In another Merck executive switch, Chief Marketing Officer Nally exits and CCO Clyburn steps up

Merck & Co.'s chief marketing officer is leaving the company, marking another leadership swap at the top of the company as CEO Ken Frazier prepares to retire.

Michael Nally, chief marketing officer of Merck’s Human Health business, will depart at the end of March. The company has tapped commercial officer Frank Clyburn to slide into the role—and take another step up the executive and marketing ladder.

Clyburn, who played a key role in launching Merck's top-selling Keytruda, will become president of Human Health and will oversee all commercial and marketing for that business

The change-up at the top of marketing comes as Frazier prepares to retire in June after 10 years at the helm. Robert Davis, who is currently executive VP of global services and chief financial officer, will take over as CEO.

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Frazier’s official retirement date is June 30, but  Clyburn will begin reporting to Davis on April 1.

When Frazier’s retirement and search for a successor was announced in mid-2019, Davis, Clyburn and Nally were all listed as potential successors. Nally is departing for a “leadership opportunity” at another company, Merck said in its press release.

Clyburn adds chief marketing officer duties after two years as chief commercial officer. He became CCO in January 2019, when he moved up from president of Merck’s global oncology business, where he oversaw the drugmaker’s most important product, immuno-oncology star Keytruda.

Davis said, “Frank’s leadership in rapidly expanding our oncology footprint and accelerating the growth of that business is unparalleled in our industry, exceeded only by his relentless dedication to helping patients.”

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While Merck initially joined the COVID-19 vaccine hunt last year, it exited the race in January after two candidate fails in phase 1 trials. Since then, it’s gotten back in the coronavirus vaccine game in a deal with Johnson & Johnson deal to produce its emergency-authorized vaccine at two Merck U.S. plants.

Meanwhile, PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda continues to lead drug sales at Merck, notching $14.4 billion in revenue for 2020 and accounting for more than a quarter of Merck’s total $48 billion in sales.