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Merck’s R&D chief Roger Perlmutter heads for the exit as Dean Li takes the helm

Perlmutter is set to join the board of AI drug discovery biotech Insitro

Merck’s R&D chief Roger Perlmutter (pictured above) is set to leave the company after seven years, heading to join the board at AI drug discovery biotech Insitro.

Perlmutter was appointed as Merck's head of R&D operations back in 2013, re-joining the team from Amgen after an absence of more than a decade. Before joining Amgen, Perlmutter formerly headed Merck’s basic research and preclinical development activities.

Over the course of his most recent stint at Merck, the company has achieved over 100 regulatory approvals for its medicines and vaccines globally.

This includes the approval of Merck’s checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab), which has been approved in over 25 indications across 16 tumour types.

Since its first approval in 2014 for the treatment of advanced melanoma with BRAF mutations, Keytruda has become a blockbuster immunotherapy as well as introducing a new standard-of-care for newly-diagnosed non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients.

“Roger (Perlmutter)’s legacy will include a rejuvenated research and development organisation, staffed by world-class scientists, clinicians and professionals and led by Dean Li,” said Kenneth Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer at Merck.

“As a result of Roger’s hands-on and inspirational leadership, MRL is well positioned to bring forward lifesaving medicines and vaccines for many years to come,” he added.

Succeeding Perlmutter as the head of Merck R&D is Dean Li, currently senior vice president of discovery sciences and translational medicine at Merck Research Laboratories.

Li joined Merck in 2017 as vice president and head of translational medicine – before that, he held a number of positions of increasing responsibility at the University of Utah.

During his time at the University of Utah, he co-founded multiple biotech companies based on research conducted in his laboratory, including Recursion Pharmaceuticals, Hydra Biosciences and Navigen Pharmaceuticals.

“It has been an honour to lead the talented people of Merck Research Laboratories during the last seven years,” said Perlmutter.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Dean over the next few months to advance our scientific strategy and continue the strong momentum in our pipeline,” he added.

6th October 2020

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