Pfizer’s Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla sold shares in the company worth $5.6 million on the day the drugmaker announced that its CCP virus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective, which caused Pfizer stock to surge.
Bourla sold 132,508 shares at $41.94 a share, amounting to 62 percent of his holding of Pfizer stock, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Pfizer shares traded as high as $41.99 on Nov. 9, the day the company announced interim trial results showing its experimental vaccine for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus was highly effective in preventing infection.
Pfizer said that the stock sale was part of a pre-scheduled trading plan adopted in August.
“The sale of these shares is part of Dr. Bourla’s personal financial planning and a pre-established (10b5-1) plan, which allows, under SEC rules, major shareholders and insiders of exchange-listed corporations to trade a predetermined number of shares at a predetermined time,” the company said in a statement.
After peaking at nearly $42 a share on Nov. 9, they have since fallen and, at the time of reporting, were trading at $38.50.
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE said no serious safety concerns were found so far, while additional safety and efficacy data continue to be collected.
The companies said they expect to apply for emergency use authorization sometime in November, raising the chance of a regulatory decision as soon as December.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Bourla said in a Nov. 9 statement announcing Pfizer’s vaccine candidate effectiveness.
“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity, and economies struggling to reopen.”
While the optics of a stock sale by a biotech executive amid surging prices may appear questionable, Baird biotech analyst Brian Skorney told MSNBC that Bourla deserves to benefit from the successful vaccine development and called the sale a “highlight of how capitalism can work at its best.”
“What’s great about the biopharma industry is that there’s an incentive scheme for private industry to come up with drugs that meaningfully change the health care dynamic in the country,” he told the outlet. “I don’t know that there’s even an example, certainly not in my lifetime that I can point to, where something will have such a drastic positive effect on the whole world as a vaccine for COVID.”
Other biotech executives have benefited from stock sales amid the pandemic, with Stat News reporting earlier this year that top executives at Moderna, which is also working on a CCP virus vaccine, sold more than $80 million in shares as stock prices surged.
Pfizer didn’t take any federal funding for the development of its vaccine candidate.