A day of big changes at the top of big pharma’s research teams has seen Martin Mackay decamp from Pfizer to the newly-created position of president of R&D at AstraZeneca.

Dr Mackay has resigned from Pfizer, where he was head of R&D from 2007 to 2009. However, following the $68 billion merger with Wyeth, he ran the New York-based giant’s PharmaTherapeutics R&D unit, which effectively made him co-head of research with Mikael Dolsten, who led the BioTherapeutics R&D division. Dr Dolsten, head of Wyeth’s R&D until the Pfizer link-up, will now be in charge of all research at the latter.

David Brennan, AstraZeneca chief executive, said that Dr Mackay’s appointment to this new role “will provide a single point of senior accountability as we continue to make the changes necessary to improve the productivity and efficiency of our R&D organisation”. The new man, a Scot, will start work on July 1 and will sit above the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker’s head of discovery and head of development.

Pfizer is also changing its formation to leave one up front. Chief executive Jeffrey Kindler said that since the Wyeth buy closed, “rapid integration has been enhanced by strong and steady collaboration between the two legacy R&D groups - making the consolidation under one leader a natural and progressive step to take at this point”.

Mr Kindler had some kind words for Dr Mackay, which suggests the latter’s departure has not been particularly acrimonious. He spoke of his “many accomplishments and [we]greatly appreciate all he has done to help us develop world-class scientists at Pfizer”.

Dr Dolsten also has a pretty impressive pedigree, having held “key leadership roles in R&D” at Boehringer Ingelheim and AstraZeneca, as well as at Wyeth. Both Dr Dolsten and Dr Mackay have got major tasks ahead of them as their employers have not produced much from their own pipelines of late to combat major patent expirations that are looming.