Paul Janssen

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Paul Adriaan Jan, Baron Janssen (born on 12 September 1926 in Turnhout, Belgium – 11 November 2003 in Rome, Italy) was the founder of Janssen Pharmaceutica, a pharmaceutical company with over 20,000 employees.[1]

Birth and education[edit]

Paul Janssen was the son of Constant Janssen and Margriet Fleerackers. On 16 April 1957, he married Dora Arts.

He attended secondary school at the Jesuit St-Jozefcollege in Turnhout, after which he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and become a physician. During World War II, Janssen studied physics, biology, and chemistry at the Facultés universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (FUNDP) in Namur. He then studied medicine at the Catholic University of Leuven and the University of Ghent. In 1951, Janssen graduated "magna cum laude" in medicine from the University of Ghent.


During his military service, he worked at the University of Cologne in Germany at the Institute of Pharmacology of J. Schuller, where he worked until 1952. After he returned to Belgium he worked part-time at the Institute of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (University of Ghent) of Professor Corneille Heymans, who had won the Nobel prize for medicine in 1938. Janssen founded his own research laboratory in 1953, with a loan of 50,000 Belgian francs from his father. In 1953 he also discovered his first drug ambucetamide, an antispasmodic found to be particularly effective for the relief of menstrual pain.[2]

Statue of Dr. Paul Janssen in Beerse, Belgium

In 1956, Janssen received his teaching certificate for higher education in pharmacology (Venia legendi) with a thesis on Compounds of the R 79 type. He then left the university and in 1956 established the company which would become Janssen Pharmaceutica. On 11 February 1958 he made haloperidol a major breakthrough in the treatment of schizophrenia.[3] Paul Janssen and his team developed the fentanyl family of drugs, and many other anesthesia-related drugs, such as droperidol and etomidate which made a significant contribution to anesthesiology.[4] One of the drugs he developed for the treatment of diarrhea, Diphenoxylate (Lomotil), even made it into space and was used during the Apollo program.[5][6] In 1985, his company was the first Western pharmaceutical company to set up a pharmaceutical factory in the People's Republic of China (Xi'an).[7] In 1995 he founded the Center for Molecular Design, together with Paul Lewi, where he and his team[8] used a supercomputer to search for candidate molecules to find a treatment for AIDS.[9][10]

Janssen and the scientists at Janssen Pharmaceutica discovered more than 80 new medicines. Four of his medicines are on the WHO list of essential medicines; this is an absolute world record. The majority of the drugs he and his teams developed were for human medicine and are being used to treat infestations by fungi and worms, mental illnesses, cardiovascular diseases, allergies, and gastrointestinal disorders.



Paul Janssen died in Rome, Italy, in 2003, while attending the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, of which he had been a member since 1990.[11] He was survived by his widow, Dora Arts Janssen, two sons, three daughters and 13 grandchildren.

Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research[edit]

The "Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research" was founded by Johnson & Johnson in 2005 to honor the memory of Dr. Paul Janssen. The Dr. Paul Janssen Award serves to promote, recognize and reward passion and creativity in biomedical research and to underscore Johnson & Johnson's commitment to scientific excellence in the advance of healthcare knowledge while fulfilling its responsibility in the community.

  • 2008: Professor Marc Feldmann, FMedSci, FAA, FRS and Emeritus Professor Sir Ravinder Maini, FRCP, FMedSci, FRS of The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology, [Imperial College London], received the 2008 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for their role in the discovery of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, or TNF-alpha, as an effective therapeutic target for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases.[13]
  • 2009: Axel Ullrich, PhD, director of the Department of Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany, received the 2009 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research for his pioneering work in applying molecular biology and molecular cloning to the discovery of protein therapeutics for the treatment of a wide range of diseases, including diabetes and cancer. Basic research in Ullrich’s laboratory led to the characterization of several medically relevant receptors of the tyrosine kinase family, including receptors for epidermal growth factor and vascular endothelial growth factor. He demonstrated that these receptors are critically involved in human cancer and developed therapeutics based on these discoveries.[14]

Popularity polls[edit]

  • In 2005 he finished as runner up, after Father Damien, in the poll for The Greatest Belgian organized by the regional Flemish television.[citation needed]
  • He also came third in an equivalent contest amongst Germanophone Belgians, Belg der Belgen.
  • On Wednesday 22 October 2008 Dr. Paul Janssen was awarded the title of Most Important Belgian Scientist, an initiative of the Eos magazine.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paul Lewi, Obituary of Dr Paul Janssen (1926–2003), Drug Discovery Today, Volume 9, Issue 10, 15 May 2004, Pages 432–433
  2. ^ I. Oransky, Paul Janssen, The Lancet, Volume 363, Issue 9404, Pages 251–251
  3. ^ B. Granger, S. Albu, The Haloperidol Story, Annals of Clinical Psychiatry (after 1 Jan 2004), Volume 17, Number 3, Number 3/July–September 2005 , pp. 137–140(4)
  4. ^ Stanley TH, Egan TD, Van Aken H (2008). "A Tribute to Dr. Paul A. J. Janssen: Entrepreneur Extraordinaire, Innovative Scientist, and Significant Contributor to Anesthesiology". Anesth Analg 106 (2): 451–62. doi:10.1213/ane.0b013e3181605. PMID 18227300. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "W. Royce Hawkins, M.D., John F. Zieglschmid, M.D., Clinical aspects of crew health". Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  6. ^ "Apollo Medical Kits". Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  7. ^ Magiels G, Paul Janssen. Pionier in farma en in China, Houtekiet, 2005
  8. ^
  9. ^ Yven Van Herrewege, Guido Vanham, Jo Michiels, Katrien Fransen, Luc Kestens, Koen Andries, Paul Janssen, and Paul Lewi, A Series of Diaryltriazines and Diarylpyrimidines Are Highly Potent Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors with Possible Applications as Microbicides, Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2004 October; 48(10): 3684–3689
  10. ^ "New AIDS Drug Discoveries To Battle Drug-Resistant HIV Strains". 2002-08-20. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  11. ^ Neuropsychopharmacology. "Thomas A Ban, Paul Adriaan Jan Janssen, 1926–2003, Neuropsychopharmacology (2004) 29, 1579–1580". Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Axel Ullrich Named Winner of 2009 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research
  15. ^ "Most Important Belgian Scientist". 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]