Pfizer CEO: How the Company Is Getting Medicine to Countries in Need

At the State of American Business 2022, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer Dr. Albert Bourla discussed how innovations made in the pursuit of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine have led to new advancements in health care.


Air Date: January 11, 2022

Moderator: Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, President and CEO, Biotechnology Innovation Organization

Featured Guests: Dr. Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO, Pfizer

At the U.S. Chamber's State of American Business 2022 event, chairman and CEO of Pfizer Dr. Albert Bourla sat down with Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, president and CEO of Biotechnology Innovation Organization, to discuss how innovations made in the pursuit of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine have led to new, broader advancements in health care.

"The life sciences sector stepped up to produce diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments," said Dr. Bourla. "It was not the WHO, not the CDC. It was the private sector that made a difference in our lives."

Dr. Bourla also covered pressing topics like the status of pharmaceutical treatments for those suffering from COVID-19, how Pfizer is sharing its intellectual property, and ongoing research at the company.

A few months ago, Pfizer announced the signing of a license agreement for its COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment with the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), a U.N.-backed public health organization working to increase access to lifesaving medicines.

The agreement enables MPP to facilitate the production and distribution of the drug (pending regulatory approval) to countries where treatment is most needed. During the chat, Dr. Bourla said that Pfizer is offering the drug royalty-free through the program.

"We gave our license of the Pfizer antiviral COVID-19 treatment to the patent pool organization royalty-free. It will license this to manufacturers interested in producing it, and we are waiving all our rights on intellectual property and will provide guidance," Dr. Bourla said. "Hundreds have applied, and soon we will select the ones that will receive the licenses. These licenses will cover 53% of the global population."

Competition Fuels Innovation and Solutions

Even during the latest wave of the Omicron variant, Pfizer is out with new innovations.

"Omicron surprised everyone with how quickly it transmits. But at the same time, we're coming out with a new innovation—the oral treatment against COVID-19, which could keep people out of hospitals," Dr. Bourla said.

Dr. Bourla and Dr. McMurry-Heath also discussed how collaboration and partnership between companies and research institutions in the life sciences sector help lead to new breakthroughs that benefit everyone.

"The new wave of innovation can only be supported if we support this ecosystem of thousands of small biotech companies that exist—particularly in this country—and academia and institutions like ours," Dr. Bourla said. "Our ability to collaborate and maintain a vibrant life sciences sector is what will make a big difference."

Dr. Boula wrapped up the conversation with some words of advice for businesses seeking to spark innovation at their own companies.

“People don’t know what they can and what they cannot do. And, if anything, they have a tendency to severely underestimate what they can do. Don’t let that misguide you,” he said. "Ask more from your people. Give them the resources, be behind them. But ask more from them, and you will be surprised how much more they can deliver."

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