Boehringer debuts IPF songwriting contest with MLB player-turned-musician Bernie Williams

Boehringer Ingelheim and former Major League Baseball All-Star Bernie Williams first joined forces four years ago to raise awareness around idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and honor Williams’ father, who died from the disease. However, this year’s campaign marks a first in showcasing Williams' second career as a musician.

The “Breathless Ballad Challenge” invites people to submit their own lyrics for Williams’ instrumental song “Para Don Berna,” written for his father. The Latin Grammy-winning Williams and BI want people—nonprofessional songwriters welcome—to create lyrics about someone in their own lives for whom they are grateful or who is a hero to them, much like his Williams’ father was to him.

The idea for the lyrics contest came from brainstorming sessions last year, said Al Masucci, vice president of the Interstitial Lung Disease business at BI.

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“Bernie has always wanted to bring the instrumental song ‘Para Don Berna’ to life with lyrics. We’re very excited about the opportunity to bring people together through music and drive awareness and education around IPF,” Masucci said in an email interview.

Lyrics can be submitted through Septe. 1, with a winner set to be announced in October through social media. Participants will also be allowed to submit a video of themselves or someone they know singing their songs. Williams and an expert panel, members of which will be revealed this summer, will judge the entries.

While plans aren’t finalized yet, Masucci said he expects there will be a first-ever broadcast or performance of the new song, adding that, “We would love a famous singer to perform the song with the new lyrics and further help raise awareness about the campaign.”

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BI makes IPF drug Ofev, first approved for that indication in 2014. More recently, Ofev nabbed FDA approval to treat patients with a range of chronic fibrosing interstitial lung diseases (ILDs) that have a progressive phenotype. The go-ahead covers between 18% and 32% of all patients with an ILD.

Sales of Ofev in 2019 checked in at $1.67 billion, an increase of 31.6% over the previous year.