Dalton ran Pfizer Ventures during a period when pharmaceutical companies shifted to greater dependence on CVC to access innovation.

Barbara Dalton, the senior managing partner of Pfizer’s corporate venture arm, Pfizer Ventures, is planning to retire this year. 

New York based Dalton ran the investment arm for 16 years, a period which saw pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer significantly increase their reliance on corporate venturing teams to access innovation.

“I have been doing this for over 30 years. I would say that there is still innovation internally in the pharmaceutical industry but greater dependence on innovation externally. It has just been gradually growing over time. I believe that most companies now have about 60% of their products come from [what were] originally smaller companies,” Dalton told Global Corporate Venturing in an interview for the forthcoming book, The Innovation Paradox, to be published by Hurst and Oxford University Press.

“Now you are seeing a much more balanced approach to internal and external [innovation]. For example, it was the biotech community who made monoclonal antibodies into drugs, and then the pharmaceutical companies picked them up. Or look at CRISPR technologies. CRISPR technologies have been applied quite broadly, but their applications in gene therapy have done more in small companies than in the large companies. But the large companies still do take some of those innovations and use them to advance product development internally.”

Under Dalton Pfizer has invested more than $1bn in medical companies in the US with a focus on rare diseases, oncology, neuroscience and vaccines. The unit, which was established in 2004, was in 2020 merged with R&D Innovate, Pfizer’s R&D equity investment vehicle.

Pfizer Ventures has 54 startups in its portfolio and has overseen 94 company exits including Zura Bio, a US-based novel medicine developer that exited via reverse merger in 2023.

Other notable investments include drug discovery platform Jhana Therapeutics which raised $107m in 2022, and dark matter decoder Nucleome Therapeutics which raised $47.5m in a series A round in 2022.

Prior to running Pfizer Ventures Dalton spent a decade as president of SROne, GSK’s corporate venture fund, and before that, time as a venture capital investor. 

The New York-based corporate venturing veteran is also the vice president of worldwide business development for Pfizer and was listed on the GCV Powerlist in 2023. She received the Global Corporate Venturing Lifetime Achievement award in 2019.