Merck & Co. announced a major reshuffling of its topmanagement yesterday, but biotechnology companies workingwith Merck said the change would not affect their operations ortheir relations with the pharmaceutical giant.

The reorganization, which was approved by Merck's boardyesterday and will take effect next Monday, is intended torecognize the global nature of the pharmaceutical industry,according to P. Roy Vagelos, chairman and chief executiveofficer of the company. Merck has facilities in 18 countries,including Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, England,France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan and Portugal, as wellas the United States.

In the move, Merck pulled its worldwide human healthprescription pharmaceutical business into a single division. Thenew Merck Human Health Division (MHHD), responsible formarketing Merck's prescription drugs, has been formed byconsolidating the former Merck Sharp & Dohme and MerckSharp & Dohme International divisions. Richard Markham hasbeen elected president of MHHD and senior vice president ofthe company.

Merck also consolidated its global vaccine business in a newMerck Vaccine Division. Collaborative research programs withRepligen Corp. of Cambridge, Mass., to develop an AIDS vaccineand an HIV therapeutic come under its auspices. Dr. R. GordonDouglas will become president of the Vaccine Division,reporting to Jerry T. Jackson, who with Markham is one of fournew senior vice presidents.

Jackson also has responsibility for Merck's animal health andagricultural business, specialty chemicals, the consumer healthcare group and Merck's strategic alliance with Du Pont.

The changes at Merck are not expected to affect the jointresearch with Repligen, according to Ramesh L. Ratan,Repligen's senior vice president and chief financial officer.Merck has sunk $20 million into the research since its inceptionin 1987, he added.

Chiron Corp. of Emeryville, Calif., which receives royaltypayments from Merck on the worldwide sales of hepatitis Bvaccine, also does not expect to be affected by the changes, acompany representative said.

By reorganizing, Merck also hopes to improve the managementof the company's strategic alliances, Vagelos said. Merckformed a joint venture with Johnson & Johnson, called theJohnson & Johnson Consumer Pharmaceutical Co., in 1989; andlast January it formed the Du Pont-Merck PharmaceuticalCompany with Du Pont.

-- Rachel Nowak Washington Bureau Chief

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.