The former pharmaceutical executive remains active in investment and philanthropy
Published : Tuesday, February 5, 2019 | 10:02 AM
David Pyott, who led the transformation of Allergan from a small eye-care business to an international pharmaceutical and medical device company, has been elected to Caltech’s Board of Trustees, which is meeting this week.
Born in the United Kingdom, Pyott spent his early years in India, where his father worked in the sugar industry. The family then returned to Scotland, where Pyott went on to earn a master’s degree at University of Edinburgh. Later, after completing an MBA at the London Business School, he emigrated to Switzerland to join Novartis as head of strategic planning in the pharmaceutical company’s nutrition division.
Pyott, who also holds a diploma in European and international law from the University of Amsterdam, served in a number of leadership roles at Novartis, including as head of the nutrition division. He was then recruited to Allergan, where he served as CEO for 17 years. He is credited with helping create the medical aesthetics market through products such as Botox and Juvéderm.
Pyott’s personal foundation, the David and Molly Pyott Foundation, works to advance education and training in ophthalmology, alleviate youth unemployment, and support those with disabilities. In addition to several corporate boards, Pyott also serves as deputy chairman of the governing board of the London Business School, as president of the International Council of Ophthalmology Foundation, and as a member of the advisory board of the American Academy of Ophthalmology Foundation.
Among other honors, he has been designated a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and has been awarded an honorary degree in medicine from the University of Edinburgh, the UC Irvine Medal, the Semper Fidelis Award from the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, and the Moacyr Álvaro Gold Medal for services to Brazilian ophthalmology.
The Board of Trustees, Caltech’s governing body, is led by David L. Lee (PhD ’74), chair, and Ronald K. Linde (MS ’62, PhD ’64), vice chair. The Board is currently composed of 45 trustees, 26 senior trustees, 20 life members, and one honorary life member.
Pyott recently reflected on lessons learned over a career that has spanned continents.
Describe yourself in three words
Multicultural. Loyal. Determined. (Pyott has lived in 10 countries and worked in seven. He is fluent in four languages: German, French, Spanish, and English).
What have you learned during your career that you think others should know?
It is essential to learn the business from the ground up and to establish a thorough understanding of customers’ needs. Inspire others by your own leadership example, and if you choose to be involved in an endeavor, give it the very best.
What is your passion in life?
Working to eliminate blindness in developing nations. If I had not been a businessman, I would have been a doctor, and the most fun I’ve had in my career has been translating knowledge gained from physicians into new products for the benefit of patients. I continue to be interested in learning more about new developments in the health sciences.