Pfizer R&D chief touts 'golden age' of drug discovery

Despite losing patent protection for the world's bestselling drug next year, Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) R&D chief Martin Mackay says the company will be sitting pretty for years to come, thanks to its pipeline and the acquisition of Wyeth last year. "We're in the golden age of drug discovery," Mackay says in an interview, as quoted by Bloomberg. "We have a very replete pipeline in key areas such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, pain and inflammation." The drug giant is also counting on treatments for infectious diseases.

Mackay adds that rather than trying to replace Lipitor's $11.4 billion in annual drug sales with one mega-blockbuster, the company will rely on a variety of "smaller" blockbuster drugs to make up the difference. The R&D chief also notes that Pfizer won't be wasting time on drugs that don't show a lot of promise early in their development. "Flatliners are flatliners, and they kill us unless you find them really early," Mackay tells Bloomberg. "In the next few years I think you'll see less attrition, more survival of our compounds, and taking that attrition earlier." In January, Pfizer cut about 100 drug development programs out of a pipeline swollen by the Wyeth merger. The bulk of the remaining 500 programs are focused on six key areas: oncology, pain, inflammation, Alzheimer's disease, psychoses and diabetes. That left the developer with 30 oncology programs, 11 for inflammation, 10 for Alzheimer's and eight for pain. Twenty-six of those drugs are in Phase III trials.

And with its sites firmly fixed on grabbing a chunk of the burgeoning Asian market, Pfizer added in a press briefing that it will use its clinical research unit in Singapore as a base for conducting trials for diseases prevalent in Asia. R&D will focus on illnesses such as liver and head and neck cancer, according to Reuters. "Prevalence rates for specific types of cancer are significantly higher (in Asia), for example gastric cancer, liver cancer, and head and neck cancer, probably due to factors such as diet, environment and genetics," says Steve Yang, head of Pfizer's R&D in Asia.

- here's the Bloomberg piece
- read more from Reuters on Pfizer's moves in Asia