The importance of external partnerships
“While our internal R&D engine is producing high-quality programs, the external biopharma enterprise is substantial and there’s plenty of innovative science being pursued,” he said.
“We’re always looking for the best science. We’re looking for high quality in programs. We’re looking for the most promising opportunities to find programs that have the potential to impact substantial patient populations, and to complement, again, our internal efforts,” with different approaches and new technologies.
Workplace and culture in the era of COVID-19
It’s not feasible to stay on top of all the science, so Dr. Settleman relies heavily on the leadership team to ensure they’re pursuing the best possible science—“while also recognizing that we can’t do everything.” Sometimes, you have to make difficult decisions when you prioritize resources.
R&D continues, even though COVID-19 is far from over, he added.
“These are interesting and challenging times for us, and it is especially important that we stay connected with each other.” In-person, daily interactions with colleagues are important, but it’s possible to maintain engagement and connectivity, with things like virtual meetings and town halls, video updates on the science, and twice-weekly virtual coffee chats with small groups of colleagues. Pfizer also has an internal website to post comments, photos, and videos to share experiences and tips, like working remotely or online educational tools for employees’ kids.
“We’re actually now connecting with each other in ways that are more personal,” which is somewhat of a silver lining.
The importance of mentorship
Mentorship is extremely important, especially in the biopharma industry, he said.
“We frequently fail, even with lots of really smart scientists working very hard on these problems because biology is extremely complex and still relatively poorly understood. In mentoring my colleagues, I emphasize the importance of scientific rigor and good decision making to improve our chances of success.”
“If we don’t keep the bar for rigor as high as possible our task becomes even more difficult.” And part of this includes knowing when to terminate projects, he said.
How do small biotechs know if they’re ready for Pfizer?
Good scientific thinking, strong execution, and substantial quality “is what it’s all about,” he said.
“We certainly recognize it when we see it.”
– Samantha Sault and Andrew Segerman