Business adaptive strategies in crisis
: the case of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine

  • Benjamin Jacob South (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This dissertation examines the adaptive strategies that Pfizer Inc. deployed in 2020 during the COVID­19 pandemic to develop its COVID­19 vaccine in less than a year; the dissertation provides a means for bachelors and masters business students to connect business strategy management theory to a real­world business case. Along with the case, instructors have a theoretical discussion section and teaching note to teach a comprehensive lesson on business adaptive strategies in crisis. Evidence was collected from dozens of sources (from Pfizer, journals, newspapers, press statements, etc.) to construct this dissertation case and theoretical section. The case primarily focuses on how Pfizer parallelized a normally sequential vaccine development process in conjunction with BioNTech. Pfizer took two essential parts of vaccine development: (1) research and development and (2) large scale manufacturing and performed them at the same. Management strategy theory in vertical integration, strategic responses to crisis, resource­ based view, and dynamic capabilities helps match a theoretical view to Pfizer’s strategy to develop a vaccine during the COVID­19 pandemic. Thanks to Pfizer’s innovative and agile strategy to the COVID­19 pandemic situation, the company was prepared to properly deploy their internal capabilities and resources to establish a new vaccine platform that had never been scaled for commercial sale. The company relied upon its strong control over its supply chain and spent extra resources to bring the COVID­19 vaccine first to the market.
Date of Award24 Jan 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorNuno Cardeal (Supervisor)


  • mRNA
  • Resources
  • Dynamic capabilities
  • Innovation
  • Strategy
  • Crisis
  • Adaptation
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Manufacturing


  • Mestrado em Gestão e Administração de Empresas

Cite this