Michelle Rogers

WCC Rising Star Dr. Michelle Machacek

Blog Post created by Michelle Rogers on Aug 18, 2018


Michelle Machacek photo.jpg

By Ann Weber


Rising Star Dr. Michelle Machacek acknowledges that not only does it “take a village” to put smiles on children’s faces, hers included, it also takes a village to do drug discovery.  Dr. Machacek, who received her undergraduate degree in chemistry and chemical engineering from MIT and her PhD in organic chemistry from Stanford, should know.  She is currently Director of Medicinal Chemistry at Merck and co-inventor of 28 patents covering potential therapeutic agents.  Michelle credits her mother, an experimental astrophysicist, with encouraging her to pursue a career in science by teaching her the importance of doing something she loved.  From her mother she also learned that nurturing relationships was central to success, something she has effectively applied in the highly collaborative environment at Merck.  Michelle’s research has focused on the identification of inhibitors of the enzyme spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) for the treatment of asthma.  Starting with an oral SYK inhibitor, Michelle and her team designed molecules with the requisite properties to enable inhaled delivery.  Their strategy to reduce systemic exposure was expected to give fewer side-effects, resulting in a safer drug.  This work culminated in the invention of MK-8351, which advanced into clinical development.  Michelle thanked her team, her village, recognizing that they did better science because of the way they worked together.  She also stressed the importance of mentoring and championing your colleagues to help them discover and display their true potential.  She recognized the role mentors played in her career development and the importance of giving back.  “Having a strong network supports you,” she concluded, “and is a powerful tool you can use to support others.”