March 27th, 2008

The Next 50 Years

paul-stoffels.gif I met Dr. Paul Stoffels — a Company Group Chairman at Johnson & Johnson who is responsible for the research and development of new medicines — years ago when he was at Tibotec Virco and I was involved with the team Johnson & Johnson put together to acquire that company.

His enthusiasm about medical research and development and those people who make new medications possible is — dare I say — infectious : ), and when I heard he had something to say about Dr. Paul Janssen (who founded Janssen Pharmaceutica) and the 50th Anniversary of Haldol, I just had to get him onto JNJBTW… the following is from Dr. Stoffels:

As a young researcher, I was fortunate enough to work with Dr. Paul Janssen, who 50 years ago last month discovered Haldol, a medicine that forever changed the way we care for people with schizophrenia. Previously, those suffering from this terrible disease were routinely institutionalized. Haldol allowed patients, for the first time, to be treated at home, without the crippling side effects of earlier treatments, which included electric shock therapy and lobotomy.


Dr. Paul (as he was known to his colleagues) was possibly the 20th century’s most gifted pharmaceutical researcher. At the time of his death in 2003, he had contributed to the discovery and development of more than 80 medicines, including several that remain on the World Health Organization’s “Essential Medicines List.” What can those of us in the pharmaceutical industry learn from Dr. Paul as we pursue the next 50 years of medical innovation to combat mental illness and other diseases?

I believe the magic Dr. Paul created had little to do with the “hardware” of R&D – the technologies, strategies, and organizational structures that form the most visible elements of these pursuits. His real success came from getting the “software” right – encouraging and inspiring those around him to turn conventional wisdom on its ear, to explore uncharted waters, to persevere in the face of seemingly impossible odds, to recoil from bureaucracy, and to always be open to the unexpected.

Above all, Dr. Paul was driven by a philosophy best captured in a motto displayed prominently in his office. It read, “Erst kommt die Forschung, dan die Wirtschaft.” “First comes research, then commerce.” Making the science work hard in the labs to help people live better lives was the top priority. Get that right, he believed, and commercial success would follow.

This may sound quaint today at a time when many blockbuster medicines are losing patent protection, the output from the industry’s labs has slowed, and sales of new medicines are scrutinized by the media and Wall Street. But keeping our sights set squarely on pushing the boundaries of science to better serve patients may be at least part of the remedy for what is ailing an industry that has done much to alleviate the sickness of others.

Dr. Paul once said, “If you stop searching, you stop living.” Our celebration today of the progress that has been made in treating diseases such as mental illness is tempered only by the knowledge that there is so much more left to be done. Let us continue to search, then, using both our heads and our hearts.

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