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Gilead Sciences Name - Michael L. Riordan Letter

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Here we have a copy of a letter from Dr. Michael L. Riordan, the founder of Gilead Sciences, in response to the question of how he chose the name Gilead when he started the company. He mentions the play Balm in Gilead by the American writer Lanford Wilson, and the medicinal extract from trees in an ancient region near the Jordan River, named Gilead.

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Gilead Sciences Name - Michael L. Riordan Letter

  1. 1. . Stockholm, Sweden 17177 Dear D r . Thank you for your correspondence, and for the stimulating ideas you presented. You asked about how I chose the company name when I founded Gilead Sciences. My college minor was in English literature, and I tried to continue reading nonscience literature when I was in medical school at Johns Hopkins. I came across a play by the American playwright Lanford Wilson, called Balm in Gilead. I. read the play and wondered what was the "balm" it referred to. It was also at this time that I was becoming keenly interested in the field of nucleic acid chemistry and the burgeoning techniques for modifying the native structure of DNA and its building blocks-the basis of Gilead's research. I continued to investigate the nucleic acid field when I went to business school just after medical school, and would cross the bridge to the other side of the Charles River once a week to read the latest journals at the Harvard bio library, but that is another story ... Lanford Wilson's title came from a reference in the Old Testament. When I dug a little deeper, I found that the balm had an authentic historical basis, and was an extract from certain trees found in a region of the ancient Middle East called Gilead, near the Jordan River. It turns out that in modern times the likely plant source of the balm has been analyzed and found to contain analgesic salicylates including acetylsalicylic acid, which is aspirin. So the balm of Gilead_was probably one of mankind's first genuine therapeutics. Three years after medical school, when I started the company, I thought Gilead would be a fine name, but I first needed to clear the rights, so I incorporated under a "place-holder" name and then officially changed to Gilead Sciences a few months later, in early 1988. I added "Sciences" because I wanted it to be clear that the company was based on rigorous research and scientific principles. Let me know if you have any other questions, and please keep me informed of your results. Cordially, Michael L. Riordan, M.D.

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