Pfizer Embraces New Model for Drug Development

Jan.30.11 | About: Pfizer Inc. (PFE)

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) said that seven major research-based medical centers in New York City have joined its Centers for Therapeutic Innovation, a network of partnerships that aims to speed the translation of biomedical research into life-saving medicines. The effort is meant to leverage Pfizer’s investment in discovery and early-stage drug development by funding pre-clinical and clinical development at leading centers.

This announcement follows an agreement announced in November between Pfizer and the University of California, San Francisco that established the first of these centers for Pfizer. In exchange for providing funding for translational research, Pfizer offers what the company described as “equitable” intellectual property and ownership rights to support continued experimentation and exploration, as well as broad rights to publication.

The agreements represent a broader effort on the part of pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer to rely more on external sources of research as sources of innovative drug candidates to feed its pipeline as the industry has been unable to see adequate returns on the growing investment in R&D it’s made over the past decade. At the same time, there is increasing pressure on academic research centers to move from basic research to translational work as a way to close a gap in drug development.

Participating in the newly forged agreements are Rockefeller University, New York University Langone Medical Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, The Mount Sinai Medical Center, Columbia University Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Weill Cornell Medical College. Pfizer has leased space at the Alexandria Center for Life Sciences in New York City for research space to facilitate the collaborations.

Investigators working with Pfizer will have access to the company’s proprietary antibody libraries and advanced research tools along with technical support. Successful programs that advance to commercialization by Pfizer will be subject to license terms that will include milestone payments and royalties.

Pfizer is not alone in carving out such agreements with leading research centers and for now they seem to serve the needs of both compound strapped drugmakers and institutes trying to free themselves from reliance on cash-strapped governments. It may be that under such circumstances, it’s easy to gloss over some of the more difficult questions. How productive, cost-effective, or conflict-free these relationships will be as they evolve remains to be seen. The ultimate test will be if they actually yield innovative treatments for ailments that are without them.