| March 7
March 7 Merck & Co will bring back one
of its veterans to head research and development, replacing
retiring Peter Kim, who leaves behind a mixed record over the
past decade at the drugmaker's highly respected laboratories.
Merck, after recent setbacks for some of its most important
experimental drugs, said former Amgen Inc research
chief Roger Perlmutter will take over from Kim on April 15,
although Kim will stay on as a company advisor until August.
The appointment represents a homecoming for Perlmutter, who
joined Amgen in February 2001 after four years with Merck, where
he oversaw global basic research and preclinical development.
While at Amgen sales of its Epogen and Aranesp anemia drugs
plunged due to safety concerns.
Perlmutter left Amgen in February 2012 and has served since
then as a board member of several smaller biotech companies.
But Perlmutter helped Amgen branch out into new areas,
including successful development of Prolia for osteoporosis and
Sensipar, used to treat dangerously high calcium levels in the
Perlmutter became Amgen's research chief only months after
Kim, then a 42-year-old professor at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, was selected to head of research at Merck.
Merck has had several big successes under Kim's watch,
including development of its blockbuster Januvia diabetes
medicine and its Isentress treatment for HIV. But more recently,
it has been hurt by failed trials of cholesterol treatment
Tredaptive and migraine drug telcagepant, and a regulatory delay
for a new type of osteoporosis medicine called odanacatib.
Merck's Vioxx arthritis drug was recalled in 2004 after
being linked to heart attacks and strokes, forcing Kim to defend
controversial clinical trials of the pill that were conducted
before his arrival.
New medicines are badly needed at Merck, where sales of its
onetime $6 billion-a-year Singulair asthma drug are plunging due
to generic competition and other medicines will soon face
cheaper generics. Moreover, cost savings from Merck's 2009
purchase of rival Schering Plough have mostly dried up and are
no longer able to boost company earnings.
"On balance, most investors we speak with have been
disappointed by Peter Kim's tenure as head of Merck's R&D,"
Leerink Swann analyst Seamus Fernandez said in a research note
"We believe a transition makes sense at this time."
Fernandez said he believed Perlmutter's 10-year tenure at Amgen,
the world's biggest biotechnology company, were "constructive.
Overall he strikes us as a thoughtful straight shooter and a
Merck praised Kim's tenure. "His contributions have
positioned us well for future success."
Shares of Merck were down nearly 1 percent in afternoon
trading on the New York Stock Exchange.