Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends of our company,
This year we are celebrating a very special anniversary: 350 years of our company. Our history has taught us that remaining successful in the market depends not only on what a company does, but how it does it. At Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, we recognize the great importance of this "how" and have therefore created a binding code of values that we use to measure our actions. One of our key Values is responsibility. Responsible conduct means safeguarding the interests of our employees, customers, shareholders, and the community. In reflection of this ethos, we support the United Nations Global Compact and the principles it espouses.
In our efforts, we particularly pursue three strategic spheres of activity, specifically health, environment, and culture & education. We made great strides in these areas in 2017.
In April 2017, for instance, we laid a health milestone by founding our Global Health Institute. This organization is mandated to develop innovative, integrated solutions to improve the health of underserved populations in the developing world. Its efforts to address key unmet medical needs focus particularly on women and children, as well as antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases. A good example is schistosomiasis, an insidious parasitic infection that afflicts approximately 220 million people worldwide. Roughly 10% of those impacted are children younger than six, an age group that cannot currently be treated using praziquantel, the standard therapy. But we intend to change this. The Global Health Institute is thus partnering within the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium to develop a pediatric formulation of this active pharmaceutical ingredient.
Good healthcare is not possible without effective, safe medicines. Counterfeit drugs are extremely dangerous for patients and pose a global threat. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 10% of all medicines in developing countries are fake. As a provider of high-caliber products, we intend to lead the vanguard in the fight against counterfeits. We are therefore not only working with agencies across the world, but are also actively battling the spread of counterfeit medicines. Flagship efforts here include the Minilab from the Global Pharma Health Fund (GHPF), a philanthropic organization sponsored by our company. This portable, compact kit fits in a suitcase and can now test for 90 different active pharmaceutical ingredients. The Minilab enables people to identify counterfeit drugs quickly, which is especially useful in remote areas with inadequate infrastructure.
For us, taking on responsibility also means minimizing our products' environmental impacts, as exemplified by our "green" solvent Cyrene™. Products such as Cyrene™ are bioderived from natural resources, making them more environmentally compatible, more biodegradable and easier to recycle. Through these sorts of green solvents, our customers in the pharmaceutical and agrochemical industries can make their own production processes safer and more ecofriendly.
As a science and technology company, we seek to make students passionate about science. We are therefore dedicated to improving biology and chemistry education and have been supporting the "Jugend forscht" young scientist competition in Germany for over 30 years. In 2018, we’ll be marking our big jubilee by hosting the "Jugend forscht" nationals in Darmstadt for the third time and welcoming Germany's top young scientists to our site.
As you can see, social responsibility plays a key role at our company. To efficiently oversee our efforts across all businesses and countries, in 2017 we created a new Group function called Corporate Affairs. We also founded a philanthropic foundation dedicated to improving access to innovative healthcare solutions among underserved communities in developing nations. These endeavors illustrate how we make responsible governance an integral part of our operations. Rather than hindering sustainable success, this approach represents the foundation on which our success is built. It has been our creed for 350 years – and will continue to be so far into the future.
Stefan Oschmann, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO