In a boost to its planned $1.3 billion UK drug research hub and headquarters, Merck announced today that it has recruited the noted British scientist and biotech exec Fiona Marshall to the top job at the center, which is expected to open in London in 2020.
The Heptares co-founder resigned from the EVP and CSO positions at parent company Sosei last week, making waves in the G protein-coupled receptors-targeting biotech that she helped create more than 10 years ago. An expert in GPCR biology, Marshall led the first group to show that GPCRs could form heterodimers and has played advisory roles in research organizations such as Alzheimer’s Research UK and Francis Crick Institute.
Her new appointment puts her in charge of a staff of 950, with Merck recruiting 150 scientists for the operation.
“I relish the challenge of leading [Merck’s] new team of scientists in the UK as we embark upon the development of the new Discovery Centre in London announced late last year,” Marshall said in a statement. “MSD’s commitment to bringing the brightest and best scientific talent to London presents exciting opportunities to discover new medical advances as part of the vibrant London life sciences community.”
The US pharma giant’s investment in the UK was a much needed public relations help for the government, as it deals with the departure of the EMA amid the uncertainty of Brexit. Hiring a high profile local scientist is another apparent vote of confidence.
Merck Research Laboratories president Roger Perlmutter said in a statement that Marshall — a 12-year GSK vet — will set an “enormously high standard” as leader of the new center, where she will be focused on early bioscience discovery and entrepreneurial innovation.
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