Pfizer gambles up to $111M on Athersys' stem cell therapy

In a fresh indication of Big Pharma's desire to tap into the future revenue potential presented by stem cell therapies, Pfizer has inked a $111 million deal to license rights to develop Athersys' cell therapy for inflammatory bowel disease. But with only $6 million of that being paid upfront, Pfizer is also making it clear that it is starting out on this development path with a few carefully chosen steps.

Ruth McKernan, chief scientific officer of Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, tells the New York Times' Andrew Pollack that the modest down payment indicates that "it's really early for cell therapy and there's more research to be done."

Athersys' MultiStem program, derived from adult tissue, is in early stage trials as a treatment for heart attacks and for use in cancer patients receiving a bone marrow transplant. Pfizer is also pursuing a stem cell collaboration with Novocell, working to turn ESCs into insulin producing cells that can cure diabetes.

- read the Athersys release
- here's the article from the New York Times