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Merck Research Chief Replaced by Former Amgen Scientist

Merck & Co. hired Roger Perlmutter, Amgen Inc.’s former top scientist, to replace Peter Kim as head of research after several of the drugmaker’s experimental medicines suffered setbacks during testing.

Perlmutter, 60, will take the post April 15, and Kim, 54, will retire in August after a decade as head of research and development, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck said today in a statement.

Merck, the second-biggest U.S. drugmaker, said last month it was delaying an experimental osteoporosis medicine and in December ended work on a once-promising cholesterol drug. In June the company failed to win clearance for a therapy aimed at slowing the growth of sarcoma. The lack of new drugs contributed to a 2 percent revenue decline last year after Merck’s asthma treatment Singulair faced generic competition.

“We expect Peter Kim’s retirement and Roger Perlmutter’s appointment to be relatively well-received by investors,” said Seamus Fernandez, an analyst with Leerink Swann & Co., in a note to clients. “This likely is a first important step toward rejuvenating the perception of Merck’s pipeline.”

Merck spent $50 billion on research and gained regulatory approval for seven new drugs and vaccines, costing an average of $7.3 billion for each new drug brought to market while Kim served as development chief -- one of the worst ratios in the industry, Chris Bowe, an analyst at Informa-Scrip Intelligence, said in a report.

Top Approvals

Despite the setbacks, Kim’s tenure also included approval of Merck’s top-selling drug Januvia, a diabetes treatment that brought in $4 billion in sales last year, and the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, the first inoculation to protect against cancer.

Perlmutter joined Thousand Oaks, California-based Amgen, the world’s biggest biotechnology company, in 2000 and led the development and approval of therapies such as the anemia drug Aranesp, psoriasis medication Neulasta and Prolia, which treats osteoporosis in menopausal women. Perlmutter retired as executive vice president for research and development in February 2012 and spent a year as a consultant to the company.

Merck fell 1 percent to $43.27 at 4 p.m. New York time. The drugmaker gained 16 percent in the past 12 months.

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