Life Sciences Insight

Reuniting the band: Former Merck CEO follows 3 former colleagues to Eikon

Eikon Therapeutics is getting the Merck & Co. band back together, nabbing former CEO Ken Frazier for its board, the third transfer from the Big Pharma this year after Roy Baynes, M.D., Ph.D., and Ben Thorner joined as chief medical officer and chief business officer, respectively. All three follow Roger Perlmutter, M.D., Ph.D., former president of Merck Research Labs, who left to lead the new venture in 2021. 

Thursday’s appointment is just the latest in a slew of board positions for Frazier, but as clear an indication yet that Perlmutter is trying to poach top brass from his former company. Frazier, who retired in February 2021, spent nearly 30 years at the Kenilworth, New Jersey, pharma, climbing the ranks from VP, general counsel and then to CEO. He still remains executive chairman of the company’s board in addition to sitting on the board of Exxon and chairing the health assurance initiatives at venture capital firm General Catalyst. 

“Our company will benefit enormously from Ken’s deep knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry, and from his broad perspective on matters of business, law, and the needs of society,” said Perlmutter in a statement. 

Frazier’s move comes a week after Roy Baynes left his post as CMO of Merck Research Labs for the same position at Eikon, one of the largest dominos to fall after Perlmutter took the helm of the California startup in May 2021. Thorner, former head of business development and licensing at Merck Research Labs, also joined Eikon as chief business officer. 

The hiring spree comes after the company raked in more than $660 million in fundraising since launching two years ago, an exceptional haul that includes more than $500 million in a series B round that wrapped up in January. 

The money is flowing due to the company’s Nobel Prize-winning technology that uses precise microscopy to track the individual movements of proteins. The hope is that by being able to track and visualize the mechanisms of hard-to-reach targets, it may be easier to discover therapies that influence them. 

In addition to his business experience, Frazier co-founded and co-chairs OneTen, a nonprofit aimed at bolstering Black employment. The organization’s mission is to help one million Black people without four-year degrees get “family-sustaining careers” within 10 years.