Our History, Our Legacy



Our History, Our Legacy

MSD and its legacy companies have been working to discover and develop vaccines for more than a century.

An epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable here. Stop. I am in urgent need of one million units of diphtheria antitoxin. Stop. Mail is only form of transportation. Stop.

This was the desperate radio telegram in January 1925 from Dr. Curtis Welch in Nome, Alaska, to all the major Alaska towns, to territorial Governor Scott Bone in Juneau, and to the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington, D.C. Diphtheria was spreading through the icebound community. Children had already died, and the local supply of diphtheria antitoxin had expired the previous summer.

Weather prevented a delivery by air, so relay teams of sled dogs and their mushers raced against the clock to deliver 300,000 units of antitoxin, which was produced by MSD legacy company H.K. Mulford. They completed the 674-mile journey over what later became known as the Iditarod Trail in a record-breaking five days and seven hours despite whiteout conditions and temperatures of fifty degrees below zero.

674 Miles

5 Days

300,000 Units

This "Great Race of Mercy" is an iconic story of human compassion.


In 1895, the H.K. Mulford Company began marketing the first commercially available diphtheria antitoxin produced in the U.S., the very medication that helped avert the diphtheria epidemic in Nome. Today, MSD has a significant presence in vaccine discovery, development and distribution in both human and animal health.

Dr. Maurice Hilleman b.1919 - d.2005


MSD's Dr. Maurice Hilleman belongs to a distinguished group of vaccine pioneers -- including Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin. Dr. Hilleman is credited with helping to develop more than forty vaccines and his impact on public health is undeniable.



MSD is working with national health ministries and non-government agencies to help write new chapters in the public health success story through partnerships, demonstration projects, donation programs, and technology transfer agreements.

Vaccines are a powerful force of health and health development, and their globalization is not just a business necessity but a public health obligation. MSD is on a mission to ensure that more people can access our vaccines, regardless of where they live or their financial circumstances.

-Julie L. Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H.
executive vice president & chief patient officer, MSD