Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Pfizer's Inside R&D Move: Are Investors Buying It?


Close on the heels of announcing the hiring of a Chief Talent Officer, Pfizer this morning named a new head of Global Research and Development to replace John LaMattina who had earlier said he'd be leaving the drug company. It was on LaMattina's watch that Pfizer's next potential breakout blockbuster drug, torcetrapib for cholesterol, failed in a late-stage clinical trial.

The stock took a tumble late last year and hasn't recovered since because investors don't see anything else in Pfizer's portfolio or pipeline that can replace it.


There'd apparently been a rumor floating around that a senior executive at a big biotech company was up for the Pfizer Global R & D job or, at least, may have been the company's top pick. But that person's name seems to pop up on everyone's short list for major pharma job openings these days. And a source close to the situation told me that exec wasn't interested.

So, the company is promoting from within. Pfizer is tapping its VP of Global R & D and Sr. VP of Worldwide Development, Dr. Martin Mackay (pronounced Muh-keye, not Muh-kay), to be President of Global R & D. In the press release, Pfizer Chairman and CEO Jeff Kindler is quoted as saying that Dr. Mackay will be charged with "increasing the value of our near-term pipeline and bringing new compounds forward to approval." And Kindler says Dr. Mackay will make changes so that "Pfizer delivers a steady stream of new medicines that represent compelling value to our customers and payers."

And even though it may not have gotten the biotech exec it was rumored to have coveted, Pfizer is simultaneously moving ahead with its biotech aspirations. The company is creating a "biotherapeutics and bioinnovation center". It'll be based in the Bay Area where there's a large biotech cluster anchored by Genentech. Kindler says that division will "discover, license and acquire more new product candidates that we can put into development."

That means look for Pfizer to use its huge cash hoard to do more deals. The unit will be run by Dr. Corey Goodman who co-founded biotechs Exelixis and Renovis . Finally, Pfizer hired someone away from Merck . Dr. Briggs Morrison who was Sr. VP of Research Planning and Integration at Merck Research Labs will be in charge of clinical development at PFE. Investors seem to like all of the moves, although the pharma sector is rallying in early trading today.

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