Meet the 2023 winners of the Johnson Medal
Every year, the company bestows this honor on outstanding scientists or researchers whose perseverance makes medical innovation and advancement possible.
Since its founding in 1886, Johnson & Johnson has encouraged innovation by pushing boundaries to create new products, technologies and breakthrough treatments that have improved the health and well-being of people around the world.
And it’s all thanks to the company’s people: like the scientists, researchers and engineers working behind the scenes to move science and technology forward.
Every November, some of those inspiring people are recognized with the Johnson Medal for Research and Development, which honors the talented and tenacious individuals whose outstanding accomplishments led to a significant new product and/or process that addresses an unmet medical need.
This year’s Johnson Medal awardees, which were announced on November 8, are:
• Ted Badgley, George Cakounes, Patrick Courtis, Ph.D., Nicolas Demanget, Ph.D., Daniel Girardeau-Montaut, Ph.D., and Heather Waterson for contributions to Velys™ Robotic-Assisted Solution
• John Buch, O.D., Shiv Mahadevan, Ph.D., Patricia Martin and Donald Riederer, Ph.D., for contributions to Acuvue® Oasys Max 1-DAY Contact Lenses
• Carla Canuso, M.D., Maggie Fedgchin, Pharm.D., Dong Jing Fu, Ph.D., Katrien Verbruggen, Jingli Wang, Ph.D., and Peter Zannikos, Ph.D., for contributions to a nasal spray treatment for depression
“The Johnson Medal Celebration is where we honor the hard work and perseverance that it takes to go from a great idea to a great product,” says William N. Hait, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Chief External Innovation and Medical Officer, Johnson & Johnson. Dr. Hait served as the host of the awards ceremony.
Read on to learn more about the esteemed honor, including who it’s named for and why it’s so competitive, then meet some of the scientists who have taken a medal home over the years.
It’s the company’s highest honor for scientific innovation and research
Established in 1960, the Johnson Medal is named after Robert Wood Johnson II, the company president from 1932 to 1963 who transformed what had been a family healthcare business into a global leader in pharmaceuticals, medical technology and scientific research. Johnson is also the author of , the 1943 document that spells out the guiding principles of the company.
Johnson & Johnson awards external honors for science as well. One such honor is the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research; it celebrates his legacy and recognizes scientists currently working in academia, industry or at a scientific institute who have made a substantial contribution to health for humanity.
The winners are true trailblazers
Take, for instance, the team of Jill Giles-Komar, David Shealy, Jacqueline Benson, Yevgeniya Orlovsky, Jeffrey Luo and Carrie Brodmerkel, who won the Johnson Medal in 2010 for the development of a medical therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat plaque psoriasis. This therapy has since been approved for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and psoriatic arthritis.
Another notable recipient is Assaf Govari, Ph.D., Director for Advanced R&D for Biosense Webster, a Johnson & Johnson MedTech company. The only four-time Johnson Medal winner, Govari received the award in 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2019 for helping to develop several medical technology devices—including the Soundstar® Ultrasound Catheter with the Cartosound® Module, which provides real-time 3D imaging of the inside of the heart.
Last year, a winning Johnson Medal team included Jesse Nawrocki, Ph.D., Associate Director (his second Johnson Medal), Mark Mooney, MBA, Associate Director, and principal engineers Jason Perkins, MS, MBA, Robert Scogna, Ph.D. and Courtney Sikes, MS. All team members supported Research and Development at Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson MedTech company. The team won for leading the development of Stratafix,™ an innovative suture that makes wound closure easier and safer.
Then there’s Mary McGuire, a former research technician in the Personal Products division of Johnson & Johnson. In 1973, she became the first woman to earn the Johnson Medal for her contributions to the creation of Stayfree®, the first menstrual pad with adhesive strips—a game changer for menstrual hygiene.
The selection process is thorough
All scientists at Johnson & Johnson worldwide are eligible for the award; the main stipulation is that the healthcare solution they supported must be on the market for a full 12 months before submitting their application for a Johnson Medal. Research and development leaders in the pharmaceutical and MedTech sectors can nominate an individual or a team of up to six people. Every year, approximately 15 to 20 individuals or teams are nominated.
A confidential executive committee selects the winners based on the following criteria: innovation, collaboration, how much impact the product or development has (or is expected to have) on patients and consumers and the perseverance of the nominees in pursuing the research or bringing a product to market. In addition to the medal, winners receive a cash award.
While meeting the needs of patients is always the first priority, the possibility of winning the award creates friendly competition among scientists and engineers in research and development. The Johnson Medal is one way the company can demonstrate recognition for these teams.