Pfizer's academic-partnered R&D unit is scrapped as part of cost-cutting measures

Pfizer’s cost cuts that began last year have stretched to the closure of a well-known internal R&D team that focused on partnering with physician-scientists to launch new medicines, including one that ultimately became the center of a $7.1 billion acquisition from Roche. 

A website for the Centers for Therapeutics Innovation (CTI) now directs to Pfizer’s more general partnering website. A spokesperson for the Big Pharma told Fierce Biotech that the company decided to close CTI’s laboratories and “embed certain CTI projects within the research units of our R&D organization.” 

The drugmaker made the decision “as part of the company’s enterprise-wide cost realignment program,” the spokesperson confirmed.

“Pfizer has many other academic collaborations that exist outside of CTI and remains committed to pursuing academic-industry collaborations designed to bridge the gap between early scientific discovery and its translation into potential new therapies,” the spokesperson said. The website was functional as recently as March 12, according to a time stamp from the Internet Archive. 

The CTI was founded in 2010 to bridge physician-scientists around the country with the pharma’s broader R&D resources. Pfizer was specifically focused on researchers who investigated new therapeutic targets while still seeing patients. A 2014 video specified partnerships with at least 30 scientists from around the U.S., including in San Francisco, New York, Boston and San Diego. 

Some of the medicines that have come out of the CTI program include an anti-TL1A program that Pfizer handed over to Roivant in 2022. The corresponding subsidiary that developed the program, Telavant, was bought by Roche for $7.1 billion in a deal announced last year. The CTI was also the source of Pfizer’s phase 3 IFN-β med, dazukibart, designed to treat dermatomyositis and polymyositis. The research came from scientists at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. 

The CTI existed under the broader Emerging Science & Innovation (ES&I) team led by Uwe Schoenbeck, Ph.D., who was announced today as a new venture partner at early-stage healthcare and tech venture capital firm Canaan Partners. The ES&I team had its pulse particularly on early science as opposed to licensing deals for established clinical-stage products. 

The revelation of the CTI's dissolution comes against the backdrop of Pfizer’s larger $3.5 billion cost-cutting plan enacted last year, which spurred layoffs across the organization. The New York pharma entered 2024 determined to recast itself as a dominant oncology company following its $43 billion acquisition of antibody-drug conjugate powerhouse Seagen.