P. Roy Vagelos

1929 –

United States

Year of great discovery/work

As a physician, biochemist, researcher, and ultimately Chairman and CEO of Merck, Vagelos played a key role in the application of recombinant DNA technology to produce vaccines—the first of which was for hepatitis B. By producing one of the viral proteins in yeast cells instead of isolating it from the blood of infected individuals, the vaccine could be made less expensively and was concluded to be a safer alternative to making the vaccine from viruses originally isolated from human blood. During his time as Merck CEO, the company was considered the leader in the pharmaceutical industry as well as a fine example of corporate and scientific philanthropy to the developing world.

Did you know?
Vagelos’ first experience with Merck was waiting on company employees at his father’s restaurant near the company’s headquarters.