Roche's virtual gala raises multiple sclerosis awareness with celebrities—and personal connections

Roche's Genentech aims to celebrate the diversity of the MS community and raise awareness with a live streaming virtual event this weekend. (Roche)

Roche’s Genentech's virtual concert this weekend brings together celebrity musicians and actors—many with personal connections to multiple sclerosis.

The event kicks off Genentech's broader #MSVisibility movement to drive disease awareness and encourage people to seek care during the pandemic.

Many of the performers for the Saturday event have MS themselves or have a family member who does. The host is David Osmond, a second-generation Osmond family singer and actor who is living with MS.

Joining him are singer and songwriter Siedah Garrett and country musician Clay Walker, who both have MS. Acapella singing group Pentatonix will also perform, and actor Blair Underwood, whose mother had MS, will also join the evening festivities.

Called the #MSVisibility Virtual Concert, the free event will stream live on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET. Interested viewers can sign up in advance on its website. It's the second MS virtual awareness concert in as many months—Novartis teamed with the iHeart music network for its own event last month.

The concert "shines a light on the diversity and strength of the MS community and encourages people with MS, and potentially those who may not yet be diagnosed, to seek appropriate care during the pandemic,” Jennifer Kim, VP of MS at Genentech, said in an email.

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Along with the bright lights of the celebrity celebration, the show will offer up support resources for people living with MS and acknowledge healthcare workers and scientists who worked to keep the community safe during the pandemic.

One specific goal of the evening is highlighting the experiences of people of color in the MS community and the importance of diversifying research candidate pools.

Genentech is promoting the concert with the hashtag #MSVisibility, as are the performers on their own social media channels. Genentech also tapped other celebrity influencers with personal connections to MS, including actors Lisa Rinna and Shemar Moore, to talk up the concert on their social channels.

To stay compliant with COVID-19 restrictions, the concert will be streamed from various locations around the U.S. It will be free to download on the MSVisibility website immediately after airing and until May 17.

RELATED: Roche, playing defense against Novartis' Kesimpta, touts Ocrevus benefits in treating MS early

“While this past year has been an unsettling time for everyone, it has been especially challenging for the nearly one million people in the U.S. who are currently living with MS, as they have had to navigate many uncertainties around their health in addition to experiencing the stresses of isolation,” Kim said. “We are all looking for hope, positivity, and connectivity with one another, especially the MS community.”

Roche’s MS drug Ocrevus and Novartis’ Kesimpta are in-class rivals battling for visibility with patients. Ocrevus has been the market leader in the crowded MS field and continues to hold its lead with a 40% new patient share at the end of last year. On the horizon, Roche is in phase 3b trials with a higher dose Ocrevus for relapsing MS and primary progressive MS.