Merck promotes oncology, vaccine executives to replace Adam Schechter in commercial rejig

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At the end of the month, Merck's Adam Schechter will leave his position as head of global human health—a role he's held since 2010. (Pixabay)

Merck & Co. boasted some major success in the sales department this year, but the company’s commercial organization will still get a makeover for 2019. 

On Monday, the New Jersey company said Adam Schechter, president of global human health, would leave his position on Dec. 31 and move into a CEO advisory slot. And the pharma giant is taking the opportunity to shake things up further, splitting the post into two separate roles.

Filling the first will be Frank Clyburn, who’ll move up to chief commercial officer. As president of Merck’s global oncology business, he’s racked up plenty of experience driving sales for the drugmaker’s most important product, immuno-oncology star Keytruda.

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It’s a job Clyburn has held for the last five-plus years, meaning he’s overseen the drug’s ascendance to market-transforming blockbuster. But he's racked up experience across Merck’s other key disease areas, too; his company résumé includes stints in diabetes, cardiovascular and women’s health.

RELATED: 'Unprecedented' demand for Merck's Gardasil drives monster Q3

Meanwhile, Michael Nally will take on the newly created role of chief marketing officer, after heading up the company’s vaccines business—another unit that’s delivered a monster year for Merck. He steered lead jab Gardasil to big-time sales in recent quarters, with the company citing an “unprecedented” increase in worldwide demand.

That’s not to say Schechter won’t be missed. He has headed up global human health since 2010, and over that time “evolved Merck’s commercial organization to strengthen the company’s ability to bring its medicines and vaccines to people in more than 140 countries around the world,” the company said in a statement. Over his 30-year career, he also led the integration of Merck and Schering-Plough, a “significant milestone in the creation of today’s Merck.”

RELATED: Congrats, Ken Frazier: Merck's board scraps mandatory retirement to keep CEO at his post

But Clyburn and McNally will have a steady hand at the top to help guide the transition—and one who's not going anywhere anytime soon. They’ll both report to CEO Ken Frazier, who will continue in that role past his 65th birthday next year, now that Merck’s board has ditched its mandatory retirement policy.

Merck isn’t the only Big Pharma player to see commercial turnover this year. For starters, Merck’s immuno-oncology archrival Bristol-Myers Squibb lost its commercial top dog, Murdo Gordon, to Amgen this summer; the California biotech in turn saw Gilead poach one of its executives, Laura Hamill, to fill its own vacant chief commercial officer role.

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