On Nov. 11, 2019, Community Hope, a N.J. nonprofit charity , held its 22rd Annual Sparkle of Hope Gala. A dinner and auction fundraiser, this year’s gala pulled in $1.4 million in support of Community Hope, which has rescued over 6,000 U.S. military veterans and their families from homelessness and despair (I had the opportunity to attend in 2016). But even more extraordinary is the fact that since inception, this one event has garnered more than $15 million in charitable donations!
Surprisingly, this event was not founded by a former member of the military; it was actually the brainchild of an immigrant couple originally from Pakistan, who came to the United States in 1970 with just two suitcases (one half filled with textbooks) and not a whole lot of money. However, what this couple did have was a burning passion for learning and making a difference in the world. That couple is none other than Fred and Noreen Hassan. If you don’t know Fred, he’s a biopharmaceutical executive credited with transforming American Home Products (later renamed Wyeth), righting a failing merger between Pharmacia and Upjohn, growing Pharmacia (acquired by Pfizer at a 44 percent premium), and turning around Schering-Plough (the company that acquired my former employer, Organon, for $14.4 billion), which was eventually acquired by Merck in 2009 for $41 billion, also at a 44 percent premium! In other words, Fred Hassan changed my life, as it was the merger between Merck and Schering that led me to the career I have today. Fred Hassan has changed many lives. But what makes this couple (in my opinion) true biopharma bright spots, is not only the positive impact they’ve had on our veterans, but how many members of the biopharmaceutical community they’ve involved in also giving back. “Every year, about 900 people, mainly associated with healthcare, gather in northern New Jersey for this event to help those who need it,” Fred explains. Here is a sampling of supporters — just from this year.
Albert Bourla, CEO, Pfizer
John Crowley, CEO, Amicus Therapeutics
Ken Frazier, CEO, Merck
Thomas Kendris, U.S. country president, Novartis
Paul Navarre, CEO, Ferring
Joseph Papa, CEO, Bausch Health Companies
Brent Saunders, CEO, Allergan
Giovanni Caforio, CEO, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Terri Curran, president, Celgene
Mike Kaufmann, CEO, Cardinal Health
Kabir Nath, president and CEO, Otsuka North America
Catherine Owen, SVP, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Shaji Procida, president and COO, Eisai
According to Hassan, the most touching part during the evening’s festivities is when a veteran shares a story of how Community Hope brought purpose, dignity, and meaning to their life. “For those who care enough to do something to help, that makes it all worthwhile,” he asserts.
Hassan believes that people of biopharma, more than many others, understand the importance of showing up when others are in need, charity or otherwise, as it is what they do every day. “While our industry tends to become a political target during every election cycle, all of us should feel assured that the work we do (i.e., developing life-saving medicines) does make a positive difference,” he reminds.