Pfizer made a tactical move on Tuesday to show that the company is planning to hold onto much of Wyeth’s talented pool of scientists upon the completion of the companies’ megamerger. In a press release, the Pfizer unveiled the first stages of its integration plan, which involves the creation of two distinct research groups led by the two companies’ R&D heads.
"Creating two distinct but complementary research organizations, led by the top scientist from each company, will provide sharper focus, less bureaucracy, and clearer accountability in drug discovery," Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler stated. "I am honored that world-class scientists like Drs. [Mikael] Dolsten, [Emilio] Emini, and [Menelas] Pangalos will be joining the outstanding scientists at Pfizer. As we continue our integration planning, I look forward to welcoming many more distinguished Wyeth scientists to our organization."
The move briefly silenced Pfizer critics who worried that Wyeth’s talent would get lost in the Pfizer machine—much like Walter-Lambert and Pharmacia when acquired by Pfizer.
“In the past, [Pfizer] did buy companies for one or two products,” said Pfizer spokesperson Ray Kerins. “In this case, we are looking at the overall depth and breadth Wyeth brings to bear in areas such as vaccines, consumer health, and nutritionals.”
The new operating structure will feature one R&D division with two very specific research groups below it. The Pharmatherapeutic Research Group will be led by Martin Mackay, current head of Pfizer’s research and development. Mikael Dolsten, currently president of Wyeth’s research team, will be in charge of the Biotherapeutics Research Group.
Along with the research restructuring, Pfizer announced that it will focus on specific therapeutic areas, including pain, Alzheimer’s, and oncology. Each area will have a chief scientific officer responsible for moving the research forward.
Giving Development a Chance
In January, Pfizer launched a new business unit structure that separated its commercialization teams into different groups based on category. It’s uncertain whether or not Pfizer was considering the Wyeth purchase when it implemented the restructuring plan. Either way, there don’t seem to be many growing pains.
A major part of the earlier plan was the movement of Pfizer’s development unit into its commercial units to help curb late-stage failures or having non-viable drugs go deep into in the development process before being shelved. “There was a very distinct rationale for that,” Kerins said. “You want to make sure that development has an earlier chance to look at what research is doing to make sure that there is a market for it, that the physicians are interested in it, and that it addresses unmet needs.”
Pfizer’s commercial units are now divided into two teams. The first team handles biopharmaceuticals, primary care, specialty care, emerging markets, oncology, and established products. This team is led by Ian Read, Pfizer’s president of worldwide pharmaceutical operations. The second team consists of Pfizer’s diversified businesses, including animal health, consumer health, nutritional health, and capsugel (capsule products and services). Cavan Redmond, Wyeth’s president of consumer healthcare, will run that group.
It’s unknown whether Pfizer will integrate Wyeth’s “Learn & Confirm” strategy of drug development, in which an experimental compound is not moved to Phase III until it has been tested rigorously in Phase II against a much larger group of patients. The goal of this program was to decrease failure rate of drugs that make it to the final phase. Unfortunately, Wyeth’s strategy never really had a chance to be tested.
As for the drugs that don’t clear the commercial team, Pfizer stated on Tuesday that if development does not want a molecule, the research division has the right to out-license it. An estimated 100 molecules are currently being reviewed for potential out-licensing deals.
“Today is the first time the public is getting a look at who will be the leaders in the new Pfizer,” Kerins said. “[Kindler’s] goal is that we hit the ground running on day one. It’s very important that the actual integration and startup time are as limited as humanly possible.”