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Pfizer unveils new stem cell unit
11-20-2008
by David Hutton  |  Email the author
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NEW YORK—Pfizer Inc. recently announced the formation of Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, a biotechnology research unit focused on developing stem cell-based treatments for a wide range of conditions.

The unit is located in two of the company's global hubs for biotech research— Cambridge, England, and Cambridge, Mass.

According to Pfizer spokeswoman Kristen Neese, the company will inject about $100 million into the project over the next three to five years, but she notes "that number could flux based on the collaborations that we sign onto."

Dr. Corey Goodman, president of Pfizer's Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center, says the company will announce those collaborations in the coming weeks and months.

A key component of the unit is the double-pronged approach with hubs on both sides of the Atlantic, a move Goodman says will allow the company to leverage scientific and research communities in both areas.

"This will allow us to interact with academic and biotechnology leadership in the Boston area as well as in the Cambridge and London areas in England," says Goodman, also pointing out that the unit, designed to operate with the flexibility and independent culture of the biotech industry, will collaborate with researchers at biotech and drug companies and universities around the world.

The Regenerative Medicine unit will be led by Dr. Ruth McKernan, Pfizer's chief scientific officer.

The unit already has a core group of scientists at work on both sides of the Atlantic, with a goal of developing a unit of about 70 scientists. Currently, about half that number are working between the two facilities.

The site in the United Kingdom is based at Granta Park and will focus on neural and sensory disorders. The Cambridge, Mass., site is based at Pfizer's Research Technology Center (RTC) and will focus on endocrine and cardiac research.

The unit also marks a shift for Pfizer in its stem cell policy, which was revamped about a year ago, shortly after Goodman joined the Pfizer team.

"One of the first things that we did after I came on board was to get the executive team to change the stem cell policy," says Goodman. "Everybody agreed that Pfizer needed a new stem cell policy. It was done with a lot of thought."

Pfizer's previous stand on stem cell research was closely aligned with the policy of the Bush administration.

"The new stem cell policy is very much in line with the National Academy of Sciences policy in the U.S. and policies in England, Europe and other parts of the world," says Goodman. "That is what has allowed us to set up the regenerative medicine unit."

Officials at Pfizer also are bouyed by the prospects of fewer restrictions on stem cell research under the administration of President-Elect Barack Obama.

"Of course we are pleased that the administration has at least been saying publicly and in interviews that they plan to change the federal stem cell policy later in January," says Goodman. "We welcome that and encourage that." DDN

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