After a 31-year pharma career, including the past eight at Wyeth, Ruffolo, 58, plans to leave later this year and he'll be replaced by Mikael Dohlsten, 49, an exec vp at Boehringer Ingelheim. The move comes after a stretch of disappointments for the drugmaker which, like most of its rivals, is struggling to develop drugs more quickly and win FDA approval.
Recently, Wyeth received the FDA's blessing to market the Pristiq antidepressant and the Relistor bowel drug. Until these approvals, however, the drugmaker ran into a series of setbacks that so infuriated outgoing chairman Bob Essner that he publicly chastised the FDA for being too cautious. Pristiq, for instance, has yet to win approval as a treatment for menopausal hot flashes.
In response, Wyeth has been laying off thousands of employees. Back in the lab, Ruffolo initiated programs to drastically step up the pace of discovery work to identify promising drugs in hopes of generating a growing number of compounds that would proceed quicker along the development path.
"Bob Ruffolo has been the driving force of our R&D progress, establishing Wyeth as one of the research leaders in the pharmaceutical industry. His legacy will be our pipeline, recognized as one of the industry's most innovative," says Bernard Poussot, Wyeth's ceo, in a statement. Poussot, by the way, was promoted to ceo just a few months ago.
Dohlsten earned his Ph.D. in tumor immunology and M.D. from the University of Lund in Sweden. He also studied virology and cell biology at the Weizmann Institute in Israel and has been appointed as Adjunct Professor in Immunology at the Medical Faculty in Lund.