Lilly Chairman, President and CEO, John Lechleiter, Ph.D., recently had the privilege of participating in the opening of an exciting new interactive exhibit at the Indiana Historical Society here in Indianapolis.
Its subject is polio; more specifically, Lilly's role in manufacturing the vaccine that enabled polio to be virtually eradicated in the United States by the early 1960s.
John wrote about his night at the exhibit in an internal blog:
It's a fascinating and compelling story and, especially for those of us who work here, a very inspiring story as well.
The Historical Society has succeeded in recreating a scene that features workers at a Lilly packaging line in Building 314 in March 1955. It is so authentic (painstakingly so), that I thought I had stepped back into the real thing! (We stopped manufacturing in Building 314 in the mid-1990s.)
Two of the women working on the manufacturing line in a famous photograph from the period attended the opening. What a treat it was to be able to meet them and to thank them in person!
It's a great story about our company and a testimonial to our values.
A year before the vaccine was even approved, Lilly was asked to begin to manufacture and stockpile vaccine, without absolute certainty of an eventual economic return. Mr. Gene Beesley, Lilly's new president at the time, did not hesitate. It was the right thing to do.
Lilly ended up supplying over half the vaccine eventually used in the United States.
The exhibit will remain in place until September 2013. It's well worth a visit, and within easy walking distance of downtown.
You can also hear more of John's thoughts from that night in the brief video below.