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Johnson & Johnson’s Dr. Paul Janssen Award Winner Receives the Nobel Prize in Medicine

Each year, we honor a researcher whose discoveries could lead to profound breakthroughs in patient care—and this year’s winner, cell biologist Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi, has just won a Nobel Prize.
Dr. Stoffels (left) with Dr. Ohsumi
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he 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 he posed to the scientists who worked in his lab every
day—a reminder to always continue researching the innovations that would transform the lives of patients eagerly awaiting new healthcare solutions.

It was a simple question that led to the discovery and development of an astounding 80 new medicines before his death in 2003—medicines that made a difference for millions of patients in the areas of psychiatry, infectious disease, pain management and gastroenterology.

Dr. Paul, as most people called him, was the founder of Janssen Pharmaceutica, which became part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies in 1961. He was one of the most innovative pharmaceutical researchers of our time and a true inspiration.

One of the many ways we keep his spirit alive is by celebrating the outstanding achievements of today’s scientists with the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research.

Over the past decade, we’ve recognized a remarkable roster of scientists. And while their discoveries are vastly different—ranging from breakthroughs in oncology to pioneering work in viral diseases—they all have one thing in common: They embody the leadership and passion of Dr. Paul.

A Nobel-Winning Scientist We Are Proud to Celebrate

Recently, we awarded the 2016 Dr. Paul Janssen Award to Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi for his groundbreaking work in autophagy at a ceremony at the New York Academy of Medicine—the perfect setting to celebrate Dr. Paul’s profound impact on medical innovation.

Video: Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi Receives the 2016 Dr. Paul Janssen Award

Today, I was thrilled to learn that Dr. Ohsumi was also just awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize in Medicine. Dr. Ohsumi, a cell biologist at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, began his research more than 25 years ago at a time when little was known about the significance of autophagy, which is a universal process that cells use for maintenance, repair and generation of energy during starvation. He first observed the process in yeast cells, and then determined that autophagy is one of the most basic cell functions found in a variety of organisms—from plants to humans.

When the process is disrupted, autophagy is linked to many diseases, including cancer, infection and neurodegeneration. Dr. Ohsumi’s discoveries are important because they hold promise for helping us better understand, prevent and treat some of the most challenging medical conditions facing patients today. His passion for scientific inquiry reminds me of the innovative spirit that Dr. Paul brought to the lab every day, which I had the incredible fortune to witness firsthand while working alongside Dr. Paul.

At Johnson & Johnson, we believe it is important to celebrate accomplished scientists like Dr. Ohsumi, and also nurture the next generation of scientists through our support of such programs as the Next Einstein Forum and 1000 Girls – 1000 Futures.

There are bright innovators inquiring “What’s new?” in laboratories around the globe, and we are proud to support and collaborate with these great scientists to help solve complex health challenges and make a difference in the world.

Paul Stoffels, M.D., is Chief Scientific Officer for Johnson & Johnson. In this role, he works with R&D leaders across the company to set the enterprise-wide innovation agenda. He is a member of the Johnson & Johnson Executive Committee, and chairs the Johnson & Johnson R&D Management Committee, providing oversight to the Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation and the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Centers, with the goal of catalyzing innovative science and technology.

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