Roche research chief heads to Pfizer

Roche’s former R&D director William Pao is joining Pfizer, the company announced this week. He will serve as their new chief development officer and executive vice president, replacing Pfizer veteran Rod MacKenzie.      

Pao will join Pfizer starting in March, after eight years at Roche where he oversaw the discovery and development of a portfolio of new molecular entities to treat diseases. Johannes Clevers will be taking over, stepping away from his current role on the board of directors where he has served since 2019.  

MacKenzie, who was at Pfizer for 35 years leaves behind a legacy of developing the first U.S. FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine among other things and is expected to stay on until the transition is complete.  

“My sincerest gratitude goes to [Pao] for all that he has contributed to Roche and for patients. I wish him only continued success for the future,” said Severin Schwan, CEO of Roche.

Before joining Roche, Pao served simultaneously as a professor of medicine and director of the division of hematology/oncology at Vanderbilt University and as the director of personalized cancer medicine at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. He was also an author on the first paper to describe osimertinib, a new medication used to treat lung cancers. 

Pao will lead Pfizer’s global product development organization, which is responsible for the development and advancement of Pfizer’s pipeline of clinical medicines and marketed therapies.