Pfizer shuffles R&D leadership to prepare for Seagen merger

Pfizer is reorganizing its research leadership team, assigning additional duties to Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten, M.D., PhD., while bidding farewell to Chief Development Officer William Pao, M.D., PhD., who just took on the role in February 2022.

Pfizer is making these changes in preparation for integrating Seagen once the $43 billion merger closes, expected in late 2023 or early 2024. For now, the two companies are operating independently, and Seagen is being led by David Epstein.

“Pfizer believes the changes announced today will benefit the company in its current stand-alone structure, and also aligns with Pfizer’s vision for the potentially combined organizations,” according to a Thursday release.

The New York Big Pharma will elevate Chris Boshoff, M.D., Ph.D, to serve as chief oncology research and development officer. He previously oversaw clinical research and product development activities for Pfizer’s oncology portfolio, including 24 approved cancer therapies and biosimilars for more than 30 indications, Pfizer said. He also worked on Pfizer’s rare disease portfolio. Prior to that, Boshoff was director of the University College London Cancer Institute.

Boshoff will be in charge of integrating medicines from Seagen in his new role. The merger will bring in an antibody-drug conjugate oncology platform, which has plenty of competition from the likes of AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo.

“Pfizer strongly believes the transaction is pro-patient, pro-competitive, and pro-innovation in the battle to defeat cancer,” the company said.

Meanwhile, Dolsten—whose title also includes president, Pfizer Worldwide Research, Development and Medical—will expand his role to become chief scientific officer, president, Pfizer Research & Development. While he had previously been responsible for all discovery and early-phase clinical development, he will now also “lead an end-to-end model across all of Pfizer’s other therapeutic areas." That means vaccines, inflammation and immunology, internal medicine and infectious diseases as well as non-malignant hematology and rare neuromuscular diseases.

With all of these changes, Pfizer said that Pao will depart “to pursue new opportunities outside the company.” Pao was poached from Roche in February 2022 to lead drug development. 

“A highly capable and results-oriented leader, William always displayed high integrity and rigorous scientific standards in his work and made significant contributions to the Global Product Development (GPD) organization by bringing strong, data-driven decision-making that always put patients at the center,” the company said in a statement.