Boston agency projects photos of patients onto City Hall as Rare Disease Day reminder

Looking to raise rare disease awareness again, Cambridge BioMarketing's annual campaign this year projects patients' photos onto Boston City Hall. (Cambridge BioMarketing)

Patients’ faces will light up Boston City Hall Thursday night as part of one Boston agency’s annual Rare Disease Day campaign.

Now in its third year to highlight the commonness of rare diseases, Cambridge BioMarketing’s newest iteration, “Faces of Rare,” will project the photo, first name and condition of five different rare disease patients on the side of the City Hall building from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The projections will carry the reminder, “Today is Rare Disease Day," with the added copy, "Find out what it takes to face rare disease" and website

The campaign, which Cambridge is copromoting with the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) this year, includes information about rare diseases and the full stories and more pictures of each of the City Hall-projected patients on the dedicated website. 

“The idea behind this is how do we bring patients with rare diseases to life?” Maureen Franco, CEO of Cambridge BioMarketing, said. “Our mission is always to have people understand the prevalence of rare diseases and also the commonalities that flow through families and patients who are suffering from rare diseases.”

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In 2017, the agency wrapped subway cars in zebra stripes to draw attention to rare diseases, and last year it debuted a podcast series by rare disease patients and family members, following up on its “Rare in Common” documentary that premiered in April 2016.

Rare disease treatments are becoming more common—and more profitable—for pharma companies. Evaluate Group’s annual report on orphan drugs predicts sales of the group to climb by 11% every year through 2024, compared with just 4% growth for the nonorphan drug market. It estimates sales of orphan drugs will hit $262 billion by the end of 2024.