Roger Perlmutter, Merck R&D chief (Institute for Systems Biology via YouTube)

Mer­ck R&D chief Roger Perl­mut­ter is hand­ing off the big job to the ex­ec in charge of dis­cov­ery

Af­ter a 7-year run as one of the most suc­cess­ful R&D chiefs in Big Phar­ma, Roger Perl­mut­ter is step­ping away from his post at Mer­ck.

He leaves be­hind one of the most suc­cess­ful fran­chise-build­ing op­er­a­tions in phar­ma his­to­ry, tak­ing Keytru­da from clin­i­cal tri­als and push­ing it to a $12 bil­lion megablock­buster, while dom­i­nat­ing ri­vals with a com­bi­na­tion ap­proach that has yet to be beat.

Mer­ck says that Dean Li, cur­rent­ly in charge of the dis­cov­ery ef­fort at Mer­ck in search of new drugs, will take his place at the top of a $10 bil­lion re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion at the be­gin­ning of next year. Perl­mut­ter is plan­ning to stay on through to mid-2021 in a non-ex­ec­u­tive role to keep the wheels turn­ing smooth­ly through the tran­si­tion.

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