AbbVie Invests in Equity

After a banner year in 2020, AbbVie is putting its money where its mouth is to help support underserved communities

Interestingly, 2020 was a banner year at pharmaceutical company Abbvie. The company’s stock rose 16.6 percent over an industry-wide growth of just 1 percent. The acquisition of Allergan, maker of Botox, helped expand and diversify the company’s revenue base along with helping grow its presence into new therapeutic areas. The acquisition also brought more leadership from the immunology and hematological oncology areas.

The addition of Botox to AbbVie’s portfolio was a shot of revenue-driving life, but it wasn’t the only deal that helped bolster the company’s future. Two immunology drugs were approved by the FDA in 2019: Skyrizi and Rinvoq have performed beyond company expectations, with revenues for the two drugs alone equaling about $2.2 billion.

AbbVie also saw new approvals in 2020. Oriahnn—developed to combat heavy menstrual bleeding in premenopausal women with uterine fibroids—gained FDA approval. Late-stage data from a migraine prevention candidate has also been promising.

It wouldn’t have been 2020 without a COVID-19-related transaction, and there, too, AbbVie has delivered. In late December, Harbour BioMed announced that AbbVie had licensed their SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody and its program, and it initiated a Phase 1 clinical trial for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

“The rapid progress we have made to date is a credit to the outstanding research by our teams and university partners, the strength of HBM’s fully human antibody discovery platform, and AbbVie’s world-leading expertise in antibody and antiviral drug development,” principal founder, executive director, chairman, and CEO of Harbour BioMed Dr. Jingsong Wang said in a statement. “With the clinical program at AbbVie now underway, we are in a position to contribute a new therapeutic option to address this pandemic.”

The significant transactions of the past two years were aided by AbbVie’s internal legal team, including Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Karen Hale. Hale has been at AbbVie and its 2013 spin-off namesake Abbott Laboratories since 1997, where she served in patent litigation, commercial litigation, and ethics and compliance roles prior to assuming her current position in 2019.

Hale also leads AbbVie’s racial justice efforts, which aim to “establish a long-term, multi-faceted program focused on helping expand quality education, jobs, healthcare, and justice” on behalf of the pharma company.

That included a $50 million investment in a five-year program to support underserved Black communities across the United States. In collaboration with nonprofit partners, including Direct Relief, University of Chicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative, the National Urban League, Year Up, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), and Providence St. Mel School, AbbVie is hoping to directly combat the issues of health and educational inequity that are so common to so many parts of the US.

“We asked partners with deep community roots where they saw the greatest needs, and we heard that reducing health disparities and providing educational and workforce-related opportunities for underserved Black communities were urgent yet ongoing needs,” Hale said in a prepared statement. “While we know that change cannot happen overnight, we hope our commitments will help improve opportunity today while supporting important work to address long-term, systemic issues of racism.”

The DGC’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. She was celebrated as one of Black Enterprise’s Most Powerful Women in Corporate America. The 136 women who make up the list met the following criteria: “They have succeeded by leading with performance, deeply understanding their company culture, deftly navigating the corporate landscape, and—above all—wisely wielding their power to determine their own destiny.”

After a year of so many lows, Hale has been able to continue to invest her time and efforts in issues of the utmost importance, from her employer’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic to its outspoken mission to seek more equity for the most underserved in our communities. If this isn’t wielding power the right way, nothing is.

Patterson Belknap is proud to partner with AbbVie and admires the company for its creative and cost-effective approach to legal matters. We congratulate our colleague, Karen L. Hale, on this well-deserved feature article and recognition of her leadership.