2020 will go down in history as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic that cost more than two million people their lives, destroyed livelihoods, and put our society to a severe test. In light of this global challenge, the pharmaceutical industry has expanded its research into COVID-19 at an unprecedented pace. After all, despite comprehensive and diverse measures to protect life and health, it is the means of pharmacy that can be used to combat and end the pandemic.
Until recently, it would have taken more than ten years from the identification of a virus to the approval of a vaccine against it. The fact that vaccines and therapies have now been developed and made market-ready within months was only made possible by the close cooperation between pharmaceutical companies, academia, and public authorities. Policymakers are responsible for creating conditions that make such innovations possible, and the importance of an innovation-friendly environment for society as a whole has never been clearer than during this pandemic.
With our company vision of “Creating value through innovation”, we affirm our commitment to excellence in science. This applies not only to the fight against COVID-19, but also to diseases for which no effective treatment options are available yet. To continue to be able to pursue these objectives in the future, we want to remain what makes Boehringer Ingelheim so unique — an independent and economically strong family-owned company of global importance.
We would like to express special appreciation to our employees. In an often difficult personal and professional environment, they have protected and supported one another by showing extraordinary commitment and great solidarity, thus maintaining the global supply of medicines that humans and animals so desperately need. Even during lockdowns, our employees continued to do their research and develop new therapies, not least to combat COVID-19. We would like to thank all of them for their outstanding commitment.
Chairman of the Shareholders' Committee
The year 2020 was shaped by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic – also for Boehringer Ingelheim. As a research-driven biopharmaceutical company, we have been involved in the research and development of therapies from the very beginning – on a national level with the German Center for Infection Research as well as in a global alliance with other companies and institutions, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Research Center.
We also provided financial assistance and donated protective equipment and medicines as part of our Global Support Program to help counter the pandemic. At all times, protecting our around 52,000 employees has been at the forefront of every decision we made.
Patient care has the highest priority for Boehringer Ingelheim. The high level of engagement from our employees allowed us to sustain our production and logistics throughout 2020, despite strained supply chains, and thus continue to supply all those people who depend on their required medicines.
Thanks to the outstanding performance of our IT department, within less than a week, up to 40,000 users were able to perform their tasks outside the corporate network from home every day. Other colleagues continued to be needed directly on site, for example in production facilities and laboratories, but also in infrastructure, business operations, and site security.
An efficient infrastructure and the flexibility of our staff form the basis and are a prerequisite for the resilience of our entire organization, which attained remarkable achievements in the past year.
Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we were able to grow in all three business areas. In 2020, we invested more than ever before in researching future therapies. One important area of research is oncology. Here, we are developing active substances that not only directly attack cancer cells, but can also specifically activate the human immune system. We are pioneers in the scientific understanding of inflammatory and fibrotic diseases of skin, intestinal, and lung tissue among other things, as well as diseases of the central nervous system and metabolic diseases such as the liver disease NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis).
With the launch of the AMR Action Fund, we joined forces with other companies to ensure that infections with multi-resistant bacteria can continue to be treated effectively with new antibiotics in the future. Antibiotic resistance and, not least, COVID-19 show us how closely human and animal health are linked. This commonality is at the heart of our strategy, particularly in animal health, where we focus on synergies in research. External partnerships complement our market activities, for example the cooperation with China-based New Ruipeng Group for pet healthcare.
From our research pipeline to patient information, a substantial part of our corporate activities relies on various types of collaboration. We complement our in-house strengths with specific external skill sets, such as the use of quantum computers for pharmaceutical drug development in our basic research. We were the first pharmaceutical company to engage in this activity when we entered into a partnership with Google Quantum AI at the beginning of 2021.
The progress made by the Group this past year is not a result of COVID-19, but rather an achievement despite the challenges associated with the virus. We would like to extend our very special thanks to all our employees worldwide who have made this possible through their high level of personal commitment. Each and every one of us played a part in ensuring that Boehringer Ingelheim continued to make a contribution to improving the lives of patients in 2020.
HUBERTUS VON BAUMBACH
JEAN SCHEFTSIK DE SZOLNOK