Merrimack names Drummond as head of research unit

Employment contract
Drummond worked on Onivyde while it was in development at Hermes Biosciences.

Merrimack has named Daryl Drummond, Ph.D., as head of research. The promotion puts a liposomal discovery specialist who helped invent Onivyde in charge of a rebooted research organization seeking to replicate that earlier success.

Drummond joined Merrimack in 2009 as part of the buyout of Hermes Biosciences that also added the then-experimental Onivyde to the company’s pipeline. In his nine years at Hermes, Drummond served as director of liposomal research and development, a position that saw him work on the nanoliposomal formulation of irinotecan that came to be called Onivyde. Drummond joined his current employer as senior director of liposomal discovery, before stepping up to the position of VP of discovery in 2014.

Merrimack has now decided its newly slimmed-down organization is best served by promoting Drummond again. The decision puts Drummond at the helm of Merrimack’s research group at a time when focus on the company has swung back to R&D following the sale of Onivyde to Ipsen. That deal saw Merrimack shed its approved product and accompanying commercial infrastructure to retool as a clinical-phase cancer biotech.

The top priorities are clinical-stage assets MM-121, MM-141 and MM-310. Drummond’s tasks will include generating data on such advanced candidates, but Merrimack also wants him to oversee the advance of the next generation of pipeline prospects.

"Daryl's successful track record of advancing programs from the discovery stage into meaningful therapeutics is exactly the kind of leadership that our research organization needs,” Merrimack CEO Richard Peters, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement. "He will oversee a team of scientists who will continue to generate critical data for the promising candidates in our clinical and preclinical pipeline."

Peters is himself a fairly new appointment, and one that has spent considerably less time at the company than Drummond. Merrimack named Peters, a former Sanofi Genzyme SVP, as CEO shortly after it unveiled the deal with Ipsen in January.

Since revealing it was offloading its main asset and slashing its headcount from 400 to 80, Merrimack has made several tweaks to its leadership. Merrimack parted company with head of development Peter Laivins, plus its heads of corporate operations and commercial, earlier this month. Company treasurer William Sullivan has also headed to the exit, resulting in an expansion of the duties of CFO Yasir Al-Wakeel.