Pfizer pumps $100M into stem cell research

Pfizer is revving up its engines to get those planned R&D changes into high gear. The drugmaker says it's pumping $100 million into its international stem cell development program. The company's new regenerative medicine unit in Cambridge, U.K. will become Pfizer's top stem cell research site, with the headcount expected to increase by 50 percent to 45.

First announced in November of 2008, the independent research unit--Pfizer Renegerative Medicine--is split between the company's Cambridge, MA site and the Cambridge, UK base. Led by Chief Scientific Officer Ruth McKernan, the unit focuses on small molecules and cell therapy. "The important thing is that we will contribute something that will start opening to cell-based therapies. We are attempting to take it to the next stage and make it scaleable and practical," McKernan tells Business Weekly.

Pfizer's cash injection is the single highest funding the stem cell discipline has ever received from the corporate sector, the publication reports. But "it's more than just the money--it's about opening dialogue with the regulators, that's where the money merit is," McKernan explained.

The drugmaker has made collaborations a priority for the new research unit. So far, Pfizer has announced a deal with the University College of London to develop treatments for blindness. UCL, in turn, has a related deal with the U.K.'s struggling Intercytex, which is providing the partners with an embryonic stem cell line in exchange for research funding. Earlier this week, the drugmaker also announced a deal with  University of Wisconsin's Alumni Research Foundation for use of their human embryonic stem cells.

- read the Business Weekly for more on the RM unit
- check out the Business Journal for info on the UW deal