LEXINGTON, Mass., Feb. 29, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Shire plc (LSE: SHP, NASDAQ: SHPGY), the global specialty biopharmaceutical company, today announced its support of Rare Disease Day, an annual, worldwide initiative that calls attention to rare diseases as a public health issue and highlights the need for more understanding and awareness about these diseases. Observed annually on the last day of February, Rare Disease Day is coordinated at the international level by the European Organisation for Rare Diseases (EURORDIS) and by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) in the US. The Rare Disease Day 2012 theme focuses on solidarity, and the need for collaboration and mutual support in the field of rare diseases. According to EURORDIS and NORD there are between 6,000 and 8,000 known rare diseases affecting approximately 30 million Americans and 30 million Europeans. As the leader in rare diseases, Shire's Human Genetic Therapies (HGT) business focuses its work on researching, developing and marketing therapies for Fabry disease, Hereditary Angioedema, Hunter syndrome, and Gaucher disease, and has built and invested in a pipeline of innovative products and solutions to treat rare diseases. "Shire's mission is to enable people with life-altering conditions to lead better lives – and for us, this includes improving access to information and diagnosis as well as providing much-needed treatment for rare diseases," said Sylvie Gregoire, President of HGT. "This day is an occasion to show our solidarity with the rare disease community. We hope that Rare Disease Day can highlight the need for consistent, reliable and effective treatments and services for patients, as well as draw attention to their conditions as a global public health concern." Shire's Global Rare Disease Day Initiatives As part of its external initiatives, Shire is supporting the RARE Project, a leading non-profit rare disease advocacy organization, in their Global Genes Project ™ "Wear That You Care" denim campaign. The Company also plans to hand out over 3,500 denim blue ribbons to employees at various corporate locations worldwide. Shire is also supporting a variety of other initiatives surrounding Rare Diseases Day 2012, including the "Deuxieme Journee des Maladies Rares" in Lausanne, Switzerland on February 25; EURORDIS' first fundraising Gala Dinner celebrating Rare Disease Day on February 29th in Brussels; MassBio's Rare Disease Day at the Massachusetts State House on February 29th and the FDA's Rare Disease Patient Advocacy Day in Washington DC on March 1st.