Xconomist of the Week: Pfizer’s Barbara Dalton to Speak at Our NY Life Sciences 2031 Forum

9/29/11Follow @arleneweintraub

As Pfizer’s vice president of venture capital, Barbara Dalton will bring two valuable perspectives to Xconomy’s Life Sciences 2031 panel discussion on October 13: that of a VC and that of a pharma executive. Dalton, who was trained in immunology and virology at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, began her career as a research scientist at SmithKline (now GlaxoSmithKline). While there, she was a founding member of EuclidSR Partners, a private New York-based VC firm where SmithKline was a leading limited partner.

Dalton joined Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) at the end of 2007, a few years after the drug giant started up a venture capital unit. At first, Pfizer’s fund was housed in its finance department, and most of its investments were in technologies and services that supported Pfizer’s already-marketed products. Then Pfizer moved the venture group into the worldwide business development organization, and gave it a mandate to invest in ways that support all of Pfizer’s pursuits—not just its marketed products.

Today, Pfizer devotes a $50-million-a-year budget to investing across a wide range of areas, including healthcare IT, health services, and medical devices. About one-third (32 percent) of the portfolio is invested in drug development, while one-fourth (24 percent) is in companies developing diagnostic and imaging products. Healthcare IT is also a big focus: 12 percent of Pfizer’s venture funds are supporting startups in that area.

Xconomy chatted recently with Dalton about Pfizer’s venture investments, and what she hopes comes out of the discussion at Xconomy’s Life Sciences 2031 event.

Xconomy: What’s the reasoning behind the diversity of Pfizer’s portfolio?
Barbara Dalton: They are all products and technologies that in some way or another support our future. Pfizer is a large organization with a diverse set of businesses, from nutritionals to animal health, to consumer brands, vaccines, biologics, and small molecules. I believe the venture capital group should mirror those businesses.

X: How does healthcare IT fit into that mission?
BD: Healthcare IT relates to all of our businesses, because it can be defined quite broadly. There are technologies that, for example, our sales force may use. There are technologies we may use to monitor clinical trials, monitor patients, track a drug product, or manage manufacturing processes. So healthcare IT in its broader definition—and I include pharmaceutical business IT—is part of that.

X: I imagine part of the mission is also to invest in early-stage drugs that Pfizer may someday be interested in developing. How much does that play into investing decisions?
BD: These are investments that are purely investments. We are ahead of the corporation in terms of their [research] interests. We like products that have been demonstrated in humans, but we may invest in a novel product a couple of years ahead of when the corporation would be interested in it. We look for opportunities in the five or six therapeutic areas that Pfizer is working in these days. But we’re also opportunistic, because … Next Page »

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