We try never to forget that medicine is for the people.”
A commitment to inventing scientific solutions to unmet medical challenges…a commitment to patients before profits…and, a deep sense of corporate obligation to the public good. These are the principles George W. Merck established for the company many years ago, and they continue to guide our company and leaders today.
Creating Merck’s first complete research and development laboratory -- one that was so outstanding that it could “talk on equal terms with the universities and research institutes” -- was a milestone…and not just for the company and George Merck, who initiated and led the effort as Merck’s president. It ushered in a new era in industrial research -- one that fostered collaboration between industry, academia and medical institutions. It was a milestone for researchers both inside and outside of Merck, and, most importantly, for the patients.
George Merck made the decision to invest in this world-class R&D facility in 1929, in spite of the fact that the country was entering the Great Depression. He envisioned a place where “science will be advanced, knowledge increased and human life will win a great freedom from suffering and disease.”
At the dedication ceremony in 1933 in Rahway, N.J., he first laid out the company mission to develop scientific breakthroughs to benefit humanity, and then carefully built the team of scientists and strategy of scientific innovation that defines the company.
Known as “The Merck Campus” because of its academic atmosphere and appearance, the new R&D facility offered scientists “the greatest possible latitude and scope in pursuing their investigations, the utmost freedom to follow promising scientific results no matter how unrelated to what one would call practical terms” and the freedom to publish. And, it reflected a significant shift in the relationship between business and universities that had been unwilling to endanger their autonomy by working with industry.
According to George Merck, “the new laboratories signified our transition from the more or less individual, isolated scientific effort to modern teamwork. Merck’s collaboration with academic and medical institutions flourished and yielded important pioneering discoveries at that time, among them: vitamins, antibiotics and hormones.
George Merck guided the company through two decisive mergers. The first, in 1927, was the merger of Powers-Weightman-Rosengarten that more than doubled the company’s sales. The second, the 1953 merger with Sharp & Dohme, resulted in a fully integrated, multi-national producer and distributor of pharmaceuticals as well as specialty chemicals.
George Merck indoctrinated the company – and through it, eventually, the industry – with the concept that the public good must be taken into account as a factor in its policies and projects.
He said: “It is up to us in research work, in industries, and in colleges and other institutions, to help keep the problem in this focus. We cannot step aside and say that we have achieved our goal by inventing a new drug or a new way by which to treat presently incurable diseases, a new way to help those who suffer from malnutrition, or the creation of ideal balanced diets on a worldwide scale. We cannot rest till the way has been found, with our help, to bring our finest achievement to everyone.”
This responsibility was evident when George Merck turned over Merck’s patent rights to the breakthrough antibiotic for tuberculosis discovered by Dr. Selman Waksman at Rutgers University with support from Merck, so that this “public-health process” could be licensed to multiple manufacturersfor the benefit of the many people suffering and dying from this disease.
Encouraged by his father to “join the shop” in 1915, George Merck revolutionized pharmaceutical research and launched some of the most exciting innovations in Merck’s history. He was a visionary whose values and principles still guide this company more than 90 years later.
Ken Frazier, Merck chairman and CEO, recently noted, “Our company’s enduring purpose was captured by George W. Merck, who said ‘medicine is for the people, not for the profits.’ It's important for us not only to discover and develop innovative medicines, but also to make sure that people have access to those medicines.”
On a quest to cure, we continue to hold George W. Merck’s values to the highest standard. Values of the past guide our vision for a healthier and more hopeful future.