Pfizer Builds Hope for the US

Pfizer donated $40 million to fighting COVID-19 while working on a vaccine of its own

At the time of writing, the COVID-19 quarantine is still in full effect, with no real indication of when it might be over. On April 9, 2020, Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Mikael Dolsten told CNBC that the company had identified its lead drug to treat coronavirus and planned to fast-track its clinical trials. This move pushed them up from an end-of-year forecast to sometime in the third quarter. If Pfizer succeeds, the light at the end of the tunnel will be coming much sooner.

At the same time, Pfizer is also working on developing a COVID-19 vaccine in partnership with German firm BioNTech. Plans to enter human trials by the end of April still appear to be on track. If the vaccine is successful and approval is granted—no small feat—Dolsten hopes the company will be able to “supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020.” The original prediction was an eighteen-month timeline, but this new outlook—which nearly halves the previous estimate—has sent hope, along with stock prices, on the upswing.

“We are committed to making the impossible possible,” said Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert in a prepared statement. “We are facing this public health challenge head-on by collaborating with industry partners and academic institutions to develop potential novel approaches to prevent and treat COVID-19. Our researchers and scientists also have been exploring potential new uses of existing medicines in Pfizer’s portfolio to help infected patients globally. We are leaving no stone unturned as we explore every option to help provide society with a treatment or cure.”

Of course, making such a cure requires teamwork from every member of Pfizer’s organization, including Senior Vice President and Chief Litigation Counsel Sheila Brodbeck. Brodbeck has spent the past eleven years at Pfizer helping clear the way for the company’s drugs and therapies to make it to the marketplace. The lawyer joined Pfizer in 2009 as associate general counsel of civil litigation and has risen several times from there. Prior to Pfizer, Brodbeck spent more than a decade as a litigation associate at firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Brodbeck has acted on the advisory conference for Duke Law’s the Duke Conferences, bench-bar-academy conferences whose aim is to “effect practical improvements in the administration of justice on issues of relevance to the practicing bar.” Brodbeck has also served on panels including Thomson Reuters–sponsored A Forum on Enhancing Productivity and Project Management for In-House Counsel and an in-house panel hosted by the Lawyers for Civil Justice organization.

Moreover, the lawyer is an honor roll member of Probono Partnership, whose mission is “to provide free business and transactional legal services to nonprofit organizations serving the disadvantaged or enhancing the quality of life in neighborhoods in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.”

Pfizer has done its own share of philanthropy and partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same week the company revealed it had selected its prime drug to battle the virus, it announced $40 million in both cash and grants were being made available for medical and community needs in the US as well as around the globe.

The US donations will go to government public health organizations as well as nonprofit community health organizations. Grants will be awarded to community health clinics to ease the burden of healthcare workers involved in the pandemic response. Pfizer also announced a program that will allow employees with medical and lab expertise to volunteer with local healthcare systems.

With any luck, and with Pfizer’s full-court press of a response to the virus outbreak, a real and sustainable cure is on the way.


Global healthcare companies face many challenges: intellectual property disputes, changing regulation, and trade challenges, to name a few. Opportunities for growth exist in acquisitions, joint ventures, licensing, distribution, supply agreements, and international trade. Global law firm White & Case works with companies to navigate challenges and seize opportunities.