time and a true inspiration. I had the incredible fortune to learn from and work alongside Dr. Paul. I was always struck by his compassion for human suffering, which fueled his lifelong commitment to finding new and better medicines and treatments for patients.
Dr. Paul’s vibrant legacy continues to inspire us every day at Johnson & Johnson to find innovative medicines and products that make a difference for patients. To keep this spirit alive, we celebrate the outstanding achievements of today’s scientists with the prestigious Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research. Over the past decade we’ve recognized a remarkable roster of scientists. While their discoveries are vastly different, these scientists have one thing in common: they each embody the leadership and passion of Dr. Paul.
In a magnificent library overlooking Central Park, we recognized the 2016 Dr. Paul Janssen Award winner, Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, during an awards ceremony at the New York Academy of Medicine in New York City. It was the perfect setting to celebrate Dr. Paul’s profound impact on healthcare and honor Dr. Ohsumi’s contributions toward advancing human health.
Dr. Ohsumi is a cell biologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology who made pioneering discoveries in autophagy – a basic function of all living cells. When Dr. Ohsumi began his research more than 25 years ago, little was known about the significance of autophagy. His curiosity led him to make discoveries which have opened up a rich and exciting field of research. Dr. Ohsumi’s work is important because it holds promise for helping us better understand, prevent and treat some of the most challenging diseases facing patients today, including cancer and Alzheimer’s. Dr. Ohsumi’s passion for scientific inquiry reminds me of the innovative spirit that Dr. Paul brought to the lab every day.
At Johnson & Johnson, we want to continue to celebrate accomplished scientists like Dr. Ohsumi while also nurturing and encouraging the next generation of scientists. We believe that a great idea can come from anywhere in the world, and with the right support, new ideas can lead to meaningful advances in human health. There are bright innovators inquiring "what's new?" in laboratories around the globe, and we are proud to support, celebrate and collaborate with these great scientists to make a difference in the world.
Dr. Paul Stoffels is Executive Vice President, Chief Scientific Officer Johnson & Johnson. In this role, he works with R&D leaders across Johnson & Johnson to set the enterprise-wide innovation agenda and is a member of the Johnson & Johnson Executive Committee.