The first cover feature I ever wrote involving a Pfizer executive was published in our September 2011 issue. That exec was John Hubbard, Ph.D., who was then SVP and worldwide head of development operations at Pfizer. We had both arrived early to the main hall of a conference he would soon be keynoting, and I went up, introduced myself, and told him I was interested in involving him in some sort of future editorial. We exchanged business cards, and in weeks following the event found a mutually convenient time to conduct a phone interview. As we started our conversation at 3 o’clock that afternoon, I asked, “When’s our hard stop?” Hubbard informed me that he had kept his afternoon clear so I could get what I needed. His approach that my time was as valuable as his impressed me. Because though the majority of my interviews tend to be 60 minutes, Hubbard and I needed a little more time that day, and he was more than gracious in accommodating. But there were other things that impressed me about Hubbard. For example, he was extremely transparent in sharing what he had done, when, how, and why, and not in a way where he was overly managing the message or dispensing tired leadership clichés. Upon completing the article and providing Pfizer our customary 48-hour fact check, I anticipated encountering lots of bureaucracy. After all, Pfizer was one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, and it has been my experience that big companies tend to have excessive amounts of unnecessary red tape. But such was not the case, and perhaps that’s why the article turned out so great and remains one of my favorites. Hubbard and I worked so well together on that project that I invited him to join our editorial advisory board, a position he still holds, only now as an emeritus member.
This September, we once again have the pleasure of featuring another Pfizer executive on our cover. Mikael Dolsten, M.D., Ph.D., is Pfizer’s chief scientific officer and president, worldwide research, development and medical (WRDM). Unlike Hubbard, where we first connected in person and did the interview later over the phone, with Dolsten I connected with a member of the company’s PR team, as I saw Dolsten was to be on a panel at BIO and thought he’d be a good person to interview in person (if possible) considering all that’s been going on at the company. The PR person, too, appeared interested. We had a pre-interview planning call to fine-tune the topic, which consisted of me on the phone with at least three people from Pfizer, none being Dolsten. Eventually, we ended up planning a 40-minute interview that would take place at BIO. Suffice it to say, I was once again having doubts as to how things might go. Would he be overly coached? But when he stated early in our conversation, “I was surprised at the magnitude of the challenge faced by Pfizer at the end of 2009, particularly in R&D,” my fears were eased, as he transparently shared his experiences. We hope you enjoy Dolsten’s story of rebuilding Pfizer’s R&D competencies, along with all of the other content in this month’s issue.