Kindler's reign at Pfizer beset by R&D failures

The sudden departure of Jeff Kindler from the helm at Pfizer ($PFE) over the weekend immediately triggered a torrent of speculation over the cause of his surprising resignation. And the litany of R&D failures that has plagued Pfizer for years took center stage as the epitaphs were read out in the business press.

At Bloomberg, the focus was very much on Pfizer's nasty habit of clinical-stage pratfalls, including the recent decision to halt an apixaban trial, the failure of Sutent in two studies and, of course, the late-stage failure of the Alzheimer's drug Dimebon, which the pharma giant had licensed. Just after Kindler took charge a little more than four years ago, Pfizer also had to concede failure with torcetrapib, which had been intended to replace the blockbuster Lipitor when it loses patent protection next year.

But can Kindler's replacement, Ian Read (photo), an exec with a resume filled with overseas assignments, do any better? Healthcare analyst David Maris expects that one of Read's first duties will be to play catch-up in China, the world's top emerging market for the biopharma industry.

"They know they're behind in China, and want to do more," Maris told Bloomberg. "They know they want to do more in Brazil. China, Brazil and Latin America will be the highest priorities. Now, when they need to drill down and buy individual companies, they will have someone who is much more operationally focused, who can ask the right questions, someone who has been in the drug industry."

The Wall Street Journal notes Pfizer's 2008 fiasco with the inhaled insulin product Exubera. But it also notes that the big Wyeth merger netted Prevnar 13 as well as rizotinib and the tasocitinib, two promising pills for treating rheumatoid arthritis. And Pfizer's lead independent director endorsed the new CEO's product development strategy.

Read "has brought to product development a focus and commitment to advance only medicines that have clear value to our customers," Constance Horner said in a statement. "Today's business leaders need to understand global markets, drive change and innovation, and move quickly to adapt to competitive pressures. Ian's track record throughout his career has demonstrated these exact strengths."

- here's the Pfizer release
- see the Bloomberg report
- check out the story from the Wall Street Journal
- and here's the piece from TheDay