Web Date: May 21, 2007
Pfizer's R&D Head Will Retire This Year
Heralding further reorganization, Pfizer says its president of research and development, John L. LaMattina, will retire by the end of the year, ending a 30-year career with the company.
LaMattina has been a fiery advocate for a strong research effort at the giant drug company, which currently maintains 249 drug development programs in a broad range of therapeutic areas.
The 57-year-old Ph.D. organic chemist is credited with expanding the company's work in oncology, vaccines, and biologics. LaMattina has also been a focus of criticism regarding the dearth of significant new drugs emanating from Pfizer's $7 billion annual research program at a time when patent expiration looms for major products, including Lipitor, the leading statin therapy for cholesterol, which is scheduled to go off patent in 2011.
Pfizer recently stopped development of its most promising candidate, torcetrapib, a drug that boosts levels of "good" cholesterol, after safety concerns surfaced in clinical trials. Jeffrey B. Kindler, who became Pfizer's CEO last year, says the firm will continue to invest in internal development but will place a heavy emphasis on acquiring drug candidates and technologies from outside the company.
In announcing LaMattina's impending departure, Kindler, a former McDonald's executive, pointed to strengths in the company's new drug pipeline. "The importance of the medicines in our pipeline is reflected by FDA granting priority review of three of our most recent discoveries: Sutent for cancer; Chantix for smoking cessation; and maraviroc, which, if approved, would be the first member of a new class of oral HIV medicines in more than a decade."
Martin MacKay, Pfizer's senior vice president of worldwide research and technology, is cited by industry watchers as a Pfizer insider on the short list of potential new R&D chiefs, but the company says it will also look outside its doors. LaMattina will remain in place during this process, according to Pfizer.
The company also announced last week that its chief financial officer, Alan G. Levin, has resigned "to pursue career opportunities outside Pfizer."
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