When Roger Perlmutter exited an early "retirement" from Amgen to join Merck as head of R&D two years ago, he was going back to a company with one of the weakest R&D records in Big Pharma. One of his first chores was to execute a major restructuring, aimed at slimming down the pharma giant's multibillion-dollar R&D budget. And he simultaneously hit the accelerator on the PD-1 drug Keytruda, which won a pioneering FDA OK last year.
Fresh off signing a blockbuster deal for hepatitis C drug developer Idenix Pharmaceuticals, Merck R&D chief Roger Perlmutter said his company won't shy away from buying big into biotech, provided there are promising medicines at stake.
For an idea of what kind of year a drug developer had, take a look at what it paid its head of R&D. Click through our roundup for a look at who ranks where in the biopharma R&D world. Read more >>
Even in the world of Big Pharma, where pipelines of a dozen or more late-stage drugs are common, a couple of blockbuster-sized experimental programs can make a huge difference for the forward-looking analysts who cover these companies. Let's use Merck as an example.
Roger Perlmutter has made no secret of the fact that he plans to rapidly execute on the pharma giant's closely watched PD-1 cancer program for MK-3475. The new R&D chief at Merck has carved out the resources and the team needed to put the drug on the shortest path possible to the FDA.
The cuts come soon after Merck squeezed out its previous R&D chief to bring on Roger Perlmutter, who previously held that job at Amgen--and amid major sales losses to generic competition.
The pharma giant said that it will reorganize its R&D and commercial operations to narrow and sharpen its development focus and carve out $2.5 billion in annual expenses, eliminating a total of about 20% of its 81,000 staff jobs when these new cuts are added to existing restructuring plans.
Being an R&D chief at a major biopharma company in today's environment of major research cutbacks, patent expirations and pressure from investors to speed new drugs to market is no easy...
Perlmutter has granted a few interviews this month with journalists and analysts, providing some clarity on how the immunologist plans to reshape how Merck prioritizes research of new medicines.
In the deal AstraZeneca is paying Merck $50 million upfront and a slate of undisclosed milestones to bring in MK-1775, a WEE1 inhibitor that Merck took up because of its potential to spur repeated cell division, offering a new way to destroy cancer cells.