The late Baron Paul Janssen was one of the most innovative and inspiring pharmaceutical researchers of the 20th century. He studied medicine at the Katholieke Universiteit van Leuven (KU Leuven) and Ghent University (UGent). In 1951, Janssen received his medical degree magna cum laude, after which he also obtained a postdoctoral degree in pharmacology. During his military service and until 1952, he worked at the Institute of Pharmacology of the University of Cologne, Germany.
Deeply affected by the loss of his four-year-old sister to tuberculosis, Janssen pursued a career in medicine, founding his own independent science-based research company, Janssen Pharmaceutica, in 1953. Two years later, he discovered his first drug, ambucetamide, an analgesic that proved effective against menstrual pain.
Other of his developments include haloperidol, for the treatment of schizophrenia, fentanyl, droperidol, etomidate and anti-diarrheal drug diphenoxylate. In total, Janssen and his research team discovered more than 80 breakthrough medications, five of which are on the WHO list of essential medicines.
In 1961, Janssen Pharmaceutica became part of Johnson & Johnson. Janssen later went on to found companies in the US and with the Xian-Janssen joint venture, Janssen Pharmaceutica became the first Western pharmaceutical company to establish a factory in China.
During his lifetime, Janssen received more than 80 scientific and academic awards, including 22 honorary doctorates. He held more than 100 patents and was the (co-)author of roughly 850 scientific publications. Up until his death in 2003, Janssen remained committed to the development of new medicines, particularly in the search for a cure for HIV. In his memory, Johnson and Johnson founded the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research to "promote, recognize and reward creativity in biomedical research."