NEW YORK, Dec. 2 - Former MIT proteomics guru Peter Kim will take over the reigns of Merck Research Laboratories on Jan. 1, the drug giant said today.
The move, which will see current MRL President Edward Scolnick step down to focus more on neuroscience research, has been in the works since Kim left MIT's proteomics lab to join Merck in 2001. His departure prompted MIT to shutter the lab.
Kim, 44, will run all of Merck's internal and external drug-discovery and -development efforts, the company said. It was not immediately clear whether Kim will increase the company's spending on new or existing proteomics technology.
A Merck spokeswoman declined to comment on Kim's short- or long-term goals.
More details will be made public at an analyst conference Merck will sponsor at its New Jersey facility on Dec. 10, she said.
In a statement, Scolnick, 62, said Kim "has the qualities necessary to keep Merck at the forefront of biomedical research, such as his scientific excellence, his record of recruiting world-class talent and his ability to identify new technologies and integrate them into the Merck laboratories." In fact, Kim played an "instrumental" role in Merck's $620 million acquisition of Rosetta Inpharmatics last year.
Scolnick, who has run MRL since 1985, will stay on at Merck and will switch focus on developing drugs for "severe mental disorders," the company said.
Kim came to Merck in 2001 from MIT where he was professor of biology, a member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and an investigator in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He also served as a member of the AIDS Vaccine Research Committee of the NIH.
Scolnick, himself an NIH alumni, joined Merck in 1982 as executive director of virus and cell biology. In fact, it was at the NIH's National Cancer Institute that Scolnick discovered the ras oncogene. The gene was found to be a marquee player in the signaling pathway that turns normal cells into tumor cells--a discovery that helped change the way cancer researchers did their work.