In this conversation, Sally Susman, executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer at Pfizer, gives us insight into what it has been like to work at Pfizer — a company center stage in a global pandemic — developing, manufacturing, and rolling out the first vaccine approved by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization in the United States in record time, balancing speed and urgency with scientific rigor and patient safety. Susman discusses how “breakthroughs beget breakthroughs” and how the last year has led to innovations in process (in drug development) and partnerships (with other companies and governments). We discuss the critical importance of trust — in science and in the biopharmaceutical industry more broadly — and how historic and current investments in health equity and access, in the United States and around the world, are essential. We also explore Pfizer’s role as a global and local citizen, including the company’s commitment to remain headquartered in New York City, and to rebuilding the city it has called home since its founding in 1849. We end with a discussion of Pfizer’s corporate values — courage, excellence, equity, and joy — and in particular the joy that has come from millions of people being vaccinated.
This episode was recorded on February 12, 2021. Therefore a few statements, such as Johnson & Johnson’s application to the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization, may be outdated.
Mentioned in this episode:
- A Valentine to New York City, Sally Susman (February 14, 2021)
- UNICEF signs supply agreement for Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Unicef (February 11, 2021)
- Pfizer expects to cut COVID-19 vaccine production time by close to 50% as production ramps up, efficiencies increase, USA Today (February 7, 2021)
- COVAX announces new agreement, plans for first deliveries, WHO (January 22, 2021)
- WHO issues its first emergency use validation for a COVID-19 vaccine and emphasizes need for equitable global access, WHO (December 31, 2020)
- Why Pfizer says it pushed for transparency and diversity in vaccine development process, Marketplace (November 9, 2020)
About Sally Susman
As executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer, Sally Susman leads engagement with all of Pfizer’s external stakeholders overseeing global policy, communications, government relations, corporate responsibility, investor relations, and the Chief Patient Office. She also serves as vice chair of the Pfizer Foundation. Before joining Pfizer in 2007, Susman held several senior communications and government relations roles at Estée Lauder Companies and the American Express Company, including a posting in London with responsibility for all of Europe. Earlier in her career, she spent eight years on Capitol Hill focused on international trade issues and was deputy assistant secretary for legislative affairs in the Clinton Administration. Currently, Susman serves as co-chair of the International Rescue Committee, one of the world's largest humanitarian aid organizations, and on the board of WPP, the UK-based global advertising and marketing company. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is a frequent commentator in newspapers, magazines, podcasts, and broadcast programs and was named a 2019 Top Voice on LinkedIn. Susman graduated from Connecticut College with a BA in government and studied at the London School of Economics.
About the Capital for Good Podcast
Presented by the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, and hosted by Georgia Levenson Keohane, seasoned executive, award winning author, and an adjunct professor of social enterprise at Columbia Business School, the Capital for Good podcast provides a chance to hear from corporate and civic leaders about their visions, plans, commitments, and on the ground efforts to build a more just, inclusive, and sustainable society. Each episode features in depth and candid conversations with leaders across the private, nonprofit, and public sectors on unpacking solutions to some of our most urgent challenges. Learn more at bit.ly/KforGood.