James Merson, Ph.D.
Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, Vaccine Immunotherapeutics Research Unit
I’m particularly excited by our development of therapeutic vaccines, which aim to use the body’s immune system to potentially address many high unmet medical need conditions, including smoking addiction, allergic asthma and various cancers. The extraordinary scientific progress made in understanding how the immune system combats infectious diseases and cancer makes today an incredibly exciting time. We’re applying our vaccine-based immunotherapy technologies and approach to innovate the next wave of vaccine therapies for patients impacted by these devastating conditions.
James Merson, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of Vaccine Immunotherapeutics which has sites in the U.S. (La Jolla) and Canada (Ottawa). He is accountable for developing both prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines for smoking cessation, allergic asthma, several cancer indications, cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases.
Prior to his current role, Dr. Merson was CSO of the Vaccine Research Unit and led a team responsible for determining what investments Pfizer would make to establish a vaccines business, which lead to the acquisition of PowderMed, Coley Pharmaceuticals, and a strategic collaboration with Cytos.
Dr. Merson joined Pfizer in Sandwich, UK, in 1988 working on the HIV protease project and establishing HIV screening capabilities. As head of the Antivirals therapeutic area, his research saw the discovery of HIV antiviral medicines such as Maraviroc and Lersivirine. Leading Pfizer’s first efforts into gene therapy with Immusol, Dr. Merson and his team researched the treatment of HIV by making patients’ cells resistant to the infection.
Dr. Merson received his B.A. in Biology from Bellarmine College, Louisville, Kentucky and his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas. He is a member of the BSI, ISV, and is an adjunct professor at the Scripps Research Institute.