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Pfizer to set up separate biotech arm

Published on 11/10/07 at 01:37pm

Pfizer has unveiled its new strategy in research and development, including senior appointments and the setting up of an independent biotech centre in California.

The company remains the pharma industry's undisputed number one, but has suffered over the past two years as patent expiries have hit earnings and failure of torcetrapib, its follow-up to Lipitor.

Since his appointment in summer 2006, chief executive Jeffrey Kindler has introduced radical cuts and restructuring to the global company, seeking to cut costs and speed decisions by stripping away tiers of management.

Now Kindler has unveiled his strategy for the R&D organisation including a new head of research and a new quasi-independent biotech company.

Dr. Martin Mackay has been named as the new President of Pfizer Global Research and Development (PGRD) while Dr Briggs Morrison, a senior R&D executive formerly at Merck, is the new Head of Clinical Development.

Meanwhile, the new stand-alone biotherapeutics and bioinnovation centre to be based in in the San Francisco Bay area will be led by scientist and entrepreneur Dr Corey Goodman.

Commenting on the restructuring and new appointments, chief executive Jeffrey Kindler said: "We are currently in the final stages of a business transformation programme at PGRD, and our goal is to bring these changes to a conclusion with a minimum of disruption, realise their benefits, and then move forward with four major research sites, global platform lines and a very focused drug development team.

"Under Martin [Mackay]s strong leadership and follow-up throughout this process, we have made important progress in streamlining PGRD, consolidating our therapeutic areas, and moving a substantial portion of our investments from bricks and mortar into research and development."

New biotech centre

Pfizer says its new Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center is a significant departure for Pfizer and the whole pharmaceutical industry, but it draws its inspiration heavily from Genentech, the subsidiary of Roche which has led the industry in the last few years.

Roche is the majority shareholder in Genentech, but has allowed the biotech to operate independently, a move widely acknowledged as vital to its success.

Genentech and Amgen are the leading lights of the San Francisco Bay area biotech hub, and Pfizer has now acknowledged the area's pre-eminence by opening its new centre there.

Dr Corey Goodman commented, "The centre will be built on a new model, capturing the best of both the biotech and pharmaceutical worlds. On the one hand, the centre will be independent, able to pursue its own research interests, free to establish its own distinct culture, and empowered to recruit entrepreneurial scientists.

"However, what makes this model unique is the ability of the centre to leverage all of the vast strengths of PGRD, for example, gaining access to high-throughput screening and pharmaceutical science capabilities, exchanging knowledge and tools, working closely with PGRDs biotherapeutics teams, and handing off new drug candidates to PGRD for late-stage clinical development. Martin and I will work closely together to assure that technology and capability flow freely between PGRD and the new centre."

Pfizer says it wants to become a top-tier company in biotherapeutics by aggressively advancing its existing 25 pre-clinical and clinical programmes in priority areas such as oncology, immunology and pain. It will also work with its new biotherapeutics and bioinnovation centre to pursue other strategic external opportunities.



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