LONDON, July 1 Johnson & Johnson today announced that Axel Ullrich, Ph.D., director of the Department of Molecular Biology at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany, whose discoveries have led to novel cancer therapies including Herceptin(R) (trastuzumab)*, is the winner of the 2009 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research. An independent committee of world-renowned scientists selected Dr. Ullrich, who on September 8 will receive a $100,000 prize during a ceremony in Beerse, Belgium.
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"Dr. Ullrich was chosen 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," said Solomon Snyder, M.D., distinguished service professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and chairman of The Dr. Paul Janssen Award Selection Committee.
"He is one of few basic scientists whose work not only has influenced academic research, but also has helped millions of patients suffering from major chronic diseases," Snyder continued. "We received a number of outstanding nominations for this year's Award and are pleased to acknowledge Dr. Ullrich with this distinction. His work has had a remarkable impact on human health and truly embodies the efforts of the Award's namesake, 'Dr. Paul,' who helped save millions of lives through his contribution to the discovery and development of more than 80 medicines."
Ullrich has pioneered the translation of genomics-based discoveries into novel approaches for the treatment of major diseases. Working at Genentech, Inc. in the early 1980s, he developed genetically engineered human insulin, the first therapeutic derived from gene cloning. In 1987, Ullrich and collaborators discovered that the neu/HER2 gene is amplified and overexpressed in more than 30 percent of invasive 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 therapeutic agent developed on the basis of a newly discovered gene with an oncogenic function in human cancer.
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 receive an award of this stature and to be recognized among so many outstanding scientists," said Ullrich. "Dr. Paul is a legend whose work had a tremendous impact on combating some of the world's most serious diseases. Four of the more than 80 medicines he developed are on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines."
"Johnson & Johnson is pleased the Selection Committee chose Dr. Ullrich as the recipient of the 2009 Dr. Paul Janssen Award, as we believe that his discoveries capture the spirit and legacy of Dr. Paul," said Paul Stoffels, M.D., global head, Research & Development, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson. "Dr. Paul's passion for his work and dedication to creating life-saving therapies for the individuals most in need should continue to serve as an inspiration to the scientific community as we carry on with our quest to care for the world, one patient at a time."
Nominations for the 2010 Dr. Paul Janssen Award will open in September and submission details will be announced at that time.
* Herceptin is a registered trademark of Genentech, Inc.
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. Visit www.pauljanssenaward.com for more information.
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