BEERSE, Belgium, Sept. 8 Johnson & Johnson today honored the career achievements of Axel Ullrich, Ph.D., with the 2009 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research. Dr. Ullrich received this award for his scientific discoveries that led to innovative new drugs including Herceptin((R)) (trastuzumab)*, a personalized medicine therapy, which was the first to target a specific type of breast cancer. Dr. Ullrich also led the development of the first drug created through gene cloning, a recombinant human insulin for treating diabetes which arguably marked the beginning of the biotechnology age. Dr. Ullrich, director for the Department of Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany, was presented with the Award during a ceremony at The Dr. Paul Janssen Research Center in Beerse, Belgium, where he received the $100,000 prize.
"Dr. Ullrich's pioneering research translated genomics-based discoveries into new treatments that improve the lives of millions of patients," said Harlan Weisman, M.D., chief science and technology officer, Medical Devices & Diagnostics, Johnson & Johnson. "The 2009 Award recognizes his commitment to advancing translational research, an approach that embodies the spirit of Dr. Paul Janssen, who himself pioneered the development of more than 80 different medicines."
Working at Genentech, Inc. more than 25 years ago, Ullrich developed genetically engineered human insulin, the first therapeutic derived from gene cloning. This insulin is structurally identical to the naturally occurring form, and acts more quickly and with fewer allergic reactions than insulin made from other sources. Ullrich and collaborators discovered later that decade that the neu/HER2 gene is amplified and overexpressed in more than 30 percent of invasive, or more aggressive, breast cancers. HER2 was chosen for the development of an entirely novel cancer therapy, culminating in the production of an anti-HER2 monoclonal antibody that since 1998 has been used successfully to treat patients with metastatic breast cancer. This was the first targeted drug developed on the basis of a newly discovered gene associated with a cancer causing function in humans.
In the early 1990s, Ullrich identified the signaling system involved in regulating tumor angiogenesis, the growth of blood vessels in tumors. He discovered that inhibiting a key player in the signaling system (called vascular endothelial growth factor receptor or VEGFR) suppresses the generation of blood vessels in tumors and slows down cancer cell growth. Years later, a small molecule inhibitor of the VEGFR2 kinase function was developed, from which a derivative was approved in 2006 for the treatment of kidney carcinoma and gastro-intestinal stromal tumors.
"It is an honor to be recognized with an award of this stature," said Ullrich. "Dr. Paul was a highly respected scientist whose work continues to extend and improve the lives of people all over the world. I am truly humbled to be selected as the recipient of an award whose namesake carries on his tremendous legacy."
"Dr. Ullrich is one of the few basic scientists whose work directly affects the lives of countless patients suffering from major chronic diseases," said Paul Stoffels, M.D., global head, Research & Development, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson. "We are proud to present The Dr. Paul Janssen Award to such a passionate pioneer in biomedical research."
Ullrich has previously received prestigious honors and awards, including the Robert Koch Prize, the Bruce F. Cain Memorial Award of the American Association of Cancer Research and the King Faisal Prize of Medicine.
About The Dr. Paul Janssen Award
Established by Johnson & Johnson, The Dr. Paul Janssen Award salutes the most passionate and creative scientists in basic or clinical research whose scientific achievements have made, or have strong potential to make, a measurable impact on human health. The Dr. Paul Janssen Award is named for Dr. Paul Janssen, who founded Janssen Pharmaceutica, N.V. in 1953. Known to his colleagues as "Dr. Paul," Janssen was one of the 20th century's most gifted and passionate researchers, a physician-scientist who helped save millions of lives through his contribution to the discovery and development of more than 80 medicines, of which four are on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines. In 1961, Janssen Pharmaceutica, N.V. joined the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. Janssen's legacy continues to inspire Johnson & Johnson and its commitment to finding innovative cures for unmet medical needs. Nominations for the 2010 Dr. Paul Janssen Award will open later this fall and submission details will be available at www.pauljanssenaward.com.
About the Selection Committee
The Dr. Paul Janssen Award independent Selection Committee is composed of some of the world's leading scientists, including National Medal of Science winners, Nobel Laureates, members of the National Academy of Sciences and past winners of The Dr. Paul Janssen Award. The 2009 Selection Committee includes:
About Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Services, L.L.C.
Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Services, L.L.C. is a part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. Caring for the world, one person at a time ... inspires and unites the people of Johnson & Johnson. We embrace research and science - bringing innovative ideas, products and services to advance the health and well-being of people. Our approximately 119,400 employees at more than 250 Johnson & Johnson companies work with partners in healthcare to touch the lives of over a billion people every day, throughout the world.
-- Solomon Snyder, M.D., (chairman) distinguished service professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; co-winner, 1978 Albert Lasker Award; winner, 2003 National Medal of Science (United States) -- Mary-Claire King, Ph.D., American Cancer Society Professor of Medicine and Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle; member, National Academy of Sciences; member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (United States) -- Jean Marie Lehn, Ph.D., professor, College de France; winner, 1987 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (France) -- Craig Mello, Ph.D., professor, Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School and investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; winner, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine; winner, 2006 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research (United States) -- Hartmut Michel, Ph.D., director, Department of Molecular Membrane Biology, University of Frankfurt; winner, 1988 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (Germany) -- Edward Scolnick, M.D., director, Psychiatry Initiative at the Broad Institute; former president, Merck Research Laboratories; member, National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Institute of Medicine (United States) -- Sir Richard Sykes, Ph.D., chair, National Health Service, London; former rector Imperial College London; former chief executive officer, GlaxoWellcome; fellow of the Royal Society; honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (United Kingdom)
SOURCE Johnson & Johnson