Pfizer taps McKinsey veteran Malik as its new dealmaking czar

Pfizer has found a new top dealmaker to manage its rapidly growing war chest.

The company hired Aamir Malik from McKinsey & Company as its chief business innovation officer. He’ll succeed John Young, who's retiring in early 2022 after a 34-year career at Pfizer, as the drugmaker unveiled in July.

Malik’s new role, beginning Aug. 30, spans business development, portfolio management, pipeline prioritization and new business ventures plus innovative access programs with payers and governments.

Young is walking away with glorious dealmaking achievements after just a little less than three years in the job. Perhaps none is more important than the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine collaboration with BioNTech, which gives Pfizer a product with expected 2021 sales of $33.5 billion, according to its tally of supply contracts signed as of mid-July.

The COVID shot, branded as Comirnaty, has just become the first pandemic vaccine to graduate from an emergency use authorization to win a full FDA approval. Armed with positive antibody response data from a phase 3 trial, Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that they have launched a rolling submission seeking the FDA's blessing for a booster shot.

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Comirnaty's success infuses Pfizer with a lot of cash to do more deals. But as CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., has repeatedly emphasized, revenues from the vaccine don’t necessarily affect Pfizer’s strategic direction—and might not even help it pull off more M&A deals.

“Our strategy on capital allocation was not driven with how much capital we have; was driven with how much opportunity we have,” Bourla said during a conference call in May.

The chief executive has said that Pfizer is doing deals to shore up growth in the second part of the decade. Investors should expect to see many transactions around phase 2 and phase 3 assets, he added.

John Young (Pfizer)

Besides Comirnaty, Young was credited with Pfizer’s acquisition of antibiotics maker Arixa in 2020. Last year, he also struck up partnerships with Myovant Sciences on newly FDA-approved cancer drug Orgovyx, with CStone Pharmaceuticals on PD-L1 drug sugemalimab in China and with Valneva for rights to a Lyme disease vaccine candidate. Before that, he helped orchestrated the $11.4 billion buyout of cancer specialist Array BioPharma in 2019.

Young also oversaw the closing of two large-scale spinoffs that left Pfizer with a sole focus on innovative drugs.

Pfizer in 2019 wrapped up its consumer health merger with GlaxoSmithKline’s counterpart portfolio. GSK is now preparing to spin off that joint venture into a standalone company next year. In 2020, Pfizer shed its Upjohn established medicines franchise, which Young previously led, in a deal with Mylan to form Viatris. 

And just this week, in what will likely be the last deal done with Young in the dealmaker seat, was Pfizer's buyout of immuno-oncology biotech Trillium for $2.3 billion to bolster its cancer pipeline. Not a bad way to bow out.

In his chief business officer role, Young—and soon Malik—also leads a management committee that takes care of setting R&D priorities and strategies. Last year, the team’s work led to seven positive proof-of-concept readouts, endorsement of five pivotal study starts and prioritization of investments in six pivotal programs, according to a securities filing in March.

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In addition, market access also falls within the title’s purview, including ensuring all Pfizer phase 3 programs have value-based access solutions incorporated into their plans.

All those jobs will soon go to Malik, who’s currently McKinsey’s managing partner for U.S. operations. As Bourla noted in a Friday statement, Malik joins with 25 years of experience “developing innovative growth strategies, guiding mergers and acquisitions, and implementing high-impact programs” for life sciences companies.

Before his current role, Malik led the consulting firm’s global pharmaceuticals and medical products practice. He has advised “several of the most significant healthcare mergers and acquisitions of the past two decades,” according to McKinsey.