Meet two of the women at Merck who are on a mission to help eradicate 'important' threats to public health.
Amanda Paschke, M.D., is fascinated with bugs, specifically, those tiny but complex organisms known as bacteria, and the clinical syndromes they cause. "When I decided to become a doctor, I was attracted by the puzzles in infectious diseases... I love microbiology and working across a variety of areas of medicine, so infectious diseases was the perfect fit."
The confounding world of microorganisms also is what attracted Mary Beth Dorr, Ph.D., to the field. "It's like solving a logic problem. Each type of organism at each site of infection brings different challenges."
Amanda and Mary Beth each lead clinical development programs in the Infectious Disease Clinical Research group in Merck Research Laboratories (MRL). Although their programs are different, the goal is the same: to address the health threats deemed "important" by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization.
Before joining Merck in 2010, Amanda was an instructor in pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) School of Medicine and a post-doctoral fellow at the UPenn Center for Evidence-Based Practice. She received her medical degree from the State University of New York Health Sciences Center at Brooklyn and her Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology (MSCE) degree from UPenn. She completed her residency in pediatrics and a fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
“Working at Merck offered me the opportunity to do the clinical research in infectious diseases that I love, while also having the opportunity to impact some critical areas in public health, such as difficult-to-treat infections.”
Today, Amanda leads a program evaluating the treatment of acute bacterial infections.
As program lead, Amanda has oversight for the entire late-stage development program. "We are working toward being in a position to submit our first regulatory filing, so most of our activities are focused on that right now. It's an exciting time."
It also is a time of rapid change in the regulatory landscape for antibiotics. "Multi-drug-resistant bacteria are a public health crisis," says Amanda. "Because of this crisis, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies have issued guidance for streamlined drug development, and have created opportunities for enhanced communication between regulators and companies developing drugs to treat these infections. My program is in the middle of this evolution, which is both exciting and challenging."
Mary Beth joined Merck six years ago after previously working in anti-infectives drug development for several pharmaceutical companies. She has an undergraduate pharmacy degree from the University of the Sciences, Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, and completed a clinical pharmacy residency at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Philadelphia. She completed her Ph.D. in pharmaceutics with an emphasis on pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
C. difficile has become the most common cause of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals, and the CDC includes C. difficile among the microorganisms with a "threat level of urgent." C. difficile infection [CDI] has increased in incidence and severity over the past decade, and is a growing worldwide health problem associated with substantial health care costs and significant morbidity and mortality.
Mary Beth has also been the clinical director responsible for overseeing the clinical activities including interacting with study sites and performing ongoing medical monitoring.
“Clinical research is a long and challenging process. It can take years to complete trial enrollment followed by multiple years until product approval, but it is well worth the effort.”
“When I joined Merck, someone told me that this is an 'academic company,' meaning people are very dedicated to quality work and want things to be absolutely perfect. I like that. I wouldn't enjoy working for a company that lacked a commitment to scientific excellence.”
– Amanda Paschke
“I get to interact with people across the world and collaborate with innovative scientists from different disciplines. It's fun to work on complex problems with people who are deeply committed to the infectious diseases field.”
– Mary Beth Dorr