Hanneke Schuitemaker, born in the Netherlands in 1964, heads vaccine research at the biotech company Janssen, which belongs to J&J.
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Hanneke Schuitemaker discovered Johnson & Johnson’s corona vaccine. A conversation about insidious viruses, male mentors and female virtues.
Ms Schuitemaker, before you discovered Johnson & Johnson’s corona vaccine, you researched AIDS and the HI virus for decades. Which virus is more insidious?
The HI virus is much more variable, it penetrates much deeper into human genetic material than Sars-Cov 2. In retrospect, the corona virus turned out to be comparatively easy to combat. The vaccines work and their effectiveness is very high. But it could have turned out differently.
When did you start your work on the Corona vaccine?
I still remember the crisis meeting in mid-February 2020. We vaccine researchers and virologists had all flown to Geneva and were sitting in the large WHO meeting room. At the beginning of a pandemic, that probably wasn’t a particularly smart idea. We saw how exhausted the Chinese colleagues were. It was then that we all realized that we had no more time to lose.