Eikon hires Merck & Co. veteran Roger Perlmutter as CEO

Eikon Therapeutics announced Wednesday the appointment of former Merck & Co. research head Roger Perlmutter as its new chief executive. The company also said that it closed a $148-million Series A financing round that will go toward developing high-throughput super-resolution microscopy to "industrialise" the tracking of protein dynamics and apply it across the drug discovery process.

Perlmutter, who stepped down from his post as president of Merck Research Laboratories at the start of this year, remarked that as "the pharmaceutical industry has long been limited in the tools available to study dynamic regulatory mechanisms in living cells…it is inspiring to see what Eikon has already accomplished by incorporating physics and engineering along with machine learning to complement traditional drug discovery approaches."

Tracking real-time protein movement

Eikon's platform uses super-resolution microscopy to track and measure the real-time movement of individual proteins in living cells in a bid to shed more light on disease biology and help pave the way for differentiated therapeutics. The start-up was co-founded by Eric Betzig, who first developed the technology and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work in 2014, as well as Xavier Darzacq, Luke Lavis and Robert Tjian.

Darzacq stated that "with the addition of [Perlmutter's] depth of drug development experience, the Eikon team is poised to apply this unique platform to its best advantage in developing therapeutics with potentially significant benefits." During his tenure as R&D chief at Merck, Eikon noted that Perlmutter helped the company secure dozens of regulatory approvals, including bringing its "foundational" cancer immunotherapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab) to market. Prior to joining Merck, Perlmutter headed R&D operations at Amgen for more than a decade.

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