• Morihiro Watanabe
  • Head
  • Merck Serono

Curriculum Vitae


Graduated Yamagata University School of Medicine, Japan in 1985, Dr. Watanabe a urologist by training.
While performing medical practice more than 10 years, he conducted genetic analysis of prostate cancer such as androgen receptor or HER2/neu, which is his dissertation of medical science in Yamagata University.

Professional Experience

From 1995, his cancer research was extended to cancer immunotherapy and anti-angiogenic field in National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health Maryland, USA, initially as a postdoctoral fellow and eventually as a staff scientist.
In 2007, he joined Eli Lilly global product safety in Japan.
From 2010, he joined the Clinical Development Center Merck Serono Japan and have been engaged in clinical development mainly in oncology field. From 2013, he is heading the Clinical Development Center.

Research Interests

Clinical Development in oncology

Honors & Awards



Innovative Immune-oncology pipelines update

The recent approvals of cancer immunotherapy in various cancer types clearly illustrates the new treatment paradigm for cancer. This is particularly the case of immune check point inhibitors such as anti-PD-L1/ PD-1 antibodies. Merck is driving the immunotherapeutic approach very early on. Our in-house discovered anti-PD-L1 antibody, avelumab, was granted for approval in the US, EU and in Japan for the treatment of unresectable merckel cell carcinoma and locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma following disease progression. The efficacy and safety of avelumab are currently being investigated for multiple other cancer types. In addition, a dual inhibitor, M7824 which blocks PD-L1 and TGF-beta is also under clinical development and shows early signs of efficacy. Overview of our innovative I/O pipelines will be presented.