A Letter from Daniel O'Day, Our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer: A Year In Review
In 2020, the world was tested in ways we could never have imagined. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact across the globe and yet it has also demonstrated our strength, our resilience and our ability to overcome great challenges. We have been reminded of what is most important, and of how much we are capable of achieving when we pull together.
When the scale of the pandemic became known, Gilead set about addressing the significant responsibilities we had on several fronts. We had to protect the safety of our employees and contribute our long-standing expertise in antiviral therapies in the fight against COVID-19. At the same time, it was important that we maintain our commitments to patients and stay on track with existing plans and objectives. By the end of 2020, we were able to look back knowing we had carried out our responsibilities and reinforced Gilead’s path for a strong future.
Gilead’s long-term research into emerging viruses and decades of investment in antiviral therapies allowed us to move quickly from the very start of the pandemic. Because of the work we had previously done on Veklury, we had seen its potential as a treatment for COVID-19. The entire company rallied to contribute to the work on Veklury. We expanded our manufacturing capability, ran multiple clinical studies and collaborated with many partners to bring the therapy to patients. Veklury became the first FDA-approved therapy for COVID-19 and by the end of 2020, it was being used to treat one in two hospitalized patients for COVID-19 in the United States. It has now been used to treat millions of patients worldwide and was made available to more than 125 lower-income countries through voluntary licenses.
2020 reminded us of how much the world depends on scientific innovation and the important role of the biopharmaceutical industry. Companies rallied to come up with ways to help address the COVID-19 pandemic, employing our best scientific expertise and collaborating in multiple ways. There was no less emphasis on the many other diseases and conditions that exist throughout the world. Gilead and other companies continued to bring forward new medicines and we maintained the ongoing supply of existing therapies. Even while delivering Veklury and managing through the uncertainties created by the pandemic, Gilead ensured an ongoing supply of medicines to the patients who depend on them, from HIV treatment and prevention to cell therapy for cancer. Our ability to rise above the challenges of the pandemic demonstrates the extent of our resilience.
We significantly strengthened and diversified our portfolio of new medicines. The most recent additions include several new marketed therapies, such as Trodelvy, a first-in-class therapy that could transform the treatment of a certain type of breast cancer and which has potential for treating multiple tumor types. We also continued to advance our pipeline of new medicines in development, including important progress on our investigational long-acting therapy for HIV, lenacapavir. Gilead’s portfolio now targets an even broader set of unmet medical needs, setting us on a clear path to growth and driving benefits for patients and our shareholders.
While responding to the urgent global needs in the pandemic, we placed a strong emphasis on the safety of our employees. This was particularly paramount for the teams that continued to work at Gilead’s manufacturing facilities and labs during the pandemic. We took careful steps to support our employees in safeguarding their wellbeing and that of their families. Gilead increased its employee base to more than 13,000 with a particular focus on expanding our expertise in oncology. We hired many talented leaders and welcomed new members to our Board of Directors.
The role of companies like ours in driving positive societal change took on additional significance in 2020. The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on some communities further highlighted the need to drive health equity. The year also provided us with stark reminders of the work we have to do to eliminate racial injustice. As a major employer, we see it as our responsibility to take action that will help to address these issues, on behalf of our employees, the communities we serve and the societies in which we operate. Gilead has always seen its role as going beyond medicine. In 2020, we further increased our efforts to increase equity of all kinds with internal programs, external partnerships and funding for community-based organizations.
Our responsibility to our planet is also front and center for Gilead. Our Corporate Social Responsibility Committee is responsible for integrating climate change, energy and other material ESG issues into our overall business strategy and operations. In 2020, we committed to setting ambitious new goals around climate and energy. Throughout this report you can learn more about the many ways Gilead is working to ensure a healthier, safer and more equitable world, all while operating in an environmentally responsible manner.
Of the many lessons that 2020 delivered, perhaps the most important was the reminder that nothing is more precious than our health. The goal of improving global public health is what inspires and drives all of us who work at Gilead. We look forward to delivering on our many opportunities to do so in 2021.