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GlaxoSmithKline poaches Pfizer’s vaccine chief after Covid jab failure

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GlaxoSmithKline headquarters vaccines Pfizer
GlaxoSmithKline headquarters vaccines Pfizer

GlaxoSmithKline is poaching Pfizer's vaccine guru after failing to produce its own Covid jab following a series of setbacks earlier in the pandemic.

GSK said Phil Dormitzer will join as its global head of vaccines research and development this Friday. He will be based in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mr Dormitzer has played a key role during the pandemic as Pfizer's vice-president and chief scientific officer of RNA and viral vaccines.

He headed up the team that developed Pfizer’s Covid jab in conjunction with Germany’s BioNTech.

That vaccine is one of the most widely used globally and accounts for about half of the doses administered in Britain.

Hal Barron, GSK’s chief scientific officer, said Mr Dormitzer's appointment would be key to ensuring the company remains a leader in this field.

"The importance of vaccines has never been clearer, and the pace of technological innovation has rarely been greater," he said.

GSK is still awaiting the final data from its Covid jab trials but it is expected imminently.

The FTSE 100 company first started developing a jab with French partner Sanofi in April 2020. It had been expected to be among the first wave of vaccines but faced a series of setbacks that included dosing errors in early trials.

That left GSK, one of the world’s top vaccine makers, still without a Covid jab on the market.

Meanwhile, the UK’s other major pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which was previously a far smaller player in the sector, has produced 2bn doses of its jab.

GSK is bulking up its scientific teams ahead of a split next year that will separate its consumer health division to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

The move comes amid pressure from activist investors over what they argue is a lack of scientific expertise on the GSK leadership team.

Dame Emma Walmsley, the chief executive, has previously worked more in consumer healthcare with roles at L'Oreal and Diageo.

Last year, when questioned over the backlash from Elliott Advisors, Dame Emma said: "I am not a scientist, I am a business leader. The chief executive should be held accountable for results."

GSK said Mr Dormitzer had also been responsible for overseeing Pfizer’s RNA-based flu vaccine candidate, which the company is also developing with BioNTech.

GSK shares rose 0.6pc to £15.34 in afternoon trading, valuing the company at £77bn. AstraZeneca is worth £128bn.

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