Pfizer has launched a new independent biotech centre and announced five new senior appointments - not least a new head of R&D - all geared towards reinvigorating the firm.
Moving up from vice president, Dr Martin Mackay has been named as president of Pfizer Global Research and Development (PGRD), and has been tasked with raising productivity, increasing collaborations, expanding the firm's biopharma pipeline and, of course, squeezing the most value out of its existing pipeline. Helping him out will be a new head of clinical development, Dr Briggs Morrison.
As well as a MacKay and Morrison, Pfizer has also poached Dr Tanya Clemons from Microsoft to be its new Chief Talent Officer. She will join the company in November to help head up the human resources department. In her new role, she will have responsibility for "enterprise-wide organisation development, talent and learning strategies and play a critical role in shaping the new culture."
This rash of appointments is the final stage of a huge restructuring programme the firm has undertaken this year, although Mackay acknowledged that this all-at-once approach wasn't the best way to implement change and had only used because of necessity.
"We will move from periodic restructurings to a much more systematic approach of continuous improvement," he said.
According to a report in TheDay.com, Pfizer has also named Nat Ricciardi president of Pfizer global manufacturing, as part of this 'continuous improvement' drive.
According to the report, Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler sent a memo to employees that said: "No single change at Pfizer - or even a single period of change - can keep us competitive...It's now time to make a broad commitment to continuous improvement."
Pfizer currently has 47 drugs in Phase II development and one of Mackay's first jobs is to get them into final stage trials. He said he is hoping that, next year, Pfizer will begin the largest number of new Phase III trials in the firm's history.
The appointment of a new R&D chief could also see a shift in Pfizer's focus.
"Given the critical need to deliver new and valuable products from our pipeline as fast as possible, I will immediately embark on a systematic review of all of our R&D investments to ensure that we prioritize allocation of funds to our most promising programs," said Mackay.
This process could also see a new wave of "acquisitions, licensing and development, joint venture and alliances and other collaborative agreements.", news that will have smaller pharma and biotech firms clambering over each other in the rush to get to a phone.
One of the areas that the pharma giant is looking to expand is biopharmaceuticals. It currently has 25 preclinical and clinical programs in its development pipeline.
Pfizer's biotech baby
In February, Kindler described how he wanted to bring the entrepreneurial spirit of a small biotech company to the huge structure of Pfizer. Clearly this is easier said than done although Kindler appears to have meant it more literally than most observers thought; Pfizer has this week launched an independent, stand-alone biotherapeutics and bioinnovation centre under the direction of Dr Corey Goodman, who co-founded Exelixis and Renovis.
"[The] centre has a unique structure to discover, license and acquire more new product candidates that we can put into development," said Kindler.
"With this strategy, we are leveraging Pfizer's excellence in drug discovery and development by complementing it with a distinct, California-based enterprise led by world-class scientists charged with discovering and bringing in new compounds," he added.
The centre is able to pursue its own research interests, free to establish its own distinct culture, and recruit whoever its own scientists.
"However, what makes this model unique is the ability of the Center to leverage all of the vast strengths of PGRD, for example, gaining access to high-throughput screening and pharmaceutical science capabilities, exchanging knowledge and tools, working closely with PGRD's biotherapeutics teams, and handing off new drug candidates to PGRD for late-stage clinical development," said Goodman.
It is certainly an innovative business model within big pharma, although whether or not the centre proves to be a bundle of joy or just a screaming infant remains to be seen.