A look inside Pfizer's biotech center

Look alive, small biotech. Pfizer is looking to the little guys to save its skin as it faces dwindling profits and competition from generics in the coming years. Recently, Pfizer announced that it was launching a biotherapeutics and bioinnovation center, to be based in South San Francisco. The company is aggressively pursuing partnerships with small developers while at the same time fostering internal development of its own biotech drug candidates. And Corey Goodman, co-founder of Exelixis and Renovis, is heading up the whole thing.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Goodman shares some juicy tidbits about Pfizer’s biotech plans over the next few years. “Goodman will be seeking collaborations among the kind of struggling, venturesome and often cash-hungry biotech outfits he previously helped found. Along the way…[he] hopes to create an independent, entrepreneurial science outfit backed by the resources of a major corporation,” notes the Chronicle. The company is hoping to emulate the success of biotechs like Genentech and Amgen by developing a line of biologic drugs, including proteins and antibodies.

Goodman is scouting and financially supporting small drug developers with the hope that their innovative drugs may someday make it into Pfizer’s pipeline. He has also been put in charge of Rinat Neurosciences, a biotech Pfizer snapped up last year. The company gained Rinat’s experimental therapies for pain, Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases, but Rinat maintained its own name and core mission. Goodman says this hands-off approach is a model for future partnerships.

Another key area for Pfizer will be the hot field of RNAi technology, where Goodman vows the company will become a leader. Merck, Novartis and Roche have all inked RNAi tech deals in the last year. While it is still an unproven technology, it's a possibility Pfizer can't afford ignore.

Goodman has his work cut out for him, but he hopes that when he’s finished the world’s largest drug developer will be as innovative as a small drug developer but with the resources of the world's largest R&D budget. "I'm sure there are going to be critics or cynics who say you can't take a major pharmaceutical company and make it more entrepreneurial," he said. "I think we can unleash a lot of that entrepreneurial spirit within Pfizer. It's a question of the culture I build."

- read the San Francisco Chronicle article for more

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