Pfizer unveils $100M Boston effort to spark R&D innovation

Pfizer's quest to find a more productive way to discover and advance important new treatments is taking the pharma giant on a journey back to college in Boston. With some of Pfizer's R&D luminaries joining hands with top politicians, the company announced a $100 million, five-year plan to establish a new Center for Therapeutic Innovation in the heart of the thriving biotech hub. Some 50 investigators will be brought in to work in teams with researchers at local universities and hospitals.

Pfizer--which spent $9.4 billion last year on R&D--is one of a group of Big Pharma companies which have far too little to show for their massive budgets. As a result Pfizer has joined Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline and others which have pronounced themselves fed up with the old way of developing a pipeline, declaring a shift toward a new "open ecosystem" in which corporate researchers link up with outside groups--particularly at top research colleges--in search of inspiration and success.  

"Over the last decade, the entire biomedical community has been translate billions of dollars of investment to sufficient impact on improvements in health care,'' Mikael Dolsten, president of worldwide research and development at Pfizer, told the Boston Globe. "We think it's really a great opportunity to embark on a change and transformation plan, which in the end would be very much enabling patients to get medicine sooner...and we think we cannot as a company do it in isolation.''

Under this new model three Pfizer researchers will team up with three investigators from such institutions as Beth Israel Deaconess, Boston University, Harvard University, Tufts Medical Center and Partners HealthCare to select the most promising projects. Pfizer will bring its technology and libraries of proteins and antibodies to the table and gets a first crack at licensing rights to the most promising programs. Pfizer signed a lease for laboratory space at the Center for Life Science in the Longwood Medical Area, where it plans to buddy up with its academic medical center partners.

This is Pfizer's third such innovation center, following the establishment of similar ventures in New York and San Francisco. And the pharma giant, which is whacking billions out of its research budget and shuttering some of its least effective ops, says it will take this model and duplicate it around the world.

- see the Pfizer release
- read the story from the Boston Globe