When Hanneke Schuitemaker, Ph.D., first heard about a novel coronavirus circulating at the end of December 2019, she never imagined the gravity of what she’d just learned. As the global head of viral vaccine discovery and translational medicine at Janssen, the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson Companies, Schuitemaker had a professional interest in infectious diseases, and a new virus looked intriguing—from afar. Little did she know that in just a few months, the new pathogen would not only radically alter her work life, but also disrupt her personal life and the lives of nearly every person across the globe.
“When Janssen first announced our intention to work toward a vaccine for COVID-19 [at the end of January 2020], we immediately began to advance our research and development process in the traditional way,” Schuitemaker said. “About a month later, we realized there was no time to lose.”