It's said that challenges build strength.
For Abbott, the unprecedented challenges of 2020 did more than that. They also demonstrated just how strong the company already was, underscoring a strength that's been built over more than 130 years and that has enabled Abbott to not simply weather the pandemic, but thrive through it.
During Abbott's annual shareholders meeting (with shareholders attending virtually due to the pandemic), Robert Ford, President and CEO, detailed the company's impressive achievements in 2020, which go beyond its outstanding financial results.
To learn more, read some of Mr. Ford's remarks from the meeting:
Abbott's comprehensive response to the challenges of COVID-19:
We recognized early in the year that COVID would require a major mobilization on our part. So, we formed multiple R&D teams to develop new tests for different stages of the disease process and for different testing environments – from high-volume labs to drive-thru sites. These efforts resulted in a total of 14 new tests for COVID-19, developed at unprecedented speed.
With borders shutting down, transportation networks constrained, and many suppliers operating at reduced capacity, getting our products to the people who needed them took exceptional dedication and creativity from Abbott employees. They stepped up to these challenges – building new transportation and supplier networks, and collaborating with governments and customers at all levels to help ensure unimpeded access to our life-changing products.
Like most companies, we initially instituted remote work for every employee whose job made that possible. While carefully following all government guidelines, we then developed a plan to help our people safely get back to the office, which is where we do our best work. This centered around a rigorous screening program with daily temperature checks and regular on-site testing. By November, we had the majority of our facilities back to 50 percent capacity, with on-site employees tested twice a week.
Despite the urgency and demands of COVID, we never stopped investing in the business. Many companies had to cut back in 2020; but Abbott grew – it grew in sales, it grew in earnings, in employees, and the channels we serve, and in opportunities. We were able to keep looking to the future and building for it across our businesses.
We have a robust pipeline of new tests in development for each of our systems, and we expect Alinity to continue to be a core driver of growth in this business.
We've also seen an increase in demand for our rapid point-of-care systems, including ID NOW.
Our rapid diagnostics business extends well beyond COVID testing. Earlier this year, we launched the first handheld rapid test for traumatic brain injury on our i-STAT Alinity system.* This test helps clinicians assess individuals with suspected mild TBIs, including concussions. And we have a pipeline of new innovations for these rapid-testing platforms that will drive growth for years to come.
This year, we'll expand on our strong pipeline with new products and line extensions. We continue the rollout of Similac HMO, which has significant clinically proven benefits for infant immune systems. We will also continue to roll out our Ensure High Protein product across the world.
We have a very rich innovation pipeline, with more than 100 new products scheduled to launch over the next few years.
Highlights in this business include:
- Launching the world's first once-a-day formulation of Ivabradine, a treatment for heart-failure and angina patients.
- The introduction of Heptral, a medicine for liver health, as an over-the-counter medicine in Russia.
- And bringing Influvac Tetra, our next-generation influenza vaccine, to 12 new markets.
For a look back at 2020, check out our annual report.
*The i-STAT Alinity TBI plasma test simultaneously measures biomarkers glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCH-L1) in blood plasma, two complementary biomarkers that, in elevated concentrations, are tightly correlated to brain injury. It provides test results with 95.8% sensitivity and greater than 99% negative predictive value. The TBI blood test was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) – which has been dedicated to developing a solution for the objective detection and evaluation of TBI for more than a decade. The DoD, through U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command's (USAMRDC) U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA), played a critical role in developing the test run on Abbott's i-STAT Alinity platform. The Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in Traumatic Brain Injury (TRACK-TBI) research team were the first to demonstrate how this TBI blood test can be used for the benefit of TBI patients in clinical care.