AstraZeneca Nabs Second Pfizer Executive in R&D Push

AstraZeneca Plc named Martin Mackay to lead research and development, hiring a Pfizer Inc. executive for the second time this year as the U.K. drugmaker seeks to replace revenue it’s losing to generic competitors.

Mackay, a native of Scotland, starts at AstraZeneca July 1, the company said in a statement today. He ran global research at New York-based Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, and had been overseeing the combination of Pfizer’s laboratories with those of Wyeth after Pfizer bought the company for $68 billion last year.

At AstraZeneca, he will be charged with helping Chief Executive Officer David Brennan meet his goal of introducing at least two new products annually. The London-based company faces threats from generic drugs to seven products by 2014, including three of its biggest sellers. The company said in January it needs $4 billion to $6 billion of revenue from new treatments to reach its 2014 sales target of $28 billion to $34 billion.

“It’s an organization that’s turning the corner so he’ll be beholden to Astra to get the drugs onto the market,” Gbola Amusa, an analyst at UBS AG, said in a telephone interview. “If it were me I would be more willing to come to a company with interesting assets than non-interesting assets, so this looks like a positive” endorsement of AstraZeneca’s pipeline, he said.

Executive Team

Mackay will report to Brennan and will be a member of the company’s senior executive team, AstraZeneca said. John Patterson, the former head of research, retired in early 2009 and Jan Lundberg, head of early-stage drug development, left for Eli Lilly & Co. last year. AstraZeneca in March hired Pfizer’s Menelas Pangalos to replace Lundberg.

Brennan has said as many as five new products may reach the market this year including the Brilinta anti-clotting agent and Vimivo for pain. The company’s promising experimental projects include dapagliflozin for diabetes and olaparib, which belongs to an emerging new class of cancer treatments, according to Amusa, the UBS analyst, who recommends buying the shares.

Mackay, who was named Pfizer’s head of research almost three years ago, shared the role with Mikael Dolsten, the former head of research at Wyeth, following the acquisition. Mackay oversaw pharmaceutical research and Dolsten was in charge of biotechnology. Dolsten will replace Mackay, Pfizer said in a separate statement.

Pfizer has had research setbacks in the past year, with its experimental Alzheimer’s drug Dimebon and its cancer treatments Sutent and figitumumab failing to provide a benefit in studies. Pfizer’s research labs haven’t generated enough new products to overcome the $11 billion in revenue the company will start losing when generic copies of its top-selling Lipitor cholesterol pill come on the market next year.

“Pfizer’s R&D hasn’t lit the world on fire and whether that is the fault of Mackay or not is up to debate,” said Les Funtleyder, an analyst with Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. His departure “isn’t a surprise because there has been a lack of progress at Pfizer and where there is a lack of progress people make changes.”

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