Pfizer hires Citi analyst Andrew Baum to manage portfolio strategy, business development

“Our next question will come from Andrew Baum with Citi.”

Pfizer’s fourth-quarter 2023 conference call was likely the last time we’ll hear that line during one of the company’s investor events. But it’s unlikely to be the last time we’ll hear from Baum, a doctor by training and a biopharma equity research veteran.

The Citi analyst has been appointed Pfizer’s chief strategy and innovation officer, effective June 3, Pfizer announced Monday. He most recently served as head of global healthcare and a managing director on Citi’s equity research team. Before his 13-year career with Citi, Baum covered European pharma companies at Morgan Stanley for 14 years.

In his new role, Baum will be responsible for Pfizer’s portfolio analysis and prioritization, partnerships and business development activities, and commercial evaluation of the drugmaker’s research pipeline, the company said.

Reporting directly to CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., Baum will also chair Pfizer’s portfolio management team, which is the firm’s governing body responsible for portfolio management and capital deployment. In other words, Baum will play a key role in deciding which Pfizer programs to cut, accelerate, expand, or partner up, and which fields the drugmaker will prioritize for investment.

Baum’s oversight will be critical as Pfizer, searching for post-pandemic growth, pivots under a $4 billion cost-cutting plan. Once flush with cash from COVID product sales, Pfizer made a series of acquisitions in recent years, including the $43 billion buyout of antibody-drug conjugate specialist Seagen last year and the $11.6 billion transaction for Biohaven’s CGRP migraine portfolio in 2022.

With those deals wrapped up, Pfizer’s top priority in terms of capital allocation will be issuing dividends and strengthening its balance sheet, Chief Financial Officer Dave Denton said on the company’s first-quarter earnings call last week.

“As it relates to bolt-on acquisitions, in the near term, you would not expect us to do much there,” Denton said.

Baum has been covering Pfizer for more than a decade, although he was notably absent from the company’s investor call last week. One of Baum’s questions raised during Pfizer’s fourth-quarter call in January was addressed to Aamir Malik, who Baum is now succeeding.

In December, Malik transitioned to a new role as chief U.S. commercial officer as part of a reorganization. Angela Hwang, who led Pfizer’s commercialization activities through the pandemic period, departed, and her responsibilities were divided by Malik and Alexandre de Germay, who rejoined Pfizer as chief international commercial officer.

In response to Baum’s question on the call, Malik said his focus in his new position would be to “defend and grow” some of Pfizer’s legacy strongholds such as Bristol Myers Squibb-partnered blood thinner Eliquis and the pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar. For products that are being launched in highly competitive categories against well-entrenched competitors, Malik said the focus will be on “blocking and tackling, including contracting.”

As of early March, Baum reportedly maintained a neutral “hold” rating on Pfizer’s stock after weighing various dynamics in the pharma giant’s oncology department following an investor event dedicated to oncology in February. He acknowledged the competitiveness of Pfizer’s expanded oncology pipeline thanks to the Seagen medicines, as well as the company’s commitment and increased operational expenditures in the area. But he also pointed out the competition in the indications that Pfizer is targeting, as several major oncology players have also doubled down on antibody-drug conjugates.

“Dr. Baum has a rare profile that combines deep clinical and scientific knowledge with strong financial expertise in fields such as equity research, hedge funds, investment banking and shareholder value creation strategies. As a former experienced analyst who followed Pfizer for over a decade, he will bring fresh strategic insights into the company’s business and portfolio,” Bourla said in a statement Monday.

Baum holds a Master of Arts degree in physiological sciences and a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree from Oxford University. He also has a strong background in oncology and was the first analyst to report on the upcoming boom of cancer immunotherapy in 2011, according to Pfizer.

Baum’s Pfizer appointment draws comparison to Novartis’ 2022 hiring of longtime Sanford Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal in a similar role as the chief strategy and growth officer of the Swiss pharma. Gal is responsible for leading Novartis’ corporate strategy, R&D portfolio optimization and business development.

At that time, Novartis was also undergoing a major overhaul. The company was combining its oncology and biopharma organizations and started to divide its business by U.S. and international regions. About two months after Gal joined, Novartis unveiled a “U.S.-first” approach, giving the U.S. market the highest priority in the drugmaker’s decision-making along the entire R&D and commercialization chain.