Merck hires Pfizer’s Martinez-Davis to head up cancer division

Germany’s Merck has appointed Maya Martinez-Davis as global head of oncology for its biopharma business, attracting her away from a senior role at Pfizer, its key partner in the therapy area.

Maya Martinez-Davis

Martinez-Davis assumes the role of her predecessor, Andrew Schiermeier who is leaving Merck, and joins at a pivotal time for the company’s efforts in cancer.

The Darmstadt-based company has high hopes for its investigational anti-PD-L1 antibody avelumab, which it discovered and developed, and is now advancing via a strategic alliance with Pfizer.

In November the companies announced the start of a phase 3 study of the drug in its first indication, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

The first potential commercial launch for avelumab is expected in 2017, giving Martinez-Davis and the Merck-Pfizer alliance time to prepare the ground.

The company will face stiff competition from many other players in the immuno-oncology field, not least Merck & Co’s Keytruda and BMS’ Opdivo, which are both already licensed in melanoma and NSCLC, and are adding new indications rapidly.

Roche and AstraZeneca are two other companies in the running, and have a greater heritage and experience in cancer than Pfizer or Merck.

Analysts Jeffries recently forecast that avelumab would take a small share of the global PD-1/PD-L1 market which could be worth $51 billion – but this could still amount to $3.8 billion in peak sales for the partners.

Martinez-Davis has been a senior executive with Pfizer for more than a decade, delivering therapeutic area portfolio strategies, in-market growth strategies, and major launches, including the launch of breast cancer treatment Ibrance. Prior to her tenure with Pfizer, she held senior-level and director-level positions with Aventis in oncology.

Martinez-Davis’ tasks will include defining integrated global oncology strategies, and delivery of therapeutic launches, starting with avelumab.

She will report to Rehan Verjee, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer of Merck’s Healthcare business sector, and will be based in Billerica, Massachusetts, USA.

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.