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Reid Leonard

BA ’80, Biology and Psychology, Brandeis University
PhD ’85, Biological Sciences, Purdue University

"I had the privilege, as a Purdue graduate student in Biological Sciences, to work with outstanding mentors who instilled a fundamental respect for the integrity of the scientific method."

Reid Leonard had an eventful pursuit of a PhD at Purdue. He not only got to see the activity of an individual protein in real-time, a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor expressed on an embryonic frog muscle, he also proposed to his future wife, Debbie, a fellow bio researcher in the lab upstairs. It’s the classic science love story.

After Purdue, Leonard found a home at Merck Research Laboratories, first as a scientist seeking to exploit newly emerging molecular insights on ion channel structure and function to discover new therapies, then as a developer for Merck’s licensing office, where he helped expand acquisition of external opportunities to complement the company’s internal research efforts, eventually rising to the level of executive director.

After a long and successful career with Merck, which included helping establish Merck’s new Boston location, Leonard retired but instead of starting up golf, he established a start-up -- Potenza Therapeutics. The biotech company strives to discover and develop new immuno-therapies to treat cancer. Leonard has since co-founded three additional startups in the same area while continuing to serve as head of corporate development for Potenza.

When he is not forming companies that help save lives, Leonard serves as a search and rescue and disaster response mission pilot for the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.


  • 2014 - Retired from a 25-year career with Merck & Co., Inc., to help build Potenza Therapeutics, a startup biotech company
  • 2011 - Helped establish and serve as first managing director of Merck Research Venture Fund
  • 2005 - Relocated to Merck’s newly opened research site in Boston
  • 1998 - Transitioned from laboratory research into business development and licensing for Merck Research Labs
  • 1989 - Hired at Merck Research Laboratories in New Jersey

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