Pierre Magistretti was born on September 30, 1952. After a classical high school diploma, he began his medical studies at the University of Geneva and passed the federal medical diploma in 1977. From 1979 to 1982 he worked with Professor Floyd Bloom at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego and obtained a PhD in Neurobiology from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD).

On his return to Geneva at the Department of Pharmacology, Pierre Magistretti continued his research on the role of neurotransmitters. In 1988, he was appointed ordinary professor at the Faculty of Medicine of Lausanne, from which he took up one of the chairs in physiology and became one of the youngest ordinary professors appointed to a Swiss medical faculty. The scope of his laboratory work has gone far beyond the field of experimental neuroscience, which is notable in the field of functional brain imaging. Pierre Magistretti has been heavily involved in the development of neuroscience in Switzerland. He was at the origin of the creation of the Interfaculty Department of Neurosciences of the University of Lausanne, of which he was the first President, and of the Swiss Society of Neurosciences, of which he was the first elected president. He is a member of numerous scientific committees of national and international institutions and was elected Vice-Chair of the Council of Scientists of the Human Frontier Science Project Organisation. In 1997, his work was awarded the Prix Théodore Ott of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, a prize awarded every 5 years.

He directed the SYNAPSY National Centre of Competence in Research of the Swiss National Science Foundation from 2010 to 2016, and co-founder of GliaPharm, a biotechnology company based at the Biotech Campus in Geneva.

Pierre Magistretti is currently Professor in the Division of Biology and Environmental Sciences at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, as well as Honorary Professor at the Faculties of Medicine of the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne, and at the Faculty of Life Sciences at EPFL.