Celebrating our Innovation Superstars
Celebrating our Innovation Superstars
The 2014 Johnson Medal Recipients pose for a photo with Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Paul Stoffels

In today’s day and age, we focus much public attention on pop culture celebrities: actors, musicians, athletes. The unsung superstars are the scientists, technologists, and engineers whose relentless pursuit of knowledge and innovation saves and improves lives of people all over the world.

This week, Johnson & Johnson turned our scientists into superstars as we celebrated the 37th Johnson Medal Awards. Eighteen innovators received the Johnson Medal, the most prestigious award given for research and development within Johnson & Johnson. Their achievements reminded me of the incredible dedication, passion, and imagination it takes for scientists to do what they do—work through failure after failure and never give up until they discover, develop, and deliver new innovations for all of us.

It takes imagination and risk taking to attempt and successfully land a space probe on a moving comet. And it takes courage and gumption to attempt to cure an untreatable cancer, or produce a device to perform safer heart procedures, or to innovate established consumer brands. Or, to attempt a vaccine for the deadly Ebola virus.

Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson presented the 2014 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research to Drs. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier for really cool science that could make a huge impact on health in the future — a biochemical way to edit the genome, the blueprint for a human being. I was excited to learn that week, Drs. Doudna and Charpentier, as well as two other previous Dr. Paul Janssen Award winners, Drs. Ambros and Ruvkun, were also honored with the 2014 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences.

Recognizing scientists for the superstars they are is an important way for us to celebrate and showcase science and its importance to our progress as a society. Nearly half of the growth in the Gross Domestic Product of the United States since mid-20th century resulted from scientific discoveries and technological developments, according to many sources. In other words, innovation is the lifeblood of our society. We must continue to recognize and celebrate the impact that science and innovation have on every aspect of our lives, and treat our innovators as the superstars that they are!

Seema Kumar is Vice President of Innovation, Global Health and Policy Communication, Johnson & Johnson (J&J). In this role, Seema works to position J&J as a global pioneer in innovation and in research and development (R&D) , a thought leader and a partner of choice. Her responsibilities include communications regarding enterprise innovation and R&D, medical safety and ethics, policy, and global health. She also serves as the communication leader for the Johnson & Johnson R&D Management Committee and the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers.

Seema previously served, since January 2013, as the Vice President, Enterprise Innovation and Global Health Communication, J&J, and from 2009 to 2012 as Vice President, Global R&D Communications of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of J&J, which included oversight of internal and external communications. As part of the Pharmaceutical R&D management team, she led important initiatives to position Janssen, and J&J, as a pharmaceutical R&D leader and oversaw J&J-level R&D communication programs managing the reputation of the J&J pharmaceutical pipeline and products, and the Company’s leadership in global health.

Seema joined the J&J Family of Companies in 2003 as Vice President, Global Communications for J&J Pharmaceutical Research & Development, serving in that position until 2009. During this time, she built a new J&J Global R&D Communications function and organization, setting and achieving ambitious goals to showcase J&J ’s cutting-edge scientific research and innovative drug-development processes.

Prior to joining J&J, Seema was the Chief Communications Officer at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research /Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Genome Research, the flagship center for the Human Genome Project. She played a leadership role in enhancing worldwide public awareness and understanding of Project, the effort to map and sequence the genetic blueprint for a human being. As a member of the Center’s executive management, Seema was at the White House along with the Project team for the first global announcement of the Human Genome sequence. Seema also held positions of increasing leadership at the Whitehead Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, where she launched and led a variety of initiatives to communicate and position the latest scientific advances and policy implications.

Seema is active in many professional affiliations and serves on several external advisory boards. She is the author of more than 200 news and feature articles on science and medicine, for which she has won several awards, including an Award of Excellence in writing from the American Medical Writers Association and three Gold Medals for Media Relations, Science Education, and Digital Communication. She holds a master of arts degree in science journalism from the University of Maryland, which included a fellowship at the National Cancer Institute, a bachelor of science and communication from the University of Maryland, and a bachelor of science in physics from Stella Maris College, in Madras, India. .content

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