Rosetta takes Merck IT reins

The balance of IT power has shifted at Merck & Co, and Rosetta Inpharmatics is now officially in charge of both bioinformatics and information technology.

Gone is Richard Blevins, former director and head of bioinformatics worldwide, as well as some of his staff. Merck "does not comment on layoff numbers for specific departments," said spokesperson Janet Skidmore, who confirmed the change was part of one of the largest restructurings in Merck history.

Skidmore also described the move as a natural consequence of Merck's 2001 acquisition of the bioinformatics firm. As part of that US$620 million deal, Rosetta president Stephen Friend became Merck's senior vice-president for molecular profiling and basic cancer research. Roland Stoughton, Rosetta's former vice-president of informatics, became senior vice-president of informatics.

In 2003, Merck announced it would reduce its overall workforce by 4400. According to Skidmore, that process is still under way. Rosetta Inpharmatics has about 280 staff members and sells software as well as providing research and IT support.

The shift at Merck also reflects the growing importance of "research informatics over infrastructure," Skidmore said. "Maintenance and information technology support is not a core business." Blevins' department reportedly had about 30 staff members. Some have been reassigned to Rosetta.

Rosetta Inpharmatics' staff is currently spread across five geographic locations, but will be united at a single downtown Seattle location at the end of March.

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