Who is Albert Bourla? Albert Bourla (Greek: Άλμπερτ Μπουρλά) is a 59-year-old business executive and veterinarian who serves as the president and CEO of the American pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer. Originally from Greece, he joined the company in 1993 and has held several executive roles across Pfizer’s divisions, including Zoetis (was known as Animal Health), the Vaccines, Oncology and Consumer Healthcare business, and Pfizer Innovative Health.
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Prior to his promotion to CEO, Bourla served as chief operating officer. In addition to the boards of Pfizer and the Pfizer Foundation, he served on the boards of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Catalyst, Partnership for New York City, and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Bourla is also a member of The Business Council and the Business Roundtable.
Bourla was born on October 21, 1961 in Thessaloniki, Greece and was raised there. He was born into a Jewish family. He obtained his doctorate in reproductive biotechnology from the Veterinary School of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He left Greece with his wife when he was 34 and has since lived in seven different cities in four different countries. Dr. Bourla maintains a house in Chalkidiki.
Bourla joined Pfizer in 1993, first serving as a physician in veterinary medicine and technical director of the company’s animal health division in Greece. He held various executive positions at Zoetis (then known as Animal Health) and other divisions of Pfizer. He served as area president for the Animal Health division in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East during 2005–2009, followed by the Europe, Africa, and Asia Pacific division during 2009–2010. In the latter role, he managed the merger of Wyeth’s Fort Dodge Animal Health business with Pfizer in these regions.
Bourla served as president and general manager of Pfizer’s Established Products Business Unit during 2010–2013. According to The Financial, in this role “he advanced the company’s efforts to build a strong post-patent business, leading efforts that maximized the life cycle of major brands after the loss of exclusivity.” He later served as president of Pfizer’s vaccines, oncology and consumer health group, where he led Pfizer’s work on cancer and heart drugs, among others, and helped launch the drugs Eliquis and Ibrance, an anticoagulant and breast cancer treatment drug, respectively.
Bourla served as global head of vaccines before being promoted to group president of Pfizer Innovative Health on January 1, 2016. During its management, Innovative Health’s revenue increased eleven percent in 2016. Bourla became Pfizer’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) on January 1, 2018, overseeing the company’s development, manufacturing, sales and drug strategy. He restructured Pfizer and dismembered the consumer health care business during his management as COO. He was promoted to the role of CHIEF Executive Officer (CEO) in October 2018, as of January 1, 2019, succeeding Ian Read.
Bourla was one of seven chief executives of pharmaceutical companies who attended a Senate Finance Committee hearing in February 2019 on prescription drug prices in the United States. In April 2019, he was awarded the award for “Preeminent Greek Leader” of the global pharmaceutical industry by Geoffrey R. Pyatt, as Ambassador of the United States to Greece, at the Prix Galien Greece awards ceremony. In January 2020, Bourla took over as additional executive chairman following Pfizer’s announcement in late 2019 that Read would retire from office after eight years.
In 2020, Bourla pushed for aggressive deadlines in Pfizer’s development of a possible COVID-19 vaccine. He determined that production of a potential vaccine would begin, at risk, pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), although expected in October 2020. In late July 2020, the company was among the top developers of a potential vaccine, in partnership with BioNTech, when they entered final stage testing with mRNA, BNT162b2.