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Biopharma community joins call for solidarity, denounces systemic racism

The biopharma industry stood up to be counted, with top pharmas, biotechs and VCs issuing public statements of solidarity as protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death continued Tuesday.

The CEOs and other leaders stepped outside the boundaries that typically define corporate public speech, issuing statements putting themselves and their organizations on the record as condemning racism. The passion and unity reflected in the statements has not been seen since Sept. 11, 2001.

Excerpts from some of the remarks, with links to full statements follow.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:ALNY) said via a Twitter post, “Systemic racism and exclusion of any kind cannot be tolerated. We are our greatest as a society when we treat everyone with dignity, respect and in the same way we would wish to be treated by others.”

Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) tweeted “#BlackOutTuesday” with a pledge to silence its social media accounts.

“We believe deeply in the American experiment, as incomplete and imperfect as it remains today. Now is the time for us to resolve to take sustained action together,” Atlas Venture said in a statement on twitter and its website.

Bayer AG (Xetra:BAYN) said, “These events go squarely against the rights we all have as Americans -- the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- and go against the very essence of our company culture.”

“Now is not the time to be silent. We are committed to doing our part to advance change,” Biogen Inc. (NASDAQ:BIIB) said via Twitter.

“The question is, are we going to build up this country together?”

Ken Frazier, Merck

bluebird bio Inc. (NASDAQ:BLUE) said via a tweet: “We stand with the Black community and the desperate need for change.”

“We proudly support #BlackoutTuesday,” Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH tweeted.

Speaking on behalf of Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY), CEO Giovanni Caforio said via video message that “the killing of too many African men and women has left me and all of us struggling to understand our society.”

“We stand against inequality and racism in the workplace and in our communities,” the U.S. unit of Eisai Co. Ltd. (Tokyo:4523) said via Twitter.

Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE:LLY) tweeted: “We stand in solidarity with our African American colleagues and friends in support of racial equality and justice.”

CEO Alexander Hardy, speaking on behalf of Genentech Inc., said, “Together we must acknowledge what’s happening, speak up in allyship, and take action against this destructive force in our society.”

Genmab A/S (NASDAQ:GMAB; CSE:GMAB) posted on Twitter, “We are committed to creating an inclusive and diverse community, and stand against racism, violence and discrimination in any form.”

“I hope that we can all find ways to support each other during these difficult times. I also hope that with such an intense spotlight on racial injustice right now, some positive actions will come out of this that will benefit communities today and generations to come,” Chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day said in a message to the employees of Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD).

“I spent the weekend reaching out to black colleagues and friends, and their stories -- like the father who drives behind his teenage daughter anytime she goes jogging because he fears for her safety -- landed like a punch to the gut,” said Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ). His remark came in a statement in which he made a $10 million commitment on behalf of J&J to fight racism and injustice, including a focus on addressing “the inequities in medical care that have long plagued minority communities.”

“What the African American community sees in that videotape is that this African American man, who could be me or any other African American man, is being treated as less than human,” Ken Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK), said in interview Monday on CNBC. “The pandemic and the civil unrest -- those storms won’t be here forever. They will pass. And then the question is, are we going to build up this country together? Or are we going to go our separate ways again as we have in the past?”

New Enterprise Associates tweeted: “We join the voices demanding change and stand in solidarity with the black community to work toward a truly just society. #blacklivesmatter.”

“As CEO, but also as a father who wants to see my own kids grow up in a world that embraces diversity in every way, I want to clearly say that Black Lives Matter,” Vas Narasimhan of Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN) said via a LinkedIn post.

“It’s important that we all actively speak out against racial injustice, confront conscious and unconscious bias and lead courageous conversations with colleagues and those in our communities.” said CEO Albert Bourla via a Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) tweet.

RA Capital Management’s Peter Kolchinsky tweeted: “America’s systemic racism is a stain on our nation.”

In a message to his U.S. colleagues, Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi (Euronext:SAN; NASDAQ:SNY), said, “Even though I’m not American, I am still frustrated and saddened by the horrendous injustice against Black Americans. This is a human issue and we should all feel outrage when systemic racism rears its ugly head.”

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