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Hank McKinnell Honored with 2007 Arbuckle Award

February 2007

STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS—He started out as a Stanford graduate in postwar Tokyo, served as a regional manager in pre-revolutionary Iran, and in 2001 became the leader of the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical company. But his greatest achievement as CEO of Pfizer, Hank McKinnell told guests at the dinner honoring him as the 2007 Arbuckle Award recipient, was simply "making sure that the company would live on."

It was no small feat said McKinnell, MBA '67, PhD '69, given that the threats to Pfizer were—and remain—very real. "Every one of the major medicines that Pfizer developed in the 1980s and began to market in the 1990s comes with a built-in expiration date," he said. At some point in the middle of this decade, patents will come to an end and other companies will enter the business arena with exact duplicates of Pfizer's medicines.

From the day he became CEO, McKinnell had to manage the cold hard reality that medicines worth $14 billion—a third of the company's total revenues—would go off patent between 2005 and 2008. "We could let the good times roll and keep sailing—or we could get ready for the storm by finding a bigger and better boat," he said. "My legacy, I hope, is that bigger boat."

McKinnell indeed turned Pfizer into something of a tanker, easing the company into new therapeutic areas, cancer research among them, and starting a new wave of success for Pfizer's R&D labs. Today, he reported, the company has a broad and growing pipeline of important new medicines—including potential breakthroughs for Alzheimer's cancer, infection, schizophrenia, and women's health. Nearly all of them went into development during McKinnell's tenure.

Such expansion, he said, hopefully will help the company weather the tough times expected when it loses exclusivity on Lipitor in 2011, among other coming challenges. "At its core, Pfizer has the people, resources, and pipeline to get to a new area of growth—and I hope that's part of my legacy," he told listeners.

McKinnell's next professional challenges include continuing his commitment to the Academic Alliance for Infectious Care and Prevention in Africa, an effort he entered into five years ago to change the face of HIV/ AIDS on that continent. Through his participation in this industry and academic group, McKinnell has guided the construction of a state-of-the-art teaching, research, and care clinic in Kampala, Uganda. The new establishment trains hundreds of medical professionals from all over the continent each year. "I believe AIDS is the moral crisis of our time, and I will continue my involvement," he stated.

Closer to home, he is tackling the U.S. education crisis and plans to serve as a leader for better corporate governance. He has already helped fund and create the Connecticut Science Center, which is promoting children's science learning. He has also been an outspoken critic of the risk-averse attitudes of many corporate boards with companies that are critical to the success of the U.S. economy. "Because it's so clearly linked with America's competitiveness, I want to spend part of my future driving positive change in corporate governance, and linking the actions of directors more clearly to the long-term interests of stakeholders," McKinnon concluded.

—Marguerite Rigoglioso