Merck Serono shakes up its R&D structure, brings in BMS vet

Just weeks after Merck KGaA gave up on its disastrous program for the oral MS drug cladribine, its drug subsidiary is shaking up the R&D side of the business and bringing in a new research chief from a developer that has been having a very good year. The German company said its first step in devising a new research direction will include dividing up its R&D activities into two dedicated groups for pre- and post-proof of concept programs.

Merck recruited Dr. Annalisa Jenkins (pictured) from Bristol-Myers Squibb to become global head of drug development and medical, where she will be in charge of later-stage development work. Dr. Bernhard Kirschbaum will be in charge of discovery and early development.

Like other pharma companies with distinct pipeline problems, Merck KGaA says it has to find a better way to develop new drugs; one that is noted for efficiency and success. That would be a big change for Merck, which has experienced several setbacks in the clinic in recent times. It should learn a lot from a veteran of BMS, which has been racking up positive data and regulatory wins as it pursues its "string of pearls" approach to development.

"A key priority for Bernhard Kirschbaum and Annalisa Jenkins will be defining the structures and processes of the new R&D organization, with the goal of simplifying the organizational structure, governance and decision-making processes," says the company in a release. "The new organizational structure for R&D is expected to foster agility, creativity and entrepreneurship and to allow a more efficient use of resources, with the ultimate goal of delivering innovative medicines that address the unmet needs of patients."

- here's the Merck release

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