By Srikant Ramaswami, Senior Director, Global R&D Communications, CNS Internal Medicine
I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Paul Janssen – or “Dr. Paul” as he was affectionately known. But I feel like I knew, on a more personal level, who he was and what he stood for following two events honoring this year’s recipients of The Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research. (This year's winners were Professor Marc Feldmann and Emeritus Professor Sir Ravinder Maini of the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, Imperial College London.)
Dr. Paul -- the legendary researcher who founded Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceutica business -- was a man of vision, humility, humanity and keen intellect. I suspect he would have been proud of this prestigious event held annually in his honor -- as well as the discussion it spurred in the scientific community.
On Tuesday, September 9, I joined esteemed members of the scientific community, media and other Johnson & Johnson colleagues for a gala reception and dinner at the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) to honor Dr. Paul’s work and the impact it had on both the scientific community and patients worldwide. Against breathtaking views of the downtown Manhattan skyline, members of The Dr. Paul Janssen Award Independent Selection Committee and Johnson & Johnson leadership discussed the impact of Dr. Paul’s work and the meaning of The Dr. Paul Janssen Award.
The significance of Feldmann's and Maini’s role in the discovery of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) as an effective therapeutic target for rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions was crystallized by the remarks made by our own Harlan Weisman, M.D., Chief Science & Technology Officer, Medical Devices & Diagnostics. After discussing several invaluable lessons he learned from working directly with Feldmann and Maini, Weisman expressed his gratitude to the researchers for their discovery in the development of the TNF inhibitors.
On day two of the celebration, I returned to NYAS to join more than 250 other individuals for lectures from experts on novel anti-cytokine therapies. The Wall Street Journal's Shirley Wang, who attended the event along with journalists from The New York Times, Nature and many other publications, posted about the symposium and that posting -- in perhaps the true spirit of who Dr. Paul was -- has sparked a lively discussion about the value of close collaboration between industry and academia.
All in all, both the Dr. Paul Janssen Award gala and symposium reflected the importance of scientific excellence and underscored the enduring legacy of Dr. Paul.