Paul Janssen

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Paul Adriaan Jan, Baron Janssen (born 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-Jozef college 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][5] 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.[6][7] 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).[8] In 1995 he founded the Center for Molecular Design, together with Paul Lewi, where he and his team[9] used a supercomputer to search for candidate molecules to find a treatment for AIDS.[10][11]

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.[12] 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.

  • 2006: In September 2006, Craig C. Mello, a professor of Molecular Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, was named the inaugural recipient of The Dr. Paul Janssen Award. Mello was selected for his role in the discovery of RNA interference (RNAi) and the elucidation of its biological functions.[13]
  • 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.[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • 2010: Erik De Clercq, M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Rega Institute for Medical Research, Leuven, Belgium and Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD for their pioneering work in understanding and combating viral diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS. Dr. De Clercq played a leading role in the discovery of antiviral agents now used to treat a variety of viral infections, including those caused by herpes simplex, varicella-zoster, cytomegalovirus, hepatitis B and HIV. Dr. De Clercq pioneered the discovery of several antiviral agents which are approved for clinical use, directly impacting the lives of countless patients living with HIV/AIDS and other viral diseases Dr. Fauci has made significant contributions to the understanding of virtually every aspect of HIV pathogenesis over the past 29 years. He pioneered the field of human immunoregulation with a number of scientific observations that serve as the basis for current understanding of the regulation of the human immune response. He is widely recognized for delineating the precise modulation mechanisms of immunosuppressive agents.[16]
  • 2011: Napoleone Ferrara, M.D., for his research on angiogenesis, the process of new blood vessel formation that plays a key role in cancer proliferation and a number of other diseases.Dr. Ferrara’s discoveries opened the door to the development of a new class of therapeutics to combat a serious eye disorder and contributed to the development of new oncology therapeutics. Dr. Ferrara’s lab isolated and cloned vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a major regulator of angiogenesis in physiology and disease, and helped elucidate the role of the factor and its receptors in the development of tumors. Dr. Ferrara’s findings resulted in the development of a new class of treatments, anti-VEGF compounds, which inhibit the growth of new blood vessels.[17]
  • 2012: Victor Ambros, Ph.D., Professor of Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School and Gary Ruvkun, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School Professor of Genetics at Massachusetts General Hospital were honored for their co-discovery of microRNAs (miRNAs) as central regulators of gene expression and development. These regulatory molecules have been implicated in a wide range of normal and pathological activities, including embryonic development, blood-cell specialization, muscle function, heart disease and viral infections. Their discovery has opened new fields of research and has implications for the development of diagnostic tools and medicines.[18]
  • 2013: David Julius, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Physiology, University of California San Francisco for his discovery of the molecular mechanism that controls thermosensation (sensory perception of temperature) and elucidation of the role this mechanism plays in the sensation of acute and inflammatory pain. Dr. Julius, a biochemist and molecular biologist, utilized natural products to probe receptor proteins and elucidate the molecular mechanisms of touch and pain sensation. He identified transient receptor potential (TRP) channels on sensory nerve fibers that are activated by heat or cold, providing molecular insight into the process of thermosensation. He began with identifying how capsaicin, the spicy ingredient in chili peppers, produces burning pain. Eventually, Dr. Julius was able to pinpoint a receptor for menthol (TRPM8) and showed that it is activated by cold, revealing a unifying mechanism for temperature detection.[19]
  • 2014: Emmanuelle Charpentier, Ph.D., Professor at the Hannover Medical School and Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI), Germany and The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden(MIMS), Umeå University, Sweden and Jennifer Doudna, Ph.D., a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Li Ka Shing Professor of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology, University of California, Berkeley, received the 2014 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for their work providing biomedical research with a new method for precisely manipulating genetic information in ways that should produce new insights in health and disease, and may lead to the discovery of new targets for drug development. They have improved understanding of how bacterial immune systems utilize CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) to evade viral infection. More importantly, Doudna, Charpentier and their colleagues determined that Cas9 – an enzyme specialized for cutting DNA – can be programmed with single RNA molecules to cleave specific DNA sites,creating a simple and versatile system for genome targeting and editing. This new understanding enables researchers to rapidly model human disease alleles in the laboratory,speeding the search for new drug leads and opening new doors for the treatment of human genetic disorders.[20]

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. [21]
  • 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.[22]

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" (PDF). Anesth Analg. 106 (2): 451–62. doi:10.1213/ane.0b013e3181605add. PMID 18227300. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Lopez-Munoz, Francisco; Alamo, Cecilio (2009). "The Consolidation of Neuroleptic Therapy: Janssen, the Discovery of Haloperidol and Its Introduction into Clinical Practice". Brain Research Bulletin. 79: 130–141. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.01.005. PMID 19186209. 
  6. ^ "W. Royce Hawkins, M.D., John F. Zieglschmid, M.D., Clinical aspects of crew health". Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  7. ^ "Apollo Medical Kits". Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  8. ^ Magiels G, Paul Janssen. Pionier in farma en in China, Houtekiet, 2005
  9. ^
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ "New AIDS Drug Discoveries To Battle Drug-Resistant HIV Strains". 2002-08-20. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  12. ^ Neuropsychopharmacology. "Thomas A Ban, Paul Adriaan Jan Janssen, 1926–2003, Neuropsychopharmacology (2004) 29, 1579–1580". Retrieved 2012-03-12. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Axel Ullrich Named Winner of 2009 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research
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  21. ^ "De Grootste Belg". De Standaard (in Dutch). Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  22. ^ "Most Important Belgian Scientist". 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2012-03-12. 

Further reading[edit]

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