Janssen has the lofty aim of reaching USD 60bn dollars in sales by 2025, an 8bn increase on the 2021 figure, despite some high-profile losses of exclusivity and the spin-off of its consumer healthcare branch. This massive growth plan involves both existing products as well as new CAR-T and autoimmune disease therapies with Belgium – the home country of company founder Dr Paul Janssen – having a huge role to play. The country will play host to Janssen’s first CAR-T manufacturing centre in Europe, leveraging previous innovation investments as well as the country’s biopharmaceutical and healthcare ecosystem to propel the firm into a new era.
A Strong Footprint
Janssen, which employs 5,000 people in Belgium, has two international distribution facilities in the country as well as a clinical pharmacology unit, and the Janssen Belgium campus (Janssen Pharmaceutica) boasts global expertise and capabilities across R&D, manufacturing, and new product launches.
“Janssen has a strong footprint here, with a clear investment end-to-end, from discovery and development to commercialization of its innovative treatments,” begins Maria Fernanda Prado, the firm’s managing director for Benelux. “By investing so much in the Belgian ecosystem, we can be an important player on several fronts, leveraging the voice of the innovative industry.”
This investment covers a network of partnerships with local actors, including universities, hospitals, research centres and companies and since 2015, Belgium has hosted Europe’s first JLABS, a Janssen-sponsored life science start-up incubator.
Building a Talent Pipeline
With a broad therapeutic area focus and a stacked product pipeline across neuroscience, oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, cardiovascular and metabolism and pulmonary hypertension, Prado underlines the importance of building teams that are future fit and capable of delivering for patients.
One of our key priorities, beyond launching our amazing product pipeline, is to form a great leadership pipeline
Maria Fernanda Prado
“I am proud that we were able to compose new leadership teams, extremely talented and diverse, to drive the organization to new heights on our way forward,” she starts.
“One of our key priorities, beyond launching our amazing product pipeline, is to form a great leadership pipeline. For that, we prioritize our people’s development and talent management. We have the luxury of having very qualified, engaged, and passionate people, which makes our ambition of having the best team in the country easier. We have initiatives that allow short-term assignments, to boost the experience of our professionals, according to their development plan, combined with mentoring and coaching programs.”
In a noteworthy recent move, Janssen announced that the Tech Lane Science Park in Ghent will be the location of the company’s first European facilities to produce CAR-T cell therapy. A breakthrough blood cancer treatment, CAR-T therapy uses patient’s own t-cells, which are genetically modified in a lab, expanded into large numbers, and then reinfused back into the patient. The facilities are being developed in cooperation with Chinese company Legend Biotech for European supply.
On the announcement of the new facility Janssen Pharmaceutica CEO Kris Sterkens said “This is an important investment that confirms our ongoing commitment to research and development in Belgium and Europe to improve the lives of patients around the world.”
Prado adds that “the choice of Belgium as the European CAR-T production centre is a positive testimony of the value of the country in terms of innovation capacity and quality of people. There is an appetite for the development of new technologies here, beyond the fact that geographically Belgium benefits from its central location.”
It may also have positive knock-on effects on the in-country commercial operations that Prado oversees. “Having the CAR-T campus in Belgium is an opportunity for us to gain experience, optimize process timelines and collaborate with the local ecosystem” she notes. “More importantly, we will be able to gain traction to address the overall unmet need in the European market.”
Image of Janssen’s new CAR-T manufacturing site in Ghent copyright of Janssen Pharmaceutica via Flanders Investment & Trade