Meet Frank Clyburn, the black CEO who changed the face of cancer treatment in the U.S.

Stephen Nartey July 03, 2023
What market leaders found remarkable about Frank's work, was the impact he made when he changed the phase of cancer treatment globally. -- Photo credit; Frank Clyburn via LinkedIn

Only a handful of black professionals are retained at top executive positions despite years of advocacy for corporate diversity and inclusion. Today, market analysis shows that only 0.8 percent of black professionals occupy positions in Fortune 500 companies. In 2023, the number of black CEOS in Fortune 500 companies saw its highest gain with eight African Americans steering the affairs of these large corporations, according to Fortune.

Perhaps, boards are beginning to warm up to the idea that black CEOs perform better. After all, they often feel pressured to prove their merit; and research has shown that market capitalization witnesses positive signals for a corporation that newly appoints a black CEO compared to white ones, according to CNBC.

One outstanding African American CEO who has walked this evidence is Frank Clyburn, a former top Merck & Co. top executive who has moved to International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. His responsibility at his former portfolio included being accountable for 90 percent of Merk’s $48 billion business, according to Forbes.

He was recommended as one of the favorite candidates for the CEO role at Merck when Kenneth Frazier retired from the top position. However, what market leaders found remarkable, was the impact he made when he changed the phase of cancer treatment globally.

As the President of Human Health, he was instrumental in building the organization’s cancer drug business, deployed marketing strategies to scale up its adoption, and commercialized Merck’s drugs and vaccines. Over the 14-year period he worked at Merck, Frank transformed the corporation’s oncology business into a force to reckon with, making immunotherapy Keytruda a household brand in the circles of cancer treatment.

He shaped Merck’s global oncology business unit from 2013 to 2018, boosting its sales by making Keytruda a top seller. The drug is one of the most preferred medicines for the treatment of 18 types of cancers in the U.S. and raked in more than a third of the pharmaceutical company’s $35 billion revenue in the first nine months of 2021, according to BioPharma Drive.

Before moving to Merck, he was the Vice President of the oncology and internal medicine business units at Sanofi Aventis. One of his significant achievements at the French pharmaceutical and healthcare company was the role he played in the acquisition of Aventis for $65 billion in 2004.

Frank is expected to bring on his ability to transform the fortunes of large corporations after taking over the helm of affairs at Flavors & Fragrances Inc. Though black CEOs haven’t made the breakthrough diversity promoters have been campaigning for, his rise is considered a plus to efforts at diversifying the top brass of corporate America.

Part of his responsibilities at Flavors & Fragrances includes the supervision of the integration of DuPont de Nemours Inc.’s nutrition and biosciences business, which the company acquired recently. His early role as a board member of DuPont gives him a better position at playing his role at the corporation.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: July 3, 2023


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