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Pfizer/UC San Diego Health Sciences Drug Discovery
Partnership Aims to Speed Delivery of Promising Therapies to Patients

Debra Kain | August 22, 2011

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firestein lab
Firestein lab

Pfizer, Inc. and UC San Diego Health Sciences are embarking on an innovative, five-year research collaboration through Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI), a network of partnerships with top-tier life sciences research institutions in California, New York and Massachusetts that aims to accelerate and transform drug discovery and development.

This research collaboration will allow medical researchers at UC San Diego to join with Pfizer’s scientists to speed translation of discoveries into medicine for patients.  As part of the CTI program, Pfizer will provide UC San Diego researchers access to resources such as antibody libraries and technologies, as well as funding to support the pre-clinical and clinical development of sponsored programs. 

In exchange, the collaboration will utilize UC San Diego’s medical research strengths in key areas including neurosciences, cancer, inflammation, metabolism, clinical pharmacology, HIV and pain.  It will also build upon efforts of the School of Medicine’s expanding Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI), launched in 2010 to emphasize interdisciplinary collaboration among UCSD scientists and develop innovative approaches to solve difficult medical challenges. 

CTI partners receive intellectual property rights and are granted milestone payments and royalties tied to the advancement of mutually agreed upon drug candidates. The potential value to UC San Diego over the five-year agreement could exceed $50 million.

“Public-private partnerships are increasingly important in science, especially in an era of limited federal grant support, when new resources are needed to commercialize innovations related to health care,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox.  “The UC San Diego-Pfizer agreement is an example of how we can work together and will hopefully serve as a model for other collaborations with industry.” 

CTI laboratory staff will include Pfizer employees plus leading basic and translational science investigators and doctoral candidates from UC San Diego School of Medicine and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, along with other UC San Diego researchers in biological sciences, bioengineering and at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

According to Dr. Gary S. Firestein, dean and associate vice chancellor of Translational Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of the CTRI, there will be an RFA for project proposals later this year, and the most promising research projects will be jointly chosen by a team made up of Pfizer and UCSD researchers.

“The CTI model offers leading investigators the resources to pursue scientific and clinical breakthroughs by providing access to select Pfizer compound libraries, proprietary screening methods, and antibody development technologies that are directly relevant to the investigators' work,” said Firestein, adding the hoped-for result will be better testing of clinical hypotheses, increasing the speed with which medicines can be delivered to patients in need.

Dr. David Brenner, vice chancellor for health sciences and dean of the UC San Diego School of Medicine, concurred that more research collaborations between academia and industry will be critical in the face of the uncertain support from the state and federal government.

“As medical science evolves and grows, the demand for creative research projects – such as this agreement with Pfizer – and the need for people who can translate this basic research into real, beneficial therapies and treatments will only increase,” said Brenner. “From the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and the many other leading-edge research institutes on campus, to our deep involvement in major clinical trials and status as one of the nation’s top teaching hospitals, UC San Diego has established itself as a vital hub for this kind of innovative work. The Pfizer collaboration allows us, with CTRI leading the way, to push ahead in new and even more imaginative ways to advance medical research.”

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