Life Sciences Insight

After ‘masterful’ development of Keytruda, Merck’s CMO follows Roger Perlmutter to Eikon

Not only does Roger Perlmutter, M.D., PhD., have the pull to lock down a fundraising round worth a half a billion dollars, he’s now poached a former Merck & Co. colleague over to his new biotech Eikon Therapeutics.

Roy Baynes, Ph.D., has departed Merck to take up the chief medical officer role at the new biotech, which snagged Perlmutter as CEO and a hefty fundraising last year. Baynes will serve as a consultant to Eikon starting April 1, before he makes the transition permanent in July.

Just as Eikon touted the new hire, Merck announced his retirement—if that’s what you can call this move. Baynes will leave his role as global clinical development and chief medical officer for Merck Research Laboratories as of July, but Eliav Barr, M.D., will take on the role officially as of April 1.

Baynes’ key achievement is none other than Keytruda, the blockbuster med that’s redefining the term itself. The cancer immunotherapy continues to churn through the clinic adding new indications and further bolstering Merck’s finances each quarter. Baynes, who joined Merck in 2013, also had a hand in developing Welireg, Zerbaxa, Lagevrio and Zepatier, among other medicines, while also pitching into collaborations with AstraZeneca, Eisai and Bayer for Lynparza, Lenvima and Verquvo, respectively.

“Roy is one of the world’s pre-eminent oncologists and clinical development experts, and his masterful spearheading of the development of Keytruda leaves an indelible mark on Merck, on oncology and on the lives of patients and their families,” said Dean Li, M.D., president of Merck Research Laboratories. “As textbooks are updated to reflect the era of immuno-oncology, Roy’s contributions cannot be overstated, and will persist far beyond his eight years with Merck.”

Barr has been with Merck for two decades, rising through the ranks with a focus on clinical development in oncology and infectious diseases. He was involved in the development of Merck’s human papillomavirus vaccines.

At Eikon, Baynes will build out the startup’s clinical research and development team and eventually become site leader for a new facility on the Eastern seaboard.

“I consider it a great privilege to have the opportunity to work alongside Roy once again, and to pursue our shared goal of bringing significant new medicines to patients suffering from grievous illness,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “By any measure, Roy ranks among the most important leaders of clinical development in our industry.”


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