As a cohort of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals scientists sets out to identify potential therapies for the coronavirus, the Ridgefield giant is allowing more than 50,000 employees to contribute in another way — volunteering in their communities, with the company paying them for the time away.

On Wednesday, Boehringer Ingelheim announced it would award employees up to 10 days off with pay to volunteer in their communities during the public emergency.

Boehringer Ingelheim is based in Germany with its U.S. pharmaceutical headquarters in Ridgefield, where the company employs more than 2,000. The company’s best selling drug is Jardiance for the treatment of type 2 diabetes, which with a 47 percent increase in sales last year contributed more than $2.3 billion to the company’s total revenue of $20.7 billion.

With sales of $2.2 billion last year, Spiriva was Boehringer Ingelheim’s second biggest drug, prescribed for people who suffer from asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Boehringer Ingelheim also has an existing success story via its animal health divisionwith the Recombitek vaccine, which provides dogs with protection from previous strains of coronavirus, among other ailments.

Dr. Cyrille Kuhn is leading Boehringer Ingelheim’s efforts to find therapeutic compounds that address the novel coronavirus COVID-19, with the company focusing its early work on targeting a “spike” protein that is used by the virus to “dock” to human cells in order to prevent infection. Boehringer Ingelheim has been screening its library of more than a million compounds to identify small molecules that might do the job.

The past five years in Ridgefield Kuhn has led Boehringer Ingelheim’s “research beyond borders” initiative to explore ways to address newly discovered bacteria, whether in the company’s core strengths or in areas beyond its existing therapeutic focus. For two years previously, Kuhn led research networking and strategic planning.

Kuhn said Wednesday that he is hopeful for a therapeutic breakthrough on the coronavirus in three to six months, given armies of researchers at companies globally being redirected to the problem and information being exchanged swiftly among hospitals, public health authorities, and other entities.

“I’ve never seen such mobilization of scientists around the world to tackle such a problem,” Kuhn said. “It’s ... the full health ecosystem at large — everybody working on trying to find the cure, whether it’s the people in the clinics ... or everyone trying to do what they can to help. It’s unique.”

Boehringer Ingelheim has joined a COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with the company offering up at no cost a half-dozen anti-viral compounds for other researchers to test as possible coronavirus therapies.

During the pandemic, Boehringer Ingelheim has kept up drug production and research even as four of every five people in its employee base work remotely from home. Boehringer Ingelheim announced its volunteer incentive plan Wednesday.

“We’re doing whatever it takes — and sometimes under quite difficult circumstances — to ensure we continue to produce and deliver our medicines to those who need them,” said Medard Schoenmaeckers, a Germany-based spokesperson, in an online video announcing the company’s decision to cancel a planned Wednesday review of its 2019 results. “As a research-driven company, we are optimistic about the work that’s being done around the globe to find treatment options. And we are helping too — we have deep medical expertise in, for example, respiratory diseases.”; 203-842-2545; @casoulman