Merck Research Labs leader Perlmutter to retire at year-end

Roger Perlmutter. (File photo)

Roger Perlmutter, the award-winning president of Merck Research Laboratories, will be retiring at the end of the year, Kenilworth-based drugmaker Merck announced Friday.

Perlmutter’s team established Keytruda as a major cancer care product, among its many accomplishments since his appointment in April 2013. During his tenure, the company has received more than 100 regulatory approvals for medicines and vaccines globally.

“Since rejoining the company seven years ago, Dr. Roger Perlmutter has had a profound impact on Merck and the patients we exist to serve,” Kenneth Frazier, Merck’s chairman and CEO, said in a prepared statement. “During his tenure as president, Merck Research Laboratories have made historic breakthroughs in immuno-oncology and other fields of medicine that have both transformed clinical practice and vastly improved patient outcomes.”

He will be replaced Jan. 1 by Dean Y. Li, Merck Research Laboratories’ senior vice president of discovery sciences and translational medicine, the drugmaker said in a news release. Perlmutter, who also serves as a Merck executive vice president, will remain as nonexecutive director with MRL through June 30, 2021, to facilitate a seamless leadership transition, Merck said.

“It has been an honor to lead the talented people of Merck Research Laboratories during the last seven years,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with Dean over the next few months to advance our scientific strategy and continue the strong momentum in our pipeline.”

Li joined Merck in 2017 after playing several leadership roles at the University of Utah and its health system.

“Powerful new technologies continue to fuel important progress in enabling the discovery and development of new and better medicines and vaccines,” Li said in a statement. “I am very grateful to Roger for his mentorship and the guidance of his leadership team over the past three years, and am excited by the opportunity to build upon MRL’s legacy of scientific excellence and innovation.”

Perlmutter was recently named the winner of the Chairman’s Award at the 41st annual Thomas Edison Patent Awards, presented by the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, which will be formally awarded in November.

“Roger’s legacy will include a rejuvenated research & development organization, staffed by world-class scientists, clinicians and professionals and led by Dr. Dean Li,” Frazier said. “As a result of Roger’s hands-on and inspirational leadership, MRL is well-positioned to bring forward lifesaving medicines and vaccines for many years to come. I am enormously grateful for Roger’s decision to return to Merck and for his many meaningful contributions to science, medicine and the health and wellbeing of people around the world.”