publication date: Jan. 8, 2021

Mace Rothenberg steps down as Pfizer CMO, replaced by Stanford’s Aida Habtezion

By Paul Goldberg

Mace Rothenberg has stepped down as chief medical officer at Pfizer. His successor is Aida Habtezion, a Stanford researcher whose work is focused on leukocyte recruitment and immune responses in diseases affecting the digestive organs. 

Rothenberg, who served as the Pfizer CMO for two years, announced his move on social media Jan. 4. “Today is my last day as Chief Medical Officer @pfizer. It has been an honor and privilege to serve in this role. I look forward to spending the next few months helping @aida_habtezion transition into the CMO role,” Rothenberg announced on Twitter.

“Aida is an extremely accomplished physician-scientist as well as an inspirational leader. I have every confidence in her continued success in this new role. Welcome to Pfizer.”

In an email, Rothenberg said he would stay at Pfizer through the end of March helping transition Habetzion into her role.

“The decision and timing was my choice, and planning has been underway since last summer,” Rothenberg said to The Cancer Letter. “I plan on staying involved in medicine, science, and drug development after my retirement from Pfizer, working with innovative pharma and biotech companies in an advisory or board capacity.”

Rothenberg, who was trained at NCI, spent 25 years in academic oncology before joining Pfizer 12 years ago.

Prior to becoming CMO, Rothenberg was senior vice president and head of clinical development & medical affairs in Pfizer’s newly created Oncology Business Unit from 2008 to 2016, and chief development officer for oncology from 2016 to 2018.

During that period, Rothenberg’s organization developed and obtained regulatory approval for 11 new cancer medicines, including Ibrance (palbociclib) the first CDK 4/6 inhibitor for patients with HR+/HER2- advanced breast cancer, and Xalkori (crizotinib) the first targeted medicine developed for patients with ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer.

Rothenberg is a member of the editorial board of the Cancer History Project,

Stanford’s website provides the following description of Habtezion’s work:

“The Habtezion lab aims to understand immune mechanisms and identify potential immune-based therapeutic targets for pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Researchers in the lab study leukocyte trafficking and immune responses pertaining to the intestinal tract in states of both health and disease.

“The lab demonstrated a beneficial role and mechanism for heme-oxygenase 1 (HO-1) and its downstream effectors in acute pancreatitis. In chronic pancreatitis the lab characterized macrophage-pancreas stellate cell crosstalk that contributes to disease progression and fibrosis. The significance of this crosstalk is further demonstrated by targeting macrophage polarization and function, as well as altering disease course in established experimental disease. The lab is currently working to elucidate targetable immune pathways that alter and/or reverse the course of disease progression.

“A second major project in the lab pertains to understanding immune responses in the intestine and in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Multiple projects on intestinal inflammation pertain to understanding the heterogeneity and immune profiles of IBD patients, host immune-microbiome interaction, immune-enteric nervous system interaction, as well as intestine-specific leukocyte recruitment and therapeutic targets using experimental models of inflammation.”

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