Kenneth Frazier announced Wednesday afternoon that he will retire as Merck’s chairman of the board next month, ending a decades-long career at the pharma giant.
Merck’s board of directors voted CEO and president Robert M. Davis to replace the outgoing Frazier effective December 1. Frazier began serving as chairman of the board in July 2021 after serving on the board for a decade prior.
Frazier, who led the company as CEO from 2011 to 2021, has been a trailblazer in the industry. He was the first African American to head a major pharmaceutical company and was also twice named to TIME’s list of the most influential people in the world.
Frazier has long been an advocate for promoting diversity and inclusion in the pharma sector. In late 2020, Frazier heralded Merck’s participation in the OneTen initiative to upskill, hire and promote 1 million Black Americans during the next decade.
“This is a moment in time for Americans to move past our divisions to come together and reach our full potential as a nation. Our country’s workforce of the future will be an increasingly diverse one,” Frazier said.
In addition to his work at Merck, Frazier was active in various industry councils and associations over his tenure, including on the board of PhRMA. Notably, Frazier also participated in then-President Trump’s Manufacturing Job Initiative before resigning after the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017.
Earlier this year, he joined the board of directors for Eikon Therapeutics, a startup that is developing a platform to track disease-causing proteins.
“Merck is powered by the talent, passion and commitment of many thousands of people around the world who are united by a common goal: harnessing the power of science to solve the world’s most pressing health challenges,” Frazier said in a statement. “It has been a distinct pleasure and privilege to be a part of the Merck team, and I will be forever grateful to my Merck colleagues for their dedicated efforts that have led to the company’s many important achievements.”
The pharma giant announced the news just before releasing its Q3 earnings report.
Worldwide sales increased 14% to $15 billion thanks in large part to Lagevrio. The drug generated sales of $436 million, marking a 10% year-over-year increase.
Additionally, Keytruda sales grew by 20% to $5.4 billion while Gardasil generated sales of $2.3 billion, up 15% year-over-year.
In light of its strong performance, Merck raised and narrowed its full year guidance for worldwide sales to be between $58.5 billion to $59 billion. The company also lowered its full year earnings per share guidance to a range of $5.68 to $5.73.
Merck also unveiled positive topline results for its Phase 3 STELLAR trial for sotatercept, a investigational activin receptor type IIA-Fc fusion protein, which acts as an “add-on to stable background therapy” for treating people with pulmonary arterial hypertension.
“Our third quarter results demonstrate exceptional revenue and underlying earnings growth and sustained performance across our key growth drivers,” Davis said in a statement. “Inspired by our purpose of saving and improving lives around the world, I am confident we are well-positioned to continue to deliver strong operational performance.”