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Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V. Business Information, Profile, and History

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Company Perspectives

Based in Belgium, Janssen Pharmaceutica was established in 1953 by a young medical doctor, Dr Paul Janssen. Unlike most pharmaceutical companies, it was created not as a subsidiary of a chemical factory but solely with the aim of conducting pharmacological research. The one objective of the company has always been the continuous development of better drugs to improve the quality of life.

History of Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V.

Belgium-based Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V. is one of the world's most successful specialist drug discovery companies, responsible for the development of more than 80 drugs since its founding in the early 1950s. Among the company's most successful drugs have been the anemia treatment eprex, and risperdal and haloperidol, both for the treatment of schizophrenia. Five Janssen drugs are featured on the World Health Organization's list of essential drugs, including haloperidol, levamisole, miconazole, and ketoconazole. The company has functioned as an autonomous drug development subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) since 1961, and remained J&J's largest single pharmaceutical sector acquisition until its merger with Centacor in 1999.

Janssen operates research and development facilities in Belgium and the United States, chemical production plants in Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland, and the United States, and pharmaceutical production sites in Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, and Puerto Rico. Janssen also has maintained a production presence in China since 1983, through its joint venture Xian-Janssen Pharmaceutical Co. In addition to its production and research facilities, Janssen operates a global marketing network through its participation in the Janssen-Cilag marketing group, in partnership with sister J&J subsidiary Cilag. Janssen-Cilag operates subsidiaries in 40 countries, with more than 27,000 employees; Janssen itself employs more than 4,000 people. In Asia, the company's products are marketed through local joint ventures including Xian-Janssen (China), Janssen-Kyowa (Japan), and Janssen Korea names, as well as through Janssen-Cilag. Janssen's products are marketed under various names, including Janssen Pharmaceutica and Janssen-Ortho, as well as Ortho Biotech and Ortho-McNeil, also part of the J&J group. Aijit Sherry is company CEO.

Roots in Belgian Medicine in 1933

The Janssen family's involvement in the pharmaceutical field began in the early 1930s, when Constant Janssen, a general practitioner in the rural area of Turnhout, in northern Belgium near the Dutch border, began seeking better means of treating his patients. At the time, few drugs existed, meaning Janssen could offer medicinal treatment to very few of his patients. Janssen came into contact with the Richter pharmaceutical company, based in Budapest, and began importing Richter's products to treat his patients. The Richter company's preparations were, in large part, vitamins; nonetheless they represented a step ahead in the treatment of patients at the time. By 1933 Constant Janssen had acquired the exclusive right to import Richter's products into Belgium, The Netherlands, and the Belgian Congo, establishing his own business, in addition to his medical practice. Janssen later began developing his own pharmaceutical preparations, and by the outbreak of World War II had retired from medical practice to devote himself full-time to his pharmaceutical company.

Constant Janssen provided a great deal of inspiration for his son, Paul Janssen, who became determined to enter medicine when his younger sister died when he was only eight. Janssen traveled to Namur to attend school at the Faculté Notre Dame de la Paix, where he studied physics, biology, and especially chemistry. At the end of the war, Janssen left to study medicine at the Catholic University of Leuven. Yet Janssen's earlier studies had convinced him that there was an inherent connection between the chemistry of drugs and their effects as medicines. This led Janssen to travel to the United States in 1948, where he studied chemical research and pharmacology. Returning to Europe, Janssen completed his medical studies at Leuven, then earned his medical degree at the University of Ghent in 1951.

Nonetheless, Janssen had become determined to pursue a career in pharmaceutical research. Called up to complete his military service, Janssen was stationed in Cologne, Germany, where he was able to continue studying chemistry and pharmacology at Cologne University. There, Janssen studied under Nobel Prize winner Corneel Heymans. In 1956, Janssen had completed his thesis in pharmacology and earned his teaching certification.

By then, however, Janssen had launched his own pharmaceutical company. Returning to Turnhout in 1953, Janssen had set up his own laboratory on the third floor of his father's company. There, Janssen began pursuing his goal of applying modern research techniques toward uncovering the relationship between the chemical structure of a compound and its pharmaceutical effects on patients. Constant Janssen was said to have been skeptical at first, but the younger Janssen quickly proved the firm foundation for his research. Janssen's work consisted of synthesizing molecules, and by 1954, Janssen had synthesized his fifth molecule--R5, better known as ambucetamide. The new compound proved to be a potent antispasmodic, and was especially effective in treating menstrual pain. By 1955, Janssen had released the drug under the brand name Neomeritime. That product remained an important seller for the company into the twenty-first century.

The success of Neomeritime led the Janssen family to reincorporate its business as NV Laboratoria Pharmaceutica Dr. C. Janssen in 1956, and Paul Janssen left Cologne to work full-time in the new pharmaceutical company.

The company's next success was not long in coming. In 1959, Janssen launched a new drug for the treatment of schizophrenia, called haloperidol. The development of that drug highlighted Janssen's novel approach to drug discovery and especially the relationship between chemistry and biology. As reported by The Lancet, Janssen had been inspired by the case of a bicyclist who had won a race while under the influence of amphetamines. "Even as he was pulled off his bike and congratulated by a reporter, he tried to continue cycling," Janssen recalled, convincing him that "finding a treatment for amphetamine intoxication would provide a cure for paranoid schizophrenia." Janssen successfully conducted trials of haloperidol on mice, then turned to clinical testing on a young schizophrenic patient in Liege. The test was conclusive--and the patient had gone on to lead a normal lifestyle. Marketed as Haldol, the new drug represented a revolution in the treatment of schizophrenia, allowing patients to be treated at home, instead of being institutionalized.

International Success: Middle to Late 20th Century

Janssen began expanding its facilities, acquiring land in Beerse that later developed into a campus of more than 56 hectares. By the early 1960s, the company had grown to more than 300 employees. Yet in order to support the company's continued expansion--and especially its rapid growth in the international pharmaceuticals market--Janssen recognized that he needed to find a larger partner. This brought him in contact with Johnson & Johnson, which had been actively seeking to expand its own pharmaceuticals operation. In 1959, for example, Johnson & Johnson had acquired Switzerland's Cilag-Chemie and the United States' McNeil Laboratories. In 1961, Janssen and J&J began negotiations that led to the acquisition of the Belgian company by the U.S. giant. As part of the agreement, however, Janssen was guaranteed that it would remain an independently operating company within the Johnson & Johnson group. This agreement fit in neatly with J&J's own organizational structure. Janssen himself described the merger, as reported by the British Medical Journal: "During the negotiations that led to this co-operation, the future and the protection of our company were uppermost in my mind. For me and my employees, the merger was a sort of life insurance."

J&J's backing enabled Janssen to push ahead with its expansion, as the company continued to develop new and innovative pharmaceutical preparations. The company's expansion also included a move into the development of drugs for veterinary applications. Meanwhile, the company had achieved another major breakthrough, that of the development of fentanyl. Released in 1963, that drug became the world's most prescribed anaesthetic.

Other successes followed in the 1970s, including the launch of pimozide, used in controlling Tourette's syndrome, chronic psychosis, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders; mebendazole, a worm treatment known by brand names such as Vermox, in 1972; and loperamide, used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, and popularly known under the Immodium AD brand. Later successes by Janssen included risperidone, an important antipsychotic.

Through this period, Paul Janssen remained directly involved in the company's research and development efforts. Over the course of his career, Janssen was to generate more than 100 patents, as well as publish more than 850 papers. Janssen, however, continued to be backed by the company's steady growth, particularly internationally. In 1973, the company turned toward the United States, setting up a subsidiary at J&J's headquarters. The growth of its U.S. operations soon led Janssen to open its own dedicated facilities nearby. At the same time, Janssen extended its sales and marketing network. The company first targeted expansion in Europe, adding subsidiaries in most of the major markets. In 1980, the company entered the United States, establishing a sales network where previously it had marketed its products through other J&J subsidiaries or under third-party brands.

Through the 1980s, Janssen continued to add new markets, such as South Africa in 1984. By then, the company had marked another significant expansion step. In 1980, Janssen became the first Western company to develop a technology transfer agreement in China. By 1983, the company had assisted in the construction of a factory for the production of mebendazole there. Two years later, Janssen established a joint venture in China with four government-owned businesses. That partnership began construction of a factory in Xian, which launched production in 1989.

Drug Discovery Leader in the New Century

Paul Janssen stepped down from active leadership of the company in 1991; nonetheless, Janssen remained an active researcher until his death at age 77 in 2004. Janssen left one of the most impressive legacies in modern pharmaceutical history: In addition to his record of patents and published papers, Janssen had received a total of 80 medical prizes, and more than 20 honorary doctorate degrees.

Janssen also left behind a company that had taken a firm position among the world's leading drug discovery groups. An important boost for the company's international sales and marketing effort came in the early 1990s, when its marketing network was merged with those of sister companies Cilag and Johnson & Johnson Biotechnology, creating a new J&J subsidiary, Janssen-Cilag. That company became one of the world's largest pharmaceutical sales organizations, with subsidiaries in some 50 countries and more than 27,000 employees.

Janssen continued to develop its research and production wings as well. The company's U.S. branch moved to larger headquarters, a 270-acre campus in Titusville, New Jersey, in 1992. Janssen's group of production facilities also had grown to include chemical production sites in Ireland and Switzerland, and pharmaceutical production plants in France, Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, and Puerto Rico. In 2003, the company expanded its Irish site with the launch of construction of a facility for the production of active pharmaceutical intermediates (APIs).

Into the mid-2000s, Janssen remained an important part of Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceuticals operations. Although Janssen retained its independence with the J&J organization, it nonetheless participated actively in the parent company's overall strategy. An example of this was provided by the merger of Janssen's primary care and hospital products resources unit with that of sister company Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals, creating a new entity, Ortho-McNeil Inc. Janssen Pharmaceutica looked back on more than 50 years of developing innovative pharmaceutical products.

Principal Subsidiaries

Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc. (United States); Janssen Pharmaceutica N.V./Janssen Research Foundation (Belgium); Janssen-Cilag Mexico; Janssen-Cilag N.V. (Belgium); Janssen-Ortho Inc. (Canada); Johnson & Johnson Pharm. Partners (Puerto Rico); Ortho Biotech Inc. (United States); Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Inc. (United States); Xian-Janssen Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. (China).

Principal Competitors

Pfizer Inc.; Astrazeneca S.A.; GlaxoSmithKline; Bayer AG; Sanofi-Aventis; Novartis Inc.; Celesio AG; Roche Holding AG; Abbott Laboratories; Merck and Company Inc.


  • Key Dates
  • 1933 Constant Janssen acquires distribution rights to Richter (Hungary) pharmaceutical products in Belgium.
  • 1953 Paul Janssen establishes a research laboratory as part of the family business.
  • 1954 The company develops its first successful compound, ambucetamide.
  • 1956 The company changes its name to NV Laboratoria Pharmaceutica Dr. C. Janssen.
  • 1959 Haloperidol, a treatment for schizophrenia, is launched.
  • 1961 Janssen is acquired by Johnson & Johnson.
  • 1964 The company's name is changed to Janssen Pharmaceutica.
  • 1972 A U.S. subsidiary is established in the J&J facility.
  • 1980 The company launches the first technology transfer agreement in China.
  • 1985 The company forms a joint venture in China and builds a factory in China, completed in 1989.
  • 1990 The company merges its global sales and marketing network with those of sister companies Cilag and J&J Biotechnology, creating Janssen-Cilag.
  • 1991 Paul Janssen retires.
  • 1992 The U.S. branch opens a new 270-acre campus in Titusville, New Jersey.
  • 2003 Construction of a new API plant in Ireland is launched.
  • 2004 Paul Janssen dies at age 77.
  • 2006 The company merges its primary care and hospital products operations with those of sister company Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals, creating a new entity, Ortho-McNeil Inc.

Additional topics

Company HistoryPharmaceuticals

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