12:00 AM
Jun 30, 2008
 |  BioCentury  |  Strategy

Pfizer fleshing out its model

Since announcing the Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center in October last year, Pfizer Inc. has begun to string together deals it anticipates will provide proof-of-principle for a model it hopes will successfully marry the nimbleness and entrepreneurialism of biotech with the scale and resources of big pharma.

The pharma company believes its approach will create a better partnering interface for academia and biotech startups and help it play catch-up in the biologics space.

In April and in June, Pfizer entered into three deals at this interface: the first with a consortium of four universities and Entelos Inc., another with three California universities, and a third with stem cell company EyeCyte Inc.

In parallel, the pharma has started to apply similar organizational principles to its vaccines and regenerative medicines efforts.


Corey Goodman, president of the Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center (BBC), is charged with helping the pharma move into the biologics space where it historically has not been much of a player. But the BBC also will pursue academic collaborations and oversee the company’s incubator program.

Thus, in June, Pfizer announced the signing of a master sponsored research agreement with three University of California campuses. Goodman will lead the collaboration for the company.

Under the deal, any researcher at the University of California at San Francisco, the University of California at Santa Cruz or the University of California at Berkeley can propose a research collaboration with Pfizer scientists.

The master agreement template covers all of the legal terms that are often the sticking points of negotiations so that the scientists can get to work together much more quickly.

“Typically, if a company scientist wants to work with a university scientist, then lawyers get involved on both sides and it can take nine months to a year before the two scientists even get to talk to each other,” said Goodman.

Although such master research agreements are not new, they are generally limited to a specific field or department.

“What is novel about this deal is the unspecified nature of the research projects,” said Daniel Santi, who will manage the collaboration for the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3). QB3 is a cooperative effort across the three campuses to help make new discoveries, new products and new technologies in human health.

Indeed, the research projects could be in any disease area or stage of development, said Goodman. A joint committee from Pfizer and QB3 will look at proposals from university scientists. The Pfizer liaisons will then look for company scientists who might be interested in collaborating on the project.

“We already have three matches ready to go. The funding should happen this summer,” Goodman said.

Pfizer has set aside $9.5 million for the first three years of the agreement, although all that money might not get spent. “This is not a grant,” said Goodman.

The universities will own any resulting IP, and Pfizer will have first rights to negotiate for a license. The company also will be able to review any data before publication and request that patent applications be filed.

“Our goal is to get new technologies, therapies and targets into Pfizer,” Goodman said.

According to Goodman, the deal is an experiment in getting both academics and companies to break down barriers.

“In academia, many people think you’ve gone over to the dark side if you work with industry. But tax dollars from NIH funding aren’t just to mess around with - they are meant to have an impact on human health, so academics should be willing to work with industry,” he said.

At the same...

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