Roger Perl­mut­ter lights up the bi­o­log­i­cal dark, build­ing a new phar­ma force in Eikon and its su­per­pow­ered mi­cro­scopes

HAY­WARD, Calif. — Af­ter two decades at the high­est R&D ranks of phar­ma, Roger Perl­mut­ter has a blunt ex­pla­na­tion for why drug de­vel­op­ment so of­ten goes awry.

“Most drug can­di­dates don’t even come close, be­cause we have no idea what we’re do­ing,” Perl­mut­ter said. “It’s a bloody mir­a­cle if you ever make a drug that works.”

As Perl­mut­ter sees it, sci­en­tists are still grasp­ing to un­der­stand the ma­chine that is the hu­man body. Af­ter lead­ing re­search at Am­gen from 2001 to 2012, and then at Mer­ck from 2013 to 2021, Perl­mut­ter took an un­like­ly third act, join­ing pri­vate­ly-held start­up Eikon Ther­a­peu­tics as CEO. The com­pa­ny’s au­da­cious goal is noth­ing short of be­ing able to look at the re­al-time me­chan­ics of the cell at the lev­el of in­di­vid­ual pro­teins, us­ing No­bel Prize-win­ning mi­cro­scope tech­nol­o­gy at an in­dus­tri­al scale to iden­ti­fy and treat new, chal­leng­ing drug tar­gets.

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