Robert Plenge | Vice President and Head of Translational Medicine
Merck and Co

Robert Plenge, Vice President and Head of Translational Medicine, Merck and Co

Robert is Vice President at MRL in Boston, MA. He is founder and worldwide Head of the department of Genetics & Pharmacogenomics (GpGx). In April 2015, Robert launched a new Translation Medicine department, which includes GpGx. The Translational Medicine department consists of more than 300 scientists responsible for translating basic science into therapeutic trials. Together, we identify novel targets and pathways based on human genetics and discovery medicine studies in humans. As therapeutic compounds advance through the drug discovery process, we develop biomarkers using advancing imaging techniques and molecular assays to robustly measure target modulation in humans. Our team of clinical pharmacologists is responsible for conducting first-in-human studies, clinical proof-of-concept trials, and additional Phase I/IIa studies to support registration in all therapeutic areas outside of oncology.

Prior to joining Merck in July 2013, Robert served as Director of Genetics & Genomics in the Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School; and Associate Member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His academic research focused on genetic and genomic underpinnings of complex human disease, with attention to immune-mediated diseases such rheumatoid arthritis (RA). He led multi-disciplinary teams that: identified new genetic risk factors for RA and other complex traits; performed functional studies of risk alleles to understand fundamental disease mechanisms; analyzed clinical data from electronic medical records (EMR) for discovery research in collaboration with i2b2; and investigated pharmacogenomic predictors of efficacy and toxicity as part of the NIH-funded Pharmacogenomic Research Network (PGRN). His original research has been published in NatureNew England Journal of MedicineScienceNature Genetics, and other top-tiered medical journals.

Robert graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science from the University of California, San Diego in 1992; received his MD and PhD degrees from Case Western Reserve University in 2000 (thesis advisor Hunt Willard); completed his Internal Medicine residency as a Molecular Medicine Fellow at University of California, San Francisco in 2002; and served as rheumatology fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital from 2002-2006 and post-doctoral research fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard from 2003-2007 (advisor David Altshuler). Between 2007-2013 he was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute while practicing clinical rheumatology and running a research laboratory at Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

In recognition of his accomplishments, Robert has received numerous awards, including: Pre-doctoral Clinical Award from The American Society of Human Genetics (1995); The Young Investigator Award from the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (2008); Career Award for Medical Scientistsfrom the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (2008); and election to The American Society for Clinical Investigation (2012).

He lives with his wife and three daughters in Wellesley, MA. He enjoys outdoor activities, flying drones, socializing with friends and family, and participating in any activities that his kids want him to do.

back to speakers