Innovation

Taking on Ebola

How science and innovation fuel our efforts to help combat a deadly disease

November 17, 2021

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Patients are our purpose. That’s why we pursue the best science in our inventions and everything we do. Every breakthrough we create has the potential to build a healthier, more hopeful future for people everywhere.

Our company is a health care leader in the fight against Ebola. Along with external collaborators from all sectors, our scientists are at the forefront of the response to outbreaks of this deadly disease as we continue to address this global health challenge. Ebola Zaire virus has had a devastating impact on the world and has proved itself to be a deadly and contagious disease, with a survival rate of 50%.

MSD plays an important role in discovering and developing innovative medicines and vaccines to treat and help prevent infectious diseases. Global public health preparedness against future Ebola outbreaks requires advanced planning, system readiness for rapid deployment and collaboration and partnership between public and private entities around the world. Our partnerships with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health partners around the globe are a crucial component of our commitment to helping save and improve lives.

“It’s something that we take incredibly seriously and with a great sense of urgency to make sure that we do everything we can to support the teams on the front lines,” says Beth-Ann Coller, distinguished scientist, clinical research, MSD Vaccines.

“Our team works with a 24-7 mentality to help tackle these outbreaks.”

Beth-Ann Coller

Safeguarding the future

In 2021, MSD established an agreement with UNICEF to create the world’s first global Ebola stockpile, the result of breakthrough innovation and collaboration with four leading international health and humanitarian organizations across the world. The global stockpile will offer a critical, rapid-response tool to help combat future outbreaks of this highly contagious illness that is endemic in parts of Central and West Africa.

“It has been our honor to collaborate with WHO, Gavi, UNICEF, the U.S. government and many others in getting to this point,” says John Markels, Ph.D., president of MSD Vaccines. “While there remains important work ahead, the stockpile is a new and powerful tool in supporting future outbreak preparedness and response efforts. This historic milestone demonstrates what’s possible when partners come together to pursue a common purpose.”

This level of collaboration continues to be needed for Ebola and other diseases. We remain committed to working in collaboration with WHO and other global and local health partners to support current and future outbreak response efforts.

As seen in the most recent suspected outbreak in Côte d’Ivoire declared in August 2021, our work continues. We will maintain our efforts for as long as needed.

Watch the video

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Our People

Women in science? Absolutely

Strong career paths and cutting-edge science draw more women to our small molecule process R&D team

October 29, 2021

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Women have made an essential impact on the rich history of our company and continue to inspire our present and future. Our world is diverse. To have the greatest impact, we champion a diverse workforce that reflects the individuals we serve, including women. 

Globally, women make up nearly half of our workforce. They hold 36 percent of executive roles and 43 percent of management and senior management roles, and in Europe, they lead our largest country markets.

Today, meet some inspiring colleagues from MSD BeLux and learn what it means for them to be #WomenInScience. 

Responsibility

Solidarity rising in the face of adversity

Finding new ways to fight COVID-19 across diverse populations in Africa

October 29, 2021

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In many parts of Africa, poverty means that often 10 people are living in a one-room building less than three feet apart from their neighbors and many households share a single water pump.

Soap is a luxury item.

And that means that precautionary measures such as social distancing and hand washing can be hard, if not impossible, to implement.

“The advice the world is getting is to practice social distancing and frequent handwashing, but that won’t work for everyone here,” says Priya Agrawal, a physician and our company’s managing director in South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. “There are people who have to leave their homes to get food and water for their families. If they must choose between basic survival and protecting themselves from COVID-19, hunger and thirst are going to win every time.”

COVID-19 infections have surfaced in approximately 215 countries and territories, including nearly 50 in Africa. When infections were first reported in Africa, governments and organizations swung into action to stop the spread.

“Our continent is so diverse. We have good health care and communication in some areas, but they’re stretched thin and extremely limited in others,” says Priya. “We had to ask, ‘How can we work together to stop this virus and protect the people and economy of Africa?’”

Solidarity ‘like I’ve never seen before’

Our company and others in the private sector began working together and collaborating with governments and health organizations to find ways to help. “Solidarity emerged like I’ve never seen before,” says Priya.

Donations from our company and other organizations and citizens to the President’s Solidarity Fund provided support to relief organizations and purchased much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for the country. Priya, her husband and our company are working with many other volunteers from the private sector to procure PPE for all health workers in South Africa. In the first six weeks of the pandemic in South Africa, Business for South Africa (a group of companies that came together to support the Government’s efforts in response to the pandemic) secured 900,000 pairs of sterile gloves, 12 million N95 masks, more than 38 million surgical masks for health workers and patients and 200 ventilators.

“COVID-19 is an extraordinary challenge. And what I have observed in South Africa is extraordinary collaboration. Competitors working side-by-side for the country. Companies sharing information real-time to ensure everyone’s employees were safe. Our company is dedicated to saving and improving lives, and that commitment extends well beyond medicines and vaccines,” says Priya. “It includes supporting health care providers and the communities they serve.”

From masks to meals

“South African residents are required to wear cloth masks during lockdown, but not everyone can afford or have access to them,” says Priya. “At the same time, we are seeing people suffer financial distress due to lost incomes. This affects women disproportionately, especially as women make up the majority of informal and migrant workers.”

One of our employees came up with a brilliant idea: Help women who are out of work launch a business making cloth masks.

“This effort can help protect vulnerable populations from the virus and empowers these women to become entrepreneurs so they can continue to have an income and feed their families,” says Priya.

Sustaining the silver lining

Priya says companies, governments and relief organizations have shown “courageous decision-making and leadership” during the COVID-19 public health crisis. “We’ve seen many positive things, silver linings, emerge from this pandemic.”

The power of partnerships is a key lesson learned in Africa during the virus outbreak. “Now, we must sustain the silver linings and continue to work together,” says Priya.

Podcasting about the pandemic

Learn more insights from Priya Agrawal by listening to her podcast.

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Candid conversations

Communication can be a big challenge in Africa. Technology varies from place to place, which means informing populations about health concerns requires creative approaches as well as providing trusted and accurate information. That’s where Nivi comes in.

Nivi is an interactive mobile chat service, the development of which was supported by funding from MSD for Mothers, our company’s global initiative to help create a world where no woman has to die while giving life. “The platform has built-in artificial intelligence that allows users to have personalized conversations about health topics, including COVID-19,” says Mark Allen, director of strategic partnerships and global programs, MSD for Mothers.

Nivi initially launched to advance maternal health and reproductive health, especially among the younger generation. More than one million people have engaged with the platform in Kenya and India – largely young women and men.

Individuals can now use Nivi to talk about COVID-19 and ask about symptoms, risks, prevention and more. “Young people love it because they can say what’s on their minds,” says Priya. “They don’t want to hear about handwashing. They want to know if they can catch COVID-19 from kissing. Nivi facilitates those candid conversations.”

INVENT. IMPACT. INSPIRE.

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“Working at MSD equals working on innovation that makes a difference for patients and families. This is meaningful for me every day.”

– An Cloet
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“I am so proud to work for MSD, a company dedicated to provide the highest quality of medicines for its patients and the best development opportunities for its employees.”

– Lucie Favier
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“I am proud to be part of a company that is investing for a better tomorrow.”

– Fabienne Plaquet
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“MSD creates a workplace where you feel like home. And there is no place like home!”

– Napoléon Ruzindana

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“Communication is key at MSD. It is a very nice place to work and a great environment. It has many challenges but at the same time many rewards.”

– Marleen Vanheel
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“It is a privilege to contribute to Early Clinical Research at MSD, leading drug candidates from preclinical into patients and finding solutions for unmet medical needs through world class science and innovation.”

– Tine Laethem
Health Awareness

6 global trends critical to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic

Expert panel of patient advocacy leaders on COVID-19, its impact on patients and moving forward

October 26, 2021

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The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges around the world. It has significantly impacted health systems and health care. MSD recently hosted an expert panel of patient advocacy leaders from around the world to discuss shifts in health care and the impact on patients during the next phases of the pandemic. Special Report: COVID-19 and the Patient Perspective summarizes the panel conversation.

Read the report

Moderated by MSD’s executive director of global patient advocacy, Michelle Vichnin, MD, the panel highlighted six global trends:

01.

Defining and characterizing the “new normal”

New is the operative word.  Panelists note that everyone is learning something new, and resilience and agility are key as we respond to realities that are changing every day. And, this includes a new relationship with technology, which will likely deepen in the wake of COVID-19 and other crises, according to a recent survey.

02.

Understanding the future of patient care

The pandemic has forced health care systems to quickly adapt. Changes and trends in patient care include the adoption of telemedicine/telehealth and mobile delivery of care, increased use of technology for patient data and innovation in digital capabilities to monitor, diagnose and promote health.

03.

Challenges of COVID-19: focus on mental health

In addition to the loss of life and impact on physical health, COVID-19 has taken a toll on people’s mental health. Groups particularly affected include health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone and those with pre-existing mental health conditions.

04.

Addressing health care disparities and health equity

The pandemic has highlighted gaps in current health care systems and care models.  It’s forcing us, as a society, to grapple with health care disparities and aim for greater health equity. Panelists discussed some ways to improve those inequities, including addressing social determinants of health and building health literacy.

05.

Embracing patients and patient advocates as part of the solution

Because of what we’ve learned through the pandemic, there are opportunities for a renewed focus on health and prevention. This includes greater involvement of patients in all aspects of health care – from clinical trials to product development.

06.

Partnering for success

Collaboration across all sectors will be critical for addressing the enormous challenges that lie ahead and investment in health care should be prioritized. 

Read the report

Responsibility

Volunteering in pandemic times

October 11, 2021

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As part of MSD’s corporate volunteering program, MSD Belux organized the MSD Gives Back Days, totally corona-proof, during the working hours of the month of Sept 2020. More than 200 colleagues rolled up their sleeves to support Belgian Non-profit-organization to help them survive corona (you can watch the summary video here). During pandemic times, we were challenged to rethink the way we can encourage our employees to make a difference in such an atypical environment, but the need of help was obvious and we didn’t lack courageous colleagues to show up and help, in hospitals.

In this first round, we’re sharing the stories of Veronique and Stephanie, who both decided to volunteer in two different hospitals during Covid times.

Veronique Lizen: Senior Customer Representative, Sales GHH Immunology

“Volunteering made a lot of sense to me. Being able to help in hospitals rather than staying at home and just working remote, allowed me to feel that I was doing something significant. At first, I was on a waiting list at Mont-Godinne Namur hospital, but afterwards they called me when they needed additional people at the hospital, and I was happy to jump in.

My volunteering was focused on the Saint Nicolas day where, together with two other volunteers, we distributed beautifully wrapped bags of pralines. It took us 2 days to distribute everything (more than 5000 packages). Given this chance, I was be able to meet the members of the different departments of the hospital when they would come to pick up their bag of chocolate. The gesture was a small ray of sunshine in a very darkened sky and the biggest satisfaction was to see that we could brighten everyone’s day and make them happy. The only “disappointment” was that we were not disguised as Saint Nicolas!

Thanks MSD for allowing me to be of service and to be there to help. It feels good when you get back home.”

Stephanie Vermaut: Product Specialist Anesthesie

“In November, December 2020 and January 2021 I did volunteer work in AZ Delta, Roeselare. I always went there to help during the week, on Mondays and Tuesdays. I helped both on the Menen and Roeselare campus, depending on where the demand was the highest. I did my volunteering in the COVID department, geriatrics, mainly helping the health care personnel with tasks such as serving breakfast and lunch. The atmosphere in those departments was friendly and cozy, I felt that my help was really appreciated. Many of the older patients were very happy only with a chat or a little extra help.

I also got a lot of satisfaction from the work myself, since I got to know the hospital in a completely different way. I am grateful that MSD gave me that chance!”

We will continue to share the stories of our employees and their continuous effort to make the world around a better place!