Memorial Sloan Kettering CEO Resigns from Boards at Merck, Charles River Labs


Memorial Sloan Kettering's Chief Executive Officer Craig Thompson has resigned from the boards of directors at Merck and Charles River Labs as the cancer center continues to be scrutinized for its ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

In a statement to Reuters, Thompson said he resigned from the boards following feedback from MSK’s staff and faculty. He said the resignation is the right decision for the cancer center and will allow him to “redouble” his focus on the priorities of Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Thompson’s resignation is part of the fallout related to the resignation of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Chief Medical Officer José Baselga. The former CMO resigned following concerns that he failed to disclose his vast financial ties to various companies in journal articles he published. While Baselga was president of the American Association for Cancer Research, he failed to report payments he received from drug companies conducting cancer research the articles he published in the AACR’s journal, Cancer Discovery. Baselga said he resigned from his role at MKS because he was concerned that his failure to disclose the millions of dollars in financial ties he has with the industry would distract from his role at MSK. Baselga has held advisory roles with several pharmaceutical giants, such as Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb, where he serves on the company’s board of directors, a position from which he recently resigned, according to CNBC.

With Thompson’s resignation from the Merck board of directors, the pharma giant told Reuters that it intends to reduce the size of its board to 12 members. Additionally, Merck told Reuters that while on the board, Thompson’s contributions “demonstrate why it is so important to have leaders from the medical community represented.”

Charles River Laboratories did not provide comment, according to the report.

Following the Baselga resignation and ahead of Thompson’s announcement he was resigning from the boards upon which he served, MSK formed a task force to address potential conflicts of interest. The task force will be assigned with assessing “MSK policies and processes for reporting and managing outside activities and industry-supported clinical trials,” according to an announcement issued last week.

In addition to the task force, MSK also issued “moratorium on appointments of MSK board members to serve on the boards of MSK start-ups or to make any direct investments in them.” Not only did MSK announce the moratorium, the cancer center said it intends to codify within its policies “that any potential equity that could be attained by employees appointed as MSK-designees to outside boards will be returned to the institution and dedicated to research.”

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