• Throughout our more than 125-year history, women have helped advance Merck's mission to improve human and animal health while advancing scientific research.

    Here, we celebrate the women whose hard work and tenacity have helped us continue to invent for life.

    Jennifer O'Neil, Ph.D.

    Principal Scientist, Biology-Oncology Discovery

    Every day, we're learning new things about cancer.

    A passion for helping people has long shaped Jennifer O'Neil's career choices. After graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, she completed post-doctoral research at the Dana Farber Cancer Research Institute in Boston. She later worked for a small biotech firm before coming to Merck nine years ago. Today, she and her teams are focused on discovering and developing new ways to treat cancer.

    "I got into cancer research to hopefully have an impact on human health," Jennifer says. "Being at a place where we're really making progress in treating cancer patients hopefully can make that dream a reality in the near future. I'm pretty inspired."

    As principal scientist, Jennifer is involved in all stages of oncology drug discovery at Merck.

    "It's an exciting time to be in cancer research," says Jennifer. "Every day, we're learning new things about cancer and what it is about cancer cells that drive them, and as a result, we are making advances. There's more we need to do, but we're making progress, and that's really exciting."

    Anja Heckeroth, DVM, Ph.D.

    Director, Biology-Discovery, Antiparasitics

    We discover new compounds to help fight all sorts of things that can hurt animals, like ticks and worms.

    Heike Williams, DVM, Ph.D.

    Principal Scientist, Biology-Discovery, Antiparasitics

    ...we are committed to doing our part to improve the health and quality of life for animals.

    German scientists Heike Williams and Anja Heckeroth, along with their colleagues at the MSD Animal Health research facility in Schwabenheim, Germany, discover and test new antiparasitic compounds that fight ectoparasites, which live on the outer surface of the host (for example, fleas), and endoparasites, which live inside the host's body (worms and their ilk).

    "We discover new compounds to help fight all sorts of things that can hurt animals, like ticks and worms," says Anja. "There are a variety of parasites you do not want to have on your dogs, cats, livestock or horses. They can create serious health problems for animals and humans."

    The war against microscopic enemies is not an easy one to win. "Parasites have developed resistance," says Anja. "This is why our Animal Health scientists are always looking for new modes of action and new molecules from different compound classes that can cope with developed resistance in the field."

    "Research in this area is a difficult task," adds Heike. "But we are committed to doing our part to improve the health and quality of life for animals through the research and development of safe, convenient and efficacious products."

    Hedy Teppler, M.D.

    Executive Director, Clinical Research

    I wanted to be more involved in drug design and clinical trials, and Merck was doing some groundbreaking work in HIV.

    Bach-Yen Nguyen, M.D.

    Retired-Section Head, Hepatology and HIV, Global Clinical Development- Infectious Diseases

    We were faced with an opportunity to help patients infected with HIV.

    In the early 1990s, Hedy Teppler was treating AIDS patients with HIV/AIDS at a hospital in Philadelphia. She was also serving as a clinical trial investigator for Phase 1 and 2 Merck studies of a new class of anti-HIV drugs designed to block the HIV protease enzyme and thus prevent HIV replication. "The early results were exciting. In a short time, many patients responded to the investigational treatment," says Hedy.

    Her positive experience during these and subsequent clinical trials was largely why she joined Merck in 1996. "I wanted to be more involved in drug development and clinical trial design, and Merck was doing some groundbreaking work in HIV," says Hedy, who now serves as executive director, Clinical Research, Infectious Diseases, at Merck Research Laboratories.

    The year before Hedy arrived, another prominent HIV researcher and thought leader was keeping a close watch on Merck's work. Bach-Yen Nguyen, now retired-executive director, section head, HCV and HIV, decided to leave the National Institutes of Health to work on Merck's HIV research development team. Bach-Yen had spent years treating AIDS patients and working in HIV research and saw great potential in Merck's work. "We were faced with an opportunity to help patients infected with HIV."

    For Bach-Yen, who also made vital contributions to the development of another one of Merck's medicines for the treatment of HIV, the drug's approval continues to be her most memorable moment at Merck. "We worked long hours. There were times when I couldn't attend school events with my son. When people asked him where I was, he would say, 'Mom is busy helping people with AIDS.' He was only 12, but he understood the importance of the work."

    Within a few years, the team achieved additional success: In 2011, the FDA approved a chewable tablet form of this first agent in a new class of anti-HIV agents for children 2 years and older, and in 2013, approved granules for oral suspension for infants 4 weeks and older. "Our pediatrics program has been extremely satisfying as there is a tremendous need for new anti-HIV agents that can be used across the entire pediatric age range," says Hedy, who leads the Isentress pediatric development program.

    Paula Annunziato, M.D.

    Vice President, Clinical Research, Vaccines

    I saw firsthand the difference vaccines make by helping prevent certain infectious diseases.

    Michelle Goveia, M.D., M.P.H.

    Medical Director, Global Vaccines Medical Affairs

    Tackling vaccine-preventable diseases is an especially rewarding area of health care.

    Sixteen years ago, Paula Annunziato and Michelle Goveia met for the first time during an orientation for new Merck employees. Both were already champions of vaccines, but neither could predict the life-changing journey ahead.

    "During my hospital training as a physician, I saw firsthand the difference vaccines make by helping prevent certain infectious diseases," recalls Paula Annunziato, M.D., vice president and therapeutic area head, Merck Vaccines Clinical Research. "That's when I knew I wanted to play a role in vaccine development."

    Michelle Goveia, M.D., MPH, medical director, Global Vaccines Medical Affairs, Merck Vaccines, had witnessed similar success stories with vaccines while training at Children's National in Washington D.C., and, later, while working for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    "Tackling vaccine-preventable diseases is an especially rewarding area of health care," says Michelle. "I cannot think of a better place than Merck to carry out that work."

    Jennifer Wipf

    Director, Strategic Planning, U.S. Market Commercial Operations

    In pharmaceutical manufacturing, you must adapt to a myriad of challenges.

    Tonya Hutchison

    Senior Field Specialist, Supplier Development and Performance Management

    My work gives me the opportunity to grow and push myself outside my comfort zone.

    Jennifer Wipf defines herself as "a professional problem solver." She's been sleuthing for our company's supply chain since 2005, when she joined the company right out of graduate school Stanford University.

    "I studied bioengineering and chemical engineering and was taught problem-solving skills, but they were problems on paper. In pharmaceutical manufacturing, you must adapt to a myriad of challenges that aren't always as clean as solving a math equation," says Jen.

    One of the colleagues Jen mentored, Tonya Hutchison, shares a similar passion for untangling complex problems. "My work gives me the opportunity to grow and push myself outside my comfort zone," says Tonya.

    Tonya joined Merck in 2010, has a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from Penn State University and completed her Masters of Business Administration from DeSales University in July 2016.

    Both women have been recognized inside and outside of our company for their positive impact on the supply chain. Jen and Tonya each received a 2016 STEP (Science, Technology, Engineering and Production) Ahead Award, given each year by The Manufacturing Institute to women who are making a difference in the U.S. manufacturing industry. Tonya was named an "Emerging Leader" and Jen was selected as a "Leaders in Manufacturing" Honoree.


    Women have played an important role at Merck throughout the company's history. Here are two former female scientists who have made huge advancements in human health.

    Christine Malanga Wilson

    During World War II, malaria was credited with the death of more U.S. soldiers than combat. The cause, in large part, was due to Japan's seizure of Dutch Cinchona plantations in Java in 1942. (Quinine, the preferred treatment of malaria at that time, is derived from the bark of the Cinchona tree).

    The Allied troops needed help and Merck answered the call. A young Merck researcher named Christine Malanga (later Christine Malanga Wilson) joined a Merck team in Rahway, N.J. to test more than 600 plants from around the globe for activity against the disease.

    The long hours and scientific rigor paid off. The team identified dozens of potential compounds. In 1947, Wilson co-authored a paper on the team's findings that was published in Lloydia, a scientific journal that later became the Journal of Natural Products.

    The work would provide roots for new antimalarial research to this day.

    Jean Kahan

    Although Jean Kahan's name appears on several patents related to antibiotic discovery and production, she is perhaps best known for her work alongside her husband in the 1970s on thienamycin, a naturally occurring antibiotic, which in turn helped pave the way for the development of a new class of antibiotics, which can still be found on the World Health Organization's (WHO) Essential Medicines list today.

    Terri McClanahan, PH.D.

    Executive Director, Molecular Discovery

    This is an exciting field and very humbling to be doing something that we hope will translate into longer lives for cancer patients.

    "It's the beginning of a new era for immuno-oncology," says Terri McClanahan, executive director, Profiling & Expression, Translational Medicine, Merck Research Laboratories, about her work at Merck. "This is an exciting field and very humbling to be doing something that we hope will translate into longer lives for cancer patients."

    Terri is among a number of top-notch Merck scientists who have helped develop – and continue to expand – our oncology research program.

    Terri's biomarker research group, based at our research labs in Palo, Alto, Calif., combines molecular, cellular and tissue-based approaches to understand how inflammatory diseases and cancer work, and how biologics can modulate the body's own immune system.

    In order to make sure we select the right patients for treatment, and to make sure the drug is working the way we think it should, we do many studies to find biomarkers that we can follow when we treat patients," she says.

    Elaine Pinheiro, Ph.D.

    Principal Scientist, ImmunoOncology-Discovery

    I am working to extend the benefits of our medicines to potentially help more patients.

    Elaine Pinheiro, now a principal scientist in Biology-Discovery at Merck Research Laboratories came to Merck in 2011 from the Belfer Institute of Applied Cancer Sciences at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute where she served as a group leader in oncology target discovery and validation.

    "I am working to extend the benefits of our medicines to potentially help more patients. One way we hope to do that is through combination therapies," says Elaine. "I am part of a group that conducts preclinical studies to understand how various combinations may work – and rule out combinations that won't."

    Gargi Maheshwari, Ph.D.

    Associate Vice President, Global Vaccines & Biologics Commercialization, Merck Manufacturing Division

    It is rewarding to be part of a team that is making a difference.

    If Gargi looks familiar to you, there may be a good reason. In 2016, the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer took social media channels by storm to protest stereotypes and celebrate women in the field of engineering. Gargi represented our company on Facebook and Twitter, helping to celebrate our diverse talent.

    After graduating from MIT in 1999, Gargi joined Merck Research Laboratories' Vaccine Bioprocess Research & Development team. While there, she worked on all aspects of process analytics and bioprocess development of mammalian cell culture-based viral vaccines, helping to develop manufacturing processes for making vaccines for use in clinical trials and eventual commercial supply.

    Today, Gargi continues to focus on process development and commercialization for biologics. Her team works in close collaboration with biologics process development teams in Merck Research Laboratories as well as commercial manufacturing, driving towards commercialization of biologics and providing manufacturing science and technology support to our commercial products.

    Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H.

    Executive Vice President & Chief Patient Officer, Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy and Population Health

    We take on problems that affect large numbers of people.

    From AIDS to Zika, Ebola to SARS, Julie Gerberding has long been at the forefront of many of the world's most pressing population health issues. Throughout her impressive career, the former director of the U.S. CDC and Merck's newly named Chief Patient Officer has been driven by one thing – a passion for improving health and making a difference in people's lives.

    Julie joined Merck in 2010 as president of Merck Vaccines where she helped to globalize the company's vaccines business – with particular focus on making our vaccines increasingly more available (and affordable) to people in emerging markets and in some of the world's poorest countries. She also helped lead the launch in India of the MSD Wellcome Trust Hilleman Laboratories, a not-for-profit joint venture for vaccine development.

    In December 2014, Julie took on a new leadership role, joining Merck's Executive Committee as executive vice president, Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy and Population Health; and in June 2016, she added another responsibility to her growing list of achievements: Chief Patient Officer. In this role, Julie will lead efforts to engage with patients and patient organizations to bring their perspectives into Merck to help inform company decisions. She also represents our company globally on patient-related matters.

    Merck is, "a population health company," says Julie. "We take on problems that affect large numbers of people – infectious diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer – and invent solutions that protect and preserve lives. That is truly a noble mission."