New Pfizer CEO's top priorities? Think China and pipeline, not deals: analyst

Pfizer
"Ian's vision is my vision," incoming Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said of current chief Ian read. (Pfizer)

Wondering how much incoming Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is going to shake things up at the drugmaker? Not much, apparently. “Ian’s vision is my vision,” Bourla said of predecessor Ian Read at an analyst lunch where he sketched out his plans.

Investors should “expect a smooth transition," Credit Suisse's Vamil Divan wrote in an investor note after the gathering.

RELATED: Will new Pfizer CEO Bourla get back on the megadeal train?

That sentiment may not surprise Pfizer-watchers, considering Bourla is already on Read’s executive leadership team. But the succession announcement this fall touched off a wave of speculation about whether Bourla shared Read’s current conception of Pfizer—as a company propelled by its own pipeline—or his penchant for megadeals, well-documented in recent years.

"We think Bourla could be more aggressive when it comes to large-scale M&A appetite given the company’s need to generate growth beyond 2020,” Barclays analyst Geoff Meacham wrote to clients earlier this year.

For now, though, Bourla thinks Pfizer has plenty of opportunities to succeed on its own. In Asia, for instance.

“The opportunity for Pfizer in China in particular was raised multiple times during the lunch given volumes that are growing ‘exponentially’ and with that market now Pfizer's second largest behind the U.S.,” Divan wrote.

RELATED: Pfizer's tafamidis score still leaves 'door open' for Alnylam rival: analysts

Bourla also touted a pair of key pipeline prospects that could move the needle in 2019: anti-inflammatory product tanezumab and tafamidis, a treatment for polyneuropathy. The company will be plowing more money into R&D to help get those drugs and others through the clinic, shifting spending away from SG&A as it prepares for Lyrica's fall off the patent cliff.  

But it’s those same prospects that could put a damper on dealmaking activity, Divan noted. After all, big deals are distracting.

Pfizer will “continue to analyze various business development opportunities as they arise, but feel they have a unique window of opportunity to properly launch some of their upcoming products and do not want to risk that with the additional operational disruption a large deal might cause,” he wrote.

Suggested Articles

The FDA has granted Amarin's Vascepa a possible blockbuster label expansion for CV risk reduction in patients with or without CV disease.

In a high-stakes patent lawsuit between CAR-T companies Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead Sciences, BMS has come up with a victory. 

It’s been a year of ups and downs for Pfizer’s Xeljanz. But the company is hoping to close on a high note, with help from a new extended-release pill.