Vertex Pharmaceuticals announced the start of a $500 million, 10-year charitable commitment to cystic fibrosis (CF) and other patients using its treatments, young adults studying science and mathematics, and communities across the U.S. The effort includes establishing a non-profit arm, The Vertex Foundation, with a $10 million initial investment to serve as a long-term source of assistance and support.
Work of The Vertex Foundation, to be launched in 2018, will include a dollar-for-dollar matching gift program that will double employee donations to qualified non-profit groups, the company said in a press release.
The charitable commitment will focus on four areas:
- The global cystic fibrosis (CF) patient community globally, including enabling access to Vertex medicines;
- A $50 million commitment to STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), especially underserved students and women
- Support for young physicians and scientists
- Efforts to strengthen local communities, including youth health and wellness programs
“Giving back is part of who we are at Vertex – it’s in our DNA,” said Jeffrey Leiden, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Vertex. “This new 10-year commitment will provide many more opportunities for Vertex and its employees to make a difference in the lives of people with serious diseases and those living in our communities.”
Vertex will also extend its collaboration with the Boston Public Schools for another 10 years, continuing to offer to these students access to the pharmaceutical’s nearby learning lab, mentoring and internship opportunities with Vertex scientists, and full four-year scholarships to the University of Massachusetts awarded every year.
“This commitment will mean thousands of students across the City will continue to have the opportunity to get hands-on experiences in STEAM and see a place for themselves in Boston’s thriving innovation economy,” said Martin J. Walsh, mayor of Boston.
Vertex has a number of approved CF therapies, and a robust clinical CF development program that includes ongoing trials to expand approval for Kalydeco (ivacaftor) and Orkambi (lumacaftor + ivacaftor), and to evaluate tezacaftor (VX-661) in combination with Kalydeco, as well as potential gene editing and messenger ribonucleic acid (MRNA) therapies.
Vertex also recently acquired Concert Pharmaceuticals’ CF therapy known as CTP-656. This investigative therapy is designed to help the protein that is defective in CF — the CF transmembrane conductance regulator, or CFTR — do the job it is intended to do.
CFTR functions as a ion channel across the membrane of cells that produce mucus, sweat, saliva, tears, and digestive enzymes. Mutations on the CFTR gene lead to the production of a faulty CFTR protein that fails to clear mucus.
Vertex also secured wider European access to Orkambi, approved for patients ages 12 or older with two copies of the F508del mutation in the CFTR gene. The treatment is now available to patients in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy and Luxembourg, and the company is in negotiations with other European countries.
Working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Vertex also extended Kalydeco’s approval in May to 23 additional, and more rare, CFTR mutations.