Pfizer ($PFE) enrolls UCSF for $85M drug discovery pact

Pfizer ($PFE) is joining Big Pharma's migration back to school. In this case, Pfizer has selected UC San Francisco for its post-grad discovery work. The pharma company will invest $85 million over the next five years into early-stage discovery work among the university's scientists. And as combined teams of Pfizer and university scientists delve into promising new therapies, the company will get the pick of the most promising programs that make it through Phase I.

Pfizer's decision to pair up with the university lab crowd gives everyone involved a decided edge as they make their way through the so-called Valley of Death. The pharma company will follow in the back-to-school movement started by Genentech ($DNA), which has its own pact with UCSF, and Sanofi-Aventis ($SNY), which recently selected the Ivy League set at Harvard to work with.

"The idea is to shrink the divide between the science and the drug, to shrink the divide between academic and industry expertise, to make it more effective to transition from an idea" to its application in patients, Jeffrey Bluestone, UCSF's executive vice chancellor, told the Wall Street Journal. The partnership could advance up to 10 projects at a time through an open network of researchers, called the Center for Therapeutic Innovation.

UCSF has been a leader in developing close ties with the drug development industry. And that comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed the career of university Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, the renowned former development chief at Genentech.

- here's the press release
- here's the WSJ story