PatientsLikeMe nabs Merck informatics veteran to lead R&D

Jason Johnson

PatientsLikeMe has lured Jason Johnson away from Merck ($MRK). Johnson is leaving Merck after 14 years at the Big Pharma to head up R&D at PatientsLikeMe, a role which gives him responsibility for efforts to extract insights from patient-reported data.

The appointment continues PatientsLikeMe's push to tap into its patient communities and the data they generate to improve drug development and treatment. AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Roche's ($RHHBY) Genentech have inked 5-year deals with PatientsLikeMe over the past year, both of which ratcheted up the ambition of the company's relationships with biopharma. Johnson, who worked at Rosetta Inpharmatics and Pfizer ($PFE) before joining Merck, is well placed to know what Big Pharma companies would want from an alliance with PatientsLikeMe.

"Our research and informatics teams ... [help] our partners see which medicines and therapeutic approaches will benefit patients the most. The combination of Jason's leadership and our scientifically validated data will be a powerful source of insight to guide discovery, development and treatment decision making," PatientsLikeMe CEO Martin Coulter said in a statement. Johnson lists contributions to the development of Merck's informatics capabilities alongside stints leading discovery research IT, computational biology and genomics teams at the company on his résumé.

The hiring of Johnson is the second senior appointment made by PatientsLikeMe this month, with the company also promoting Michael Evers to the newly created position of head of the consumer and technology group. The post gives Evers a broad range of responsibilities, spanning marketing, engineering, user experience, patient advocacy and government compliance. Evers and Johnson will both report directly to CEO Coulter. 

- read the Johnson release
- here's the Evers news