Pfizer poaches Quest executive to spearhead digital, but the rest of Bourla's supporting cast looks familiar

Some new CEOs fill out their executive team roster over time as leaders from the previous regime make their exits. Not Pfizer’s.

On Tuesday, the New York pharma company unveiled the list of executives that will support incoming chief Albert Bourla when he takes the baton from retiring Ian Read on Jan. 1.

Many familiar faces will be on hand to ease the transition. CFO Frank D’Amelio and R&D head Mikael Dolsten, to name a couple, will continue in their roles and take on some new responsibilities, too, with D’Amelio assuming leadership for Pfizer’s manufacturing ops and Dolsten taking up oversight of the Chief Medical Officer position.

But Pfizer will introduce a couple new positions, too—ones meant to help it up its game when it comes to technology and business development—and it’ll fill one of them with a key new hire.

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The company, following in the footsteps of rivals including GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, has appointed a Chief Digital Officer who will be “responsible for creating and implementing a strategy that accelerates and improves our digital capabilities so we can deliver more value to patients.” Lidia Fonseca—who currently serves as Quest Diagnostics’ chief information officer—will be first to the post.

Elsewhere in the company, John Young—presently Pfizer’s president of Innovative Health—will assume responsibility for “strategy, business development, portfolio management and valuation activities; business analytics; global commercial operations; and Patient and Health Impact,” among other areas, Pfizer said. Meanwhile, the pharma giant’s consumer healthcare business—which it tried unsuccessfully to sell this year—will report to Young, too.

The way Bourla sees it, Read has set the company up with “clear potential to accelerate our revenue growth,” and his leadership picks have a “proven record of success, an unwavering commitment to the patients we serve, and a clear value creation initiative” that’ll help make that happen. “I look forward to working with these outstanding leaders to achieve the full potential of our pipeline and deliver our next stage of growth,” he said in a statement.

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Industry watchers have been speculating about how far Bourla would stray from the path Read has blazed over the last few years, and the exec announcement suggests the incoming skipper is pretty happy with the way things are. Some of them, though, hope to see a break with Read’s thinking when it comes to M&A.

"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. That said, absent the right deal, our concerns remain surrounding the company’s long-term growth profile and continued headwinds facing key franchises," Barclays analyst Geoff Meacham wrote in a recent note to clients.