Pfizer poaches Roche's pharma R&D leader to fill MacKenzie's shoes as chief development officer

Pfizer's new development leader is on the way from Roche. Replacing 35-year Pfizer veteran Rod MacKenzie, Ph.D., as chief development officer will be William Pao, M.D., Ph.D.

Currently the head of Roche's research and early development, Pao will step into MacKenzie's shoes as chief development officer and executive vice president on March 21, the New York Big Pharma said Tuesday. He departs Roche on March 18 and will be replaced by Hans Clevers, M.D., Ph.D., who will step down from the Swiss pharma's board to take on the role, the company said (PDF). 

Pao will have big shoes to fill as MacKenzie departs with one of the biggest legacies in recent pharma history: overseeing the group that brought COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty to market around the world. MacKenzie has been CDO since 2016, and he'll continue in the role until the Big Pharma crosses its t's and dots its i's in the leadership transition. 

The new CDO will lead Pfizer's global product development unit, which includes clinical work for investigational medicines and supporting regulatory work on marketed therapies. 

RELATED: Roche promotes Pao to replace departing pRED head Reed

Pao comes to Pfizer after a nearly eight-year career at Roche, where he began in 2014 as global head of the oncology discovery unit. He's been a professor of medicine and director of Vanderbilt University's division of hematology and oncology. He was also director of personalized cancer medicine at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 2:44 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday to include details of Pao's successor at Roche.