Advancing human health: Decoding the Human Immune System
Earlier this year I travelled to Sierra Leone and witnessed the devastation that Ebola was inflicting on the people of that country. Before Ebola, Sierra Leone had one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, well on its way to recovering from a lengthy civil war. People’s aspirations were high. Ebola halted that. And, it wreaked havoc and fear across the entire world, reminding us, how susceptible human life is to the devastating effects of infectious diseases and how much we still have to learn about how best to stimulate our immune system to prevent them.
That’s why today I am proud that we are joining the Human Vaccines Project. Much like the Human Genome Project, the effort to map and sequence the blueprint of a human being, the Human Vaccines Project attempts to decode the human immunome—the human immune system.
Thanks to the Human Genome Project we are now able to identify the genetic mechanisms underlying disease and have the tools we need to more accurately diagnose, treat, prevent and cure diseases launching an era of personalized medicine. Likewise, the Cancer Genome Project, which catalogs all known mutations to better understand the molecular basis of this disease, provides use with techniques to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
The Human Vaccines Project offers that same type of promise. An unprecedented opportunity to merge cutting-edge academic science with industry product development capabilities to elucidate how the human immune system confers effective immunity, and thus accelerate the development of new interventions to prevent a broad range of infectious diseases and cancers.
At Johnson & Johnson, I am fortunate to lead a world-class team dedicated to the research and development of vaccines for some of the world’s most insidious diseases, including Influenza, Respiratory Syncytial Virus, HIV and Ebola. And we are committed to developing vaccines against bacteria such as Extra-intestinal Pathogenic E Coli and Staphylococcae which can help human mankind to overcome the threat of rising multidrug resistance. Like all great human health challenges today, these cannot be successfully tackled alone. Collaboration with world-leading experts and institutions is at the core of all these promising programs.
It is widely recognized an Ebola vaccine will be needed to keep the threat of Ebola at bay for future generations; that an HIV vaccine will be needed to effectively contain the HIV epidemic; and the threat of non-communicable diseases will require new strategies and innovations to prevent them in the first place. Collaborative partnerships, such as the Human Vaccines Project, which bring together key expertise to solve complex scientific problems, will be essential to deliver the transformational medical innovations needed to advance human health.
Johan Van Hoof, M.D. received his medical degree (cum laude) from the University of Antwerp, Belgium, and was a research fellow in the Department of Anatomy and Embryology at Rijksuniversitair Centrum Antwerpen, Belgium. He studied business management at Krauthammer International School and the International Executive Programme INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France.
Johan joined the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in April 2005 as Vice President, Data Management and Early Clinical Development. Following roles as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research, LLC, and Head of the Global Development Organization, he was appointed Global Therapeutic Area Head for Infectious Diseases & Vaccines in 2010. Since 2011, in addition, he has been overseeing Research & Development at Crucell, the specialized vaccine company acquired, as their COO and Managing Director.
Before joining the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, Johan acquired more than 20 years of experience in the vaccine industry, having worked with Pasteur Mérieux Connaught, Chiron Vaccines and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biologicals. During this period, he held leadership roles with increasing responsibilities, including Head New Product Development at GSK Biologicals. Johan was actively involved in the development and licensing of a new generation of childhood and adult vaccines in disease areas such as pertussis (pediatric combined vaccines), meningitis, rotaviral diarrhea, hepatitis, flu and HPV.