Pfizer Taps UCSD for $50M Drug Discovery Program


Pfizer (NYS: PFE) is expanding its U.S. network of early-stage drug discovery initiatives with a $50 million development program that's been forged with the University of California, San Diego. Pfizer plans to recruit 15 scientists to work at its campus in La Jolla, where they will collaborate with UCSD scientists on their most promising preclinical therapeutics. And Pfizer's goal is to cut down the academic development stage to a fraction of the eight-year average.

"We felt like being part of that initial discovery, we can really turn them (around) much more quickly," Anthony Coyle, a Pfizer vice president and chief scientific officer, tells the San Diego Union-Tribune. "In as short as two years, we believe we can take a number of (drug candidates) into the clinic." Each of the development programs tapped for collaboration will be staffed by 12 scientists and a group of postdocs.

The news marks Pfizer's expansion of its West Coast Center for Therapeutic Innovation, following announcements for Boston, New York and San Francisco. In addition to research funding, Pfizer is also sharing IP rights and providing milestones to its partners.

"The collaborative partnerships formed through the Centers for Therapeutic Innovation between Pfizer and academic medical centers allow leading medical and clinical experts to join with Pfizer's highly-skilled scientists and advanced drug development capabilities to speed the translation of innovative science into medicines for patients," said Jose Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, Ph.D, senior vice president and head of BioTherapeutics Research and Development for Pfizer. "Our ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between scientific discovery and the delivery of promising candidates to the pipeline."

These early-stage academic programs are a central feature of Pfizer's new approach to drug development as the pharma giant hatchets billions of dollars out of its R&D budget. With major R&D centers slated to be shuttered or scaled back, Pfizer, like a number of other pharma companies, is trying to establish an open ecosystem for R&D, where collaboration is a centerpiece of drug development work.

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