Merck said that its directors have nominated Thomas Cech to join the company's board.
Cech, who will stand for election by Merck shareholders in April, is currently president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is slated to step down from the position in March, when he will return to a faculty position at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Cech is a co-founder of Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals, which later became Sirna Therapeutics. Merck acquired Sirna in 2006.