Nancy Thornberry

Nancy Thornberry is the CEO of Kallyope, a biotech company focusing on therapeutic potential of the gut-brain axis.  She is also a board member for Schrodinger, Intarcia and Denali Therapeutics.   

Thornberry received her BS in Chemistry and Biology in 1979 from Muhlenberg College.  She then joined Merck Research Labs as a biochemist.  She held multiple positions while at Merck Research Labs, with increasing responsibilities, eventually becoming the Senior Vice President and Franchise Head, Diabetes and Endocrinology. 

Thornberry’s research focuses on metabolic and endocrinologic disorders, including diabetes, osteoporosis, fertility and contraception.  At Merck Research Labs, she started the DPP-4 program, which led to the identification of Januvia, a treatment for type 2 diabetes.  Thornberry and Dr. Ann Weber were awarded the Discoverers Award, the highest honor from PhRMA (Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America), in 2011.  This was the first time that the award was given to a team of solely women. 

Thornberry has been involved in scientific innovations and breakthroughs in multiple areas.  Some of these accomplishments include work with the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor for treatment of hypertension, the identification of the first caspase, interleukin-1B converting enzyme, as well as the discovery of ezetimibe, the active ingredient in ZETIA. 

In addition to her scientific discoveries, Thornberry has also served as a guest lecture at prestigious venues and chaired many scientific and medical session.  Thornberry has also received many awards, in addition to the Discoverers Award for Januvia, including the Merck Presidential Fellowship, Merck Directors Award, and the Heroes of Chemistry Award by the American Chemical Society.

Entry in collaboration with BEC (Bioscience Enterprise Club) at CSHL. Written by their member, Kelly Hills-Muckey


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Significant Papers

Thornberry, N., Bull, H., Calaycay, J. et al. A novel heterodimeric cysteine protease is required for interleukin-1βprocessing in monocytes. Nature 356, 768–774 (1992).

Bull HG, Thornberry NA, Cordes EH. Purification of angiotensin-converting enzyme from rabbit lung and human plasma by affinity chromatography. J Biol Chem. 1985 Mar 10;260(5):2963-72. PMID: 2982846.

Thornberry NA, Molineaux SM. Interleukin-1 beta converting enzyme: a novel cysteine protease required for IL-1 beta production and implicated in programmed cell death. Protein Sci. 1995 Jan;4(1):3-12. doi: 10.1002/pro.5560040102. PMID: 7773174; PMCID: PMC2142972.

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