Pfizer CSO Mikael Dolsten to Step Down After 15 Years Driving R&D

Sign in front of Pfizer in Quebec, Canada

Pfizer’s signage outside its office in Canada

iStock, JHVEPhoto

The pharma giant announced Tuesday that Mikael Dolsten is leaving his role as chief science officer after more than 15 years. Pfizer is conducting an external search for a replacement with Dolsten staying on to assist in finding his replacement over next several months.

Pfizer announced Tuesday that Chief Science Officer Mikael Dolsten is stepping down after more than 15 years leading the pharma giant’s research and development efforts.

Dolsten joined Pfizer with the 2009 acquisition of Wyeth as president of worldwide R&D. He was integral in the development and approval of Pfizer’s history-making mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. The company brought more than 35 new drugs and vaccines to the market during his tenure, with over half coming from new molecular entity approvals.

“Leading research and development at Pfizer has been a journey of a lifetime. I look forward to working closely with Albert [Bourla, Pfizer’s CEO] to find a new leader who can build on our success and bring even more breakthroughs to patients in need,” Dolsten said in a statement.

Pfizer is conducting a search for an external candidate to replace Dolsten, a process the company said will take several months. Dolsten will stay on to assist in the transition process once a successor has been brought on, which Pfizer said will likely extend through early next year.

The New York-based pharma has adopted a cost-cutting strategyas sales of COVID-19 products have steadily declined. Last year, the company launched a cost-cutting initiative to generate $3.5 billion in savings through 2024, adding another $500 million to the goal in December after lowering its projected guidance. Dolsten was the second highest paid executive at Pfizer with $9.3 million in total compensation approved for 2024.

Also facing a looming patent cliff for multiple products, Pfizer has initiated several rounds of layoffs. The company recently cut 200 from its Kalamazoo, Michigan plant, 500 in Sandwich, U.K., 285 in New York and more.

While his future plans have not been formally shared, Dolsten said in a LinkedIn post regarding his departure that he hopes to “contribute to the next wave of breakthroughs in exciting, new ways, working with the next generation of scientific leaders who are pushing the boundaries of science.”

Kate Goodwin is a freelance life science writer based in Des Moines, Iowa. She can be reached at and on LinkedIn.