Simmons, a senior scientist, is driven by a desire to help people and make a difference in society. “When you find out a medicine you worked on has helped so many people, you feel really special and you know all the work has been worthwhile,” she said. Read more
Women scientists have historically been underrepresented in the field of process research and development — the space between drug discovery and manufacturing. However, over the past seven years, the percentage of women on this team has nearly doubled and continues to grow. Read more
Gbemudu is motivated to ensure everyone has the chance to be as healthy as possible. As an executive director of health equity and social determinants of health, she takes pride in giving a voice to those who may not traditionally have had a seat at the table. Read more
Far-off galaxies and distant stars first sparked Pena’s imagination, but she eventually found her calling delving into the mysteries within the human body. Today, she’s working to advance research in the field of pulmonary arterial hypertension. Read more
For as long as she can remember, Villar wanted a purpose-driven career that allowed her to give back to the community. As vice president for social business innovation, she leads a team working to do just that, saying, “We ask ourselves ‘How do we better support communities and co-create the work that will help solve challenges?’” Read more
As vice president of diversity and inclusion, Warren leads our efforts to create an environment of belonging, engagement, equity and empowerment so that together, we can help ensure better health outcomes for patients. “When every single employee embraces a mindset welcoming diversity and inclusion and can fully appreciate the experiences of others, better discussions, decisions and outcomes will certainly follow,” she said. Read more
Luppi, the first woman to serve as managing director of our company in Italy, is committed to developing women leaders and achieving gender diversity. Thanks to her leadership, we were one of the first companies in the country to eliminate the gender pay gap. Read more
How early detection of kidney cancer can help save lives
An oncologist and a patient advocate discuss the challenges of renal cell carcinoma and their hopes for the future of cancer care
March 15, 2023
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When Liz Leff, an otherwise healthy woman in her 30s, went in for her annual checkup eight years ago, cancer was the last thing on her mind. But that routine checkup set her on a path with renal cell carcinoma (RCC), the most common type of kidney cancer.
The testing that led to Leff’s early kidney cancer diagnosis
“My primary care physician saw microscopic traces of blood in my urine — which I was told isn’t uncommon — and suggested a follow-up appointment with a urologist,” she said. “I was reluctant to go in for testing for something that seemed insignificant, but my doctor pushed me to have it checked. I’m so glad I did. A renal ultrasound showed a tumor on my kidney.”
The World Health Organization estimated that there were approximately 431,000 new diagnoses of kidney cancer, which includes RCC, in 2020 across the globe. RCC occurs when cancerous, or malignant, cells form in tiny tubes in the kidneys, known as tubules.
“One of the difficulties around early diagnosis is that unlike breast or cervical cancers, there’s not a preventive care screening test for RCC. Kidney cancer is often found during abdominal imaging tests for other complaints,” said Dr. Rodolfo Perini, an associate vice president who leads the RCC clinical team at MSD Research Laboratories.
Leff’s experience is not typical, as at the time of diagnosis she was young. Additionally, she was not experiencing any symptoms at the time of her diagnosis.
“For most people, common symptoms — like persistent pain in your side or loss of appetite — can be vague and are often brushed off. By the time they become more severe, disease may have spread,” said Dr. Perini. “That’s why it’s so important to listen to your body and share anything you’re experiencing with your doctor. Early detection is associated with better outcomes.”
Kidney cancer causes and care
Risk factors for renal cell carcinoma include smoking, being overweight or obese, having high blood pressure, having a family history, and having a history of exposure to environmental toxins. The risk of kidney cancer may also be greater for Black men and for people over the age of 45.
“The research landscape has changed, and we’ve seen improvements in the care of kidney cancer over the years, but it’s not good enough,” said Dr. Perini.
"We still have work ahead, but with the progress that’s been made, there’s reason to be excited for the future.”
— Dr. Rodolfo Perini
Life as an advocate after experiencing kidney cancer
Leff is also hopeful about the future of care in kidney cancer. Following successful treatment, she joined the National Kidney Foundation, where she draws on her own experiences to better advocate for others living with kidney cancer.
“When I first heard the word ‘cancer,’ I was terrified. I felt like I was in this alone with no place to go. I don’t want others to go through what I went through,” Leff said. “From when I was diagnosed to now, there’s a lot more information and support available.”
“My ultimate hope is that continued research, plus more resources and education for patients, may help lead to earlier diagnoses and better outcomes for more people.”
The program equips leaders across industries to be intrapreneurs, meaning they work to advance societal value while also positioning their companies for sustained success.
“The global community is increasingly asking, and frankly, requiring, organizations to have a clear position around what they are doing to tackle the world’s most pressing and imminent challenges."
— Josette Gbemudu
“This fellowship has provided a tremendous opportunity to home in on what it takes to be a corporate social intrapreneur, and how to incorporate that intrapreneurial drive and mentality into my day-to-day,” Gbemudu said.
At the nexus of health equity
Fellows are challenged to lead change and create new opportunities within their business to help redefine how business is done and how success is measured. At our company, Gbemudu and her colleagues are developing and implementing company-wide strategies to help close gaps in care for underserved populations.
“It’s fantastic to be at the nexus of the efforts to embed a health equity mindset across our core business strategies and functions,” Gbemudu said. “Big problems won’t be solved overnight. But historically, we’ve risen to the challenge in addressing a lot of pressing public health issues. It’s nterwoven into our DNA.”
VIDEO: Living with pulmonary arterial hypertension
One woman’s story shows the power of knowledge and support for patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)
February 13, 2023
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Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) entered Colleen’s life unexpectedly. She was 35 when she noticed she became short of breath easily. She thought it was due to the weight she gained during her recent pregnancy. A year later, Colleen lost the weight but was still gasping for breath after climbing a few flights of stairs. Colleen wasn’t only feeling fatigued; she was worried. She’d later learn these were symptoms of PAH.
Colleen was first diagnosed with asthma, but her condition continued to worsen. She searched for an answer while daily tasks became more difficult. It took two and a half years for Colleen to be referred to a cardiologist who properly diagnosed her with PAH, one of the five different types of a broader condition called pulmonary hypertension (PH).
What is pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH)?
PAH is a rare and life-threatening blood vessel disorder that worsens over time. PAH has similar symptoms to other common lung diseases, such as asthma, which can make it difficult to diagnose.
In PAH, the pulmonary arteries — the blood vessels that carry blood from the right side of the heart into the lungs — become thickened and narrowed. This blocks blood from flowing through the lungs, which then raises blood pressure in the lungs. As a result, the right side of the heart must work harder to pump blood into the lungs to keep the body functioning properly.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of PAH
The exact cause of PAH is unknown, and most people with PAH have no known family history of the disease. People may not notice any early-stage symptoms of PAH, but as the disease progresses, they may experience common symptoms, such as increased shortness of breath, fatigue, edema (swelling of the feet, legs and, eventually, the abdomen and neck), dizziness and fainting spells, chest pain, and heart palpitations (racing or pounding).
People with PAH may notice that their lips and fingers turn blue. PAH can hinder a person’s physical abilities and impact everyday tasks.
“Living with pulmonary arterial hypertension isn’t easy.”
“I had to purchase a scooter to do outside activities with my children. I couldn’t perform basic functions for myself and my family or make it to the sidelines of a baseball field to watch my son play. I was truly relegated to living on the sidelines myself. But through it all, I’ve never given up,” said Colleen.
Raising awareness for PAH
In addition to working with her doctor, Colleen found comfort through her support system. Since her diagnosis, Colleen has dedicated her life to raising awareness of PAH and helping others living with the disease. “It’s important for patients and the community to have knowledge and encourage each other. Whatever we can do to lift the community and spread awareness of this devastating disease is appreciated,” she added.
Black scientists, innovators and employees are key to MSD’s history of invention and progress
Learn about scientific contributions of Black employees in our company's history and how our diversity initiatives have shaped our legacy of invention
February 3, 2023
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A diverse workforce is not only fundamental to our company’s future success, but it’s also a part of our rich history. Taking a look back in time, we highlight the contributions of Black leaders and company milestones that have made an impact on diversity and innovation in our past, present and future.
A long history of Black inventors and innovators
Susan Jenkins paved the way for black women in science at MSD
Susan Jenkins began a long career at MSD in 1957 when she joined MSD Research Laboratories (MRL) as one of its first female Black chemists. She was part of the team that first synthesized ribonuclease. Later, she joined our company’s corporate equal employment affairs department and served as a black university liaison. By the end of her career here, Susan was senior vice president of human resources and was emblematic of how important having Black women leaders in science was to creating an inclusive work environment.
Susan returned to our company almost 50 years later to attend the presentation of the Citation for Chemical Breakthrough award from the American Chemical Society (ACS) division of the History of Chemistry. The Citation for Chemical Breakthrough was awarded in honor of the series of five articles published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society describing the first total synthesis of an enzyme. These articles were authored by Dr. Ralph Hirschmann and his colleagues in 1969, one of whom was Susan.
William Bowers’ advocacy for civil rights at work and across the country
MSD alumni include numerous prominent Black civil rights leaders, including William “Bill” Bowers. Bill joined our company in 1951 as a technician, a position he held until 1969 when he received a bachelor of science degree in business management from Rutgers University. He earned his degree with assistance from our company’s educational grant program while balancing his full-time job, four children and many leadership positions in his community, including vice president of the Westfield Community Development Corporation.
Bill retired from a project management position at our company in 1993. He was a vocal proponent for civil rights nationally and within our company, having participated in the 1963 March on Washington. He was a co-founder of Black Employees at MSD (BEAM), which later became MSD’s Black Employees Network (BEN) and is known today as LEAD — MSD’s League of Employees of African Descent, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2020.
Baseball star Jimmy Dean found a second career at MSD
During the late 1940s, Negro League baseball featured a star pitcher named Jimmy Dean. Famous for his sinker-ball, Jimmy pitched for the Philadelphia Stars facing legends like Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron.
After the integration of Major League Baseball started to draw athletes and fans away from the Negro Leagues, Jimmy returned to school and began working for MSD. Jimmy traveled extensively, put three sons through college and after 33 years, he retired from his position as a technical analyst in 1990.
Our commitment to diversity in science careers
Investing in future science leaders
In 1968, MSD began sponsoring the Technical Training Program (TTP), a non-profit organization in Newark, New Jersey, which offered classes and on-the-job laboratory experience for students interested in pharmaceutical industry careers. TTP primarily targeted young people from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Among TTP’s first graduating class were William “Gary” Mickle and Darrell Harris who became laboratory technicians in MRL. Gary would ultimately work in MRL for over 35 years.
Prioritizing equal opportunities for Black and minority employees
In 1968, MSD appointed Lawrence “Larry” Branch vice president of personnel relations, responsible for coordinating and recommending programs for employment, training, and promotion of persons from all minority groups. This new position marked the beginnings of MSD’s Office of Equal Employment Affairs — one of the first in the country to prioritize equity for black employees, among many other initiatives. Over the years, the Office of Equal Employment Affairs continued to evolve, establishing companywide programming to address complex workplace issues such racism, sexism and other barriers to equality. The programming was so successful it served as a model to other corporations, government organizations and community groups.
MSD celebrated for innovative diversity programs that support our Black employees
During the 1980s, MSD was recognized for its leadership in equal opportunity employment. As national politics surrounding affirmative action grew to be more complex, we maintained our focus on welcoming and supporting diverse employees. The 1983 book “The Hundred Best Companies to Work for in America” listed our company as No. 15, specifically citing our diversity initiatives.
That same year our company’s commitment to equal opportunity earned recognition from the United States Department of Labor with its Exemplary Voluntary Efforts Award. Then in 1989, we were included on Black Enterprise magazine’s first-ever list of the 50 Best Places for Blacks to Work. Ever since, we have maintained a consistent presence on lists praising corporate diversity published by Black Enterprise, Forbes and more.
Women scientists have historically been underrepresented in the field of process research and development — the space between drug discovery and manufacturing. However, over the past seven years, the percentage of women on our company’s small molecule process research & development (SM PR&D) team has nearly doubled and continues to grow.
“This progress is important because it reflects our mindset that diversity and inclusion fuel creativity and innovation.”
Jamie McCabe Dunn Director, process chemistry
“Our group today looks dramatically different than it did when I first started 14 years ago because we’ve taken steps to build more diverse teams,” said McCabe Dunn.
And, women chemists and engineers are vital to our success.
“While we’ve come a long way in the last decade, achieving greater gender equity must continue to be a priority for all leaders,” said Kevin Campos, vice president.
One successful approach has been for women leaders to take more active roles in recruiting talent. This allows for greater relationship building among female candidates applying for jobs in science fields and provides a vision for growth opportunities at our company.
“We’re also expanding relationships with more academic institutions and casting a wider net to find excellent talent,” said McCabe Dunn. “As more women join the company and see the strong career paths open to them, we expect to see even greater diversity.”
A woman chemical engineer in a male-dominated field
Eighteen years ago, when Marguerite Mohan joined MSD, she was one of a small group of women scientists on the team. Although not different from what she experienced academically, she recalls being asked whether she thought this environment would limit her.
“I had no concerns being in the gender minority…I knew I was here because of my ability.”
Marguerite Mohan Executive director, chemical engineering, SM PR&D
“I loved being a chemical engineer and wanted to apply my skills where I’d make an impact on people’s lives. The interface of research and manufacturing was a great place to start,” said Mohan.
Tasked with developing and scaling up processes to safely, innovatively and robustly produce drug candidates for clinical trials and commercial use — these teams deliver for patients through cutting-edge science. They challenge the status-quo and try new things. That’s also how they recognize and develop talent.
“We’re committed to making sure everyone’s voice is heard and respected. This has allowed women to frame what technical growth looks like from our point of view, bringing diversity of thought to the problem-solving and leadership table,” said Mohan. “By challenging the status quo, we’re creating stronger, more innovative teams filled with unique scientific talent.”
A new generation of women scientists
Niki Patel and Cindy Hong joined our company within the past six years — both drawn, in part, to our reputation as a scientific leader committed to improving human health.
“I was very aware of the team’s novel and innovative science through publications in high-profile, peer-reviewed journals and presentations at conferences. This was a place where I wanted to do great science,” said Patel, associate principal scientist.
It was also a place where both Patel and Hong knew they’d fit in.
“As a female graduate student, I was definitely outnumbered. But, when I interviewed here, I saw such diversity on the teams – including at leadership levels.”
Cindy Hong Associate principal scientist
“I knew this environment was right for me,” said Hong. “I’ve worked with great female and male leaders since joining the company and been exposed to many different areas of expertise. I see real opportunities for growth.”
Women empowering other women in science
Strong networks and outreach are important to not only maintain a pipeline to potential female scientist candidates but also retain and promote those already on the team. They can include things like collaborative communities, mentor programs, publishing papers or grassroots efforts.
“We’re empowered to take steps to support women in this field.”
Niki Patel Associate principal scientist
“For example, I’ve helped organize forums to discuss topics on diversity and inclusion and participated in career panels geared toward supporting women and underrepresented groups in the field,” said Patel.
Sometimes, that support might simply be a quick note of recognition.
“I try to acknowledge micro-accomplishments in the moment — things that seem small but are important to that person,’” said Mohan. “It’s a simple, personal way to show someone they — and their work — matter.”
In addition to kudos from colleagues, many of our female scientists have been recognized externally. In the last three years, 12 women in the department have been honored with individual awards or as key contributors in team awards. These awards include the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry Early Career Investigator, ACS WCC Rising Star, ACS Fellow, Heroes of Chemistry, the Edison Patent Award, the ACS Award for Computers in Chemistry and Pharma, and an HBA Rising Star.
“We have a high success rate,” said McCabe Dunn. “Ninety-two percent of the women we’ve nominated or renominated for individual awards have won.”
Can women have a successful career in science? Absolutely. As Mohan says, “Know your core, be true to it and value what makes you a unique asset.”
Testing experiments in a lab can be a lot like raising kids. Sometimes your molecules do what you want them to do, and sometimes they don’t. But it’s a challenge Denarra Simmons, a senior scientist at MSD and a mother of two, is always up for.
“You’re constantly trying to find other medicines because all medicines don’t work the same way for all people,” Simmons said.
“You spend the long nights thinking about experiments, how to make things better, how to move things faster to help more people.”
— Denarra Simmons
Simmons has been curious about how and why things work for most of her life. As a young child, she peppered her family with questions, trying to understand the “why” behind anything and everything. But it wasn’t until a man in a lab coat came to her grade school to talk about his career that she realized what her true passion was.
“He wrote an equation on the board and was talking about how people made medicines, and I thought that was fascinating,” Simmons said. “But the thing that really drew my attention was how excited he was when he was explaining what he did. I wanted to do something that I would love that much and over time, I realized that for me, it was science and helping people.”
For 12 years, Simmons has funneled that passion into her research at MSD. Simmons works in drug development to test the efficacy and safety of our biologic medicines used for investigational new drug (IND) enabling studies.
“Working in the lab is my favorite part of my job — and getting good data."
Some days in the lab may be more successful than others, and Simmons uses it all to show her children what it takes to be a scientist. “Good days are celebrated, and the tricky days, we keep working towards improving,” she said.
Simmons also feels strongly about teaching her children that there’s more to life than work.
“I’m always thinking about the experiments, but when I’m home with the children, I really try to give them the attention and time they need,” she said.
But once her daughter and son finish their homework and head to bed, Simmons finds herself thinking about her next set of experiments.
“When you find out a medicine you worked on has helped so many people, you feel really special and you know all the work has been worthwhile,” she said. “And that’s why you’re doing what you do: you’re making a difference in society.”
MSD’s Q4 and full-year 2022 earnings report
February 2, 2023
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MSD’s Q4 and full-year 2022 results reflect sustained strong revenue growth. The company announced Q4 worldwide sales of $13.8 billion, an increase of 2% from Q4 2021. Full-year 2022 worldwide sales were $59.3 billion, an increase of 22% from full year 2021.
“2022 was an exceptional year for MSD, which is a testament to the profound impact our medicines and vaccines are having on patients globally,” said Robert M. Davis, chairman and chief executive officer. “I am extremely proud of what our talented and dedicated colleagues have accomplished scientifically, commercially and operationally. Our science-led strategy is working as we continue to build a sustainable engine that will drive innovation and generate long-term value for patients and shareholders well into the next decade.”
MSD anticipates full-year 2023 worldwide sales to be between $57.2 billion and $58.7 billion.
Take a look at the infographic below for more details.
A scientist and a cancer survivor reflect on 34-year friendship and fighting cancer
Dr. Eric H. Rubin shares how his relationship with a patient-turned-friend reinforced his mission to help even more people
January 31, 2023
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Dr. Eric H. Rubin, senior vice president, oncology early development, MSD Research Laboratories, and Howard Brown, author, speaker, two-time cancer survivor and advocate, first met in 1989. Brown, just a 23-year-old recent college graduate, had gone to the hospital to get a purple mark on his cheek evaluated. Dr. Rubin was a first-year fellow on the medical team who had to deliver the devastating news that Brown had an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and would need to begin treatment immediately.
“A cancer diagnosis just stops you in your tracks,” Brown said. “It sets you on a really tough journey that can be unpredictable. Dr. Rubin and I were close in age, and we found a common ground because we had to build trust and we were trying to solve this giant jigsaw puzzle and there were no guarantees. I think my experience with Dr. Rubin back in 1989 was a precursor to where we are now. Advocacy and patient-centric care is now more of the norm.”
Dr. Rubin sees a direct line from his experience treating Brown and other patients like him as motivation to continue advancing cancer research.
“I moved from clinical practice, where I was treating patients, to clinical development at MSD because I wanted to help discover and develop new and more effective treatments that could help patients,” says Dr. Rubin. “My friendship with Howard is a constant reminder of why I do this work. We must continue to follow the science and research new therapies that can help patients fight cancer.”