SLU hires laid-off Pfizerites for research center

When Pfizer refocused its ops in November, it left about 600 of its 1,000 employees in the St. Louis area without a job. But St. Louis University doesn't want to see that talent go to waste. Some of those scientists may find a home at the school, which announced that it's launching a new research center focused on discovering treatments for illnesses that affect the developing world.

Raymond Tait, Ph.D., vice president for research at Saint Louis University, said that after the initial shock over the layoffs abated, the University quickly saw the opportunity to help the displaced workers and to help keep scientific talent in the region. By December, SLU was in discussions to launch a new biomedical research center.

The initiative, which will open in July, is called the Center for World Health & Medicine. SLU will finance the center with $5 million over the next two years; it's also planning to apply for a federal stimulus-funded research grant. "While [the Pfizer layoffs] represents a major challenge for the St. Louis region, it also represents an opportunity to add a cohort of highly skilled scientists dedicated to research in areas consonant with the University mission," says Tait. SLU will initially hire about a dozen scientists. "These are people who have expertise in moving scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic. They also demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit," adds Tait. "Of course we wanted to find a home for them."

Tait says the researchers will initially focus on looking for treatment options for diseases that have a high mortality in developing world countries, such as childhood diarrhea.

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