Leadership blog with Lennert Steukers from Janssen, Neuronet Project Leader

What is your current role in the company you work at?

I’m currently working as a clinical scientist within the Experimental Medicine Neuroscience department. The Experimental Medicine Clinical Scientist (EM CS) is a responsible member of the clinical team, dedicated to the development and execution of the clinical and translational strategy and program (scientific, clinical, and operational) of compounds in Experimental Medicine (incl. Early Development).

The EM CS plans and directs study design, protocol development and execution of clinical research studies in all phases of early development (Phase 0 to Phase 2a) is accountable for the end-to-end (E2E) execution process for each assigned clinical project in a timely and cost effective manner. The EM CS contributes to the interpretation and reporting of clinical study results. The EM CS is actively involved and contributes to external collaborations and innovation projects such as government funded projects or collaborative research programs support of a compound development program, translational strategy, DAS/TA strategy, or newly defined development or disease area opportunity.

What are the most prominent challenges you see in neurodegeneration research?

It’s in general a difficult research area in which our understanding of disease mechanisms is still quite limited compared to other areas. This has its own opportunities and challenges. One big challenge of course is that these diseases manifest in the brain (complex organ), are in general progressive and slow, and have a quite long presymptomatic stage during which the disease progresses. This puts quite heavy restrictions on the development of any new drugs. We need to defer to best proxy, early biomarkers which do not always translate to functional outcomes and finding this population (for studying these early stages and early stage intervention) is not a given.

What are your expectations from the Neuronet Coordination and Support Action?

I see Neuronet as an ideal knowledge integrator, interaction facilitator and striver for sustainable outcomes in support of the various IMI Neurodegeneration projects and beyond. What a wealth of assets did the IMI 1 & 2 programmes produce, amazing! In the end, we all want to make sure these results benefit the wider research community and help us accelerate bringing solutions to patients faster than ever before.

What value do you see in public-private collaboration?

Public-Private Partnerships such as IMI are powerful enablers of innovation in the healthcare sector. Joint efforts and quicker learnings from one another is what the field needs more than ever!