The 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. Feldmann and Maini were selected for their role in the discovery of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, or TNF-alpha, as an effective therapeutic target for rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions afflicting millions worldwide. The award, which includes a $100,000 prize, will be presented to the winners at events in New York and Beerse, Belgium in September.
According to Solomon Snyder, Ph.D., Distinguished Service Professor of Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Chairman, Janssen Award Selection Committee, "The work of Feldmann and Maini exemplifies the bench-to-bedside approach that Paul Janssen's contributions epitomized. It is extremely rare for researchers to identify a molecular messenger in test tube studies, demonstrate its physiologic relevance in animals and themselves carry these efforts forward to a successful clinical demonstration. Feldmann and Maini did all of this, leading to therapeutic agents of inestimable, lifesaving importance."
Established by Johnson & Johnson, the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research honors the founder of Janssen Pharmaceutica. 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. Janssen's legacy continues to inspire Johnson & Johnson's commitment to finding innovative cures for unmet medical needs.
Feldmann and Maini have collaborated for more than 20 years in basic research and clinical trials that have transformed the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions. Feldmann and Maini investigated the role of cytokines, protein messenger molecules that drive inflammation, and found that a single cytokine, TNF, was capable of driving the disease process. This led them to seek ways of blocking TNF, and they chose to use a monoclonal antibody previously developed for an unrelated condition. Clinical trials revealed rapid and dramatic improvement of rheumatoid disease activity with anti-TNF therapy, which led to development of several anti-TNF drugs. As TNF is also involved in other chronic inflammatory diseases, the pioneering work of Feldmann and Maini has led to the routine use of anti-TNF therapy for many prevalent and debilitating conditions.
Feldmann said, "We are very pleased with the widespread clinical applicability of our discovery that a messenger molecule, TNF, was an effective target for treatment not only in rheumatoid arthritis but also other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriasis. This discovery suggested that other cytokine messenger molecules are also good treatment targets and has led to an emerging branch of medicine -- anti-cytokine therapy. I believe Dr. Janssen would have been intrigued as we explore the range of diseases treatable by these anti-cytokines."
"Our discovery of anti-TNF therapy for disabling chronic inflammatory conditions was the result of contributions made by many colleagues and collaborators and only possible because of advances in molecular medicine and biotechnology," said Maini. "The joy of the fruits of our work is that it made a difference to the lives of so many patients, an outcome that Dr. Janssen especially would have appreciated."
"The work of Feldmann and Maini has dramatically transformed the treatment of chronic inflammatory conditions and given millions of people new hope," said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Company Group Chairman, Research & Development, Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson. "The passion with which these two scientists have driven forward translational research reflects the leadership and innovation that defined Dr. Paul. Johnson & Johnson is delighted to honor them with the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research."
Harlan Weisman, M.D., Chief Science and Technology Officer, Medical Devices and Diagnostics, Johnson & Johnson, concurred. "Scientific breakthroughs that have the power to transform an entire field of medicine, such as the discovery of TNF-alpha's role as a therapeutic target, are rare and game-changing. Feldman and Maini's work has tremendous potential to transform research and human health, and it has shed new light on how we study crippling immune mediated inflammatory disorders."
In addition to winning the 2008 Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research, Feldmann and Maini have been widely honored for their work. They received the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award in 2003 and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy in 2000, among others.Notes for editor
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