Pfizer opens Center of Excellence in Precision Medicine in Chile

Pfizer debuted its Center of Excellence in Precision Medicine (CEPM) in Santiago, Chile, last week, bulking up in Latin America, not exactly a hot spot for pharma industry R&D.

Pfizer ($PFE) invested $14 million in the center, with $7 million over four years coming from the Chilean Economic Development Agency (Corfo).

"In Chile we have very good scientific productivity; however, we have not been able to transform that knowledge into actual products and services that improve both the productivity of industries and the quality of life of people," said Marcela Angulo, Corfo's manager of technological capabilities, during the opening ceremony, according to the agency's website. "By developing this type of strategic partnerships, we will be able to further our country's capabilities for research, development, and innovation of excellence, as well as position Chile in the map of innovation centers at a regional and global level."

It will initially focus on validating new technology for diagnosing lung cancer based on next-generation sequencing. The non-small cell version of the disease occurs about 2,000 times a year in Chile. Pfizer sells Xalkori to combat the disease. And it relies on a companion diagnostic (an example of "precision medicine") made by Roche's ($RHHBY) Ventana Medical Systems to identify patients who are eligible for the medication based on the presence of a mutation on their ALK gene.

"At Pfizer, our priority is to develop innovative therapies that improve and prolong the lives of patients," said Sylvia Varela, president of Pfizer Oncology for Latin America, according to industry news outlet SelectScience. "CEPM, which opens its doors today in Santiago, illustrates that commitment in a very definite way. Precision medicine offers one of the best opportunities we have to develop medicines that have a greater positive impact on patients. The work that will be done at CEPM will be on par with the best and most renowned research centers in the world."

Thermo Fisher's ($TMO) Ion Personal Genome Machine will be used to perform next-generation DNA sequencing at the center. The company was selected as a technology partner and invested $3 million in the collaborative project.

According to Pfizer's website, the company employs about 250 people in Chile, where it began operations in 1959. It is not clear if the number has been updated to include employment in the new facility.

Emerging markets, including Latin America, provided Pfizer with revenues of $11.5 billion in 2014 out of a total of $49.6 billion.

- read the release from Corfo (English translation)
- here's more from SelectScience