Pfizer's chief scientist Mikael Dolsten to step down

Pfizer worldwide research and development president Mikael Dolsten leaves after appearing at a commons science committee hearing at Portcullis House in London

(Reuters) -Pfizer said on Tuesday Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten, a key figure behind the development of its COVID-19 vaccine, would step down after a more than 15-year career at the drugmaker.

Dolsten, aged 65, served as the head of Pfizer's research and development after he joined the company through its $68 billion acquisition of Wyeth in 2009. He became the company's chief scientist in 2010.

During his tenure, Comirnaty — jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech — became the first COVID vaccine to get an approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2021, just 13 months after its trial began, in a record time to approval for any shot or therapeutic.

Pfizer also developed and launched multi-billion dollar products such as heart disease drug Vyndaqel and blood thinner Eliquis, after the company struggled to remain competitive with other drugmakers.

"After more than 15 years as the architect of Pfizer's exceptional scientific and research and development resurgence, Mikael and I recently discussed starting the process to look for his successor," said CEO Albert Bourla.

The company said its process to identify a successor is expected to last several months.

A new chief scientist would come at a time when billions of dollars in COVID vaccine and treatment sales have disappeared as pandemic worries ease.

The steep drop in COVID product sales had also forced Pfizer to launch a program to reduce expenses by about $1.5 billion by the end of 2027, adding on to a $4 billion cost-cutting plan it announced last year.

(Reporting by Christy Santhosh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar)