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New collaboration with Pfizer aimed at speeding drug discovery

Washington University enters collaboration with Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation

February 15, 2017

Michael Worful

Washington University in St. Louis is collaborating with the biopharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. on research aimed at speeding the development of new drugs. The university is the first academic institution in the Midwest to join Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation’s (CTI) collaborative network.

The new collaboration is aimed at supporting translational research that has the greatest potential to bring innovative therapies to patients. The collaboration will focus on certain rare diseases, as well as on immunology and inflammation, oncology, neuroscience, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In particular, the program will focus on approaches that involve large-molecule therapeutics and antibodies that have the potential to address multiple diseases.

“We are excited to be combining the resources and expertise of Pfizer scientists with the talents of our Washington University faculty in this effort to develop the next generation of therapeutics,” said Jennifer K. Lodge, PhD, vice chancellor for research at Washington University and a professor of molecular microbiology at the School of Medicine. “With our strength in basic science and translational research and the expertise of Pfizer in drug development, the new collaboration could help St. Louis and our region become even better positioned to make major contributions to benefit patients.”

CTI brings together academic and National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers with Pfizer scientists and patient foundations, to collaborate in drug discovery in broad areas of interest to the global pharmaceutical maker.

“We look forward to beginning this new collaboration with Washington University,” said Anthony Coyle, PhD, senior vice president and CTI’s chief scientific officer. “Washington University’s world-class scientific expertise is an excellent addition to CTI’s network of academic collaborators, and CTI is proud to complement Pfizer’s long-standing relationship with this institution.”

As part of the collaboration, Washington University researchers will be able to apply for funding to support research projects aimed at drug discovery. A joint steering committee made up of Washington University researchers and Pfizer scientists will be responsible for selecting the research projects and tracking their progress. If the steering committee selects a project, the project team would have access to Pfizer’s resources, scientific equipment and opportunities to collaborate with Pfizer scientists, who have extensive expertise in drug development and protein science.

“I am pleased that our faculty will be able to participate in this program and have the potential to work on important projects in collaboration with Pfizer,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We are moving into an era in which academic-industry collaborations could capitalize on our considerable research talents and activities and, by collaborating with outstanding pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, we can facilitate our goal of getting new drugs to patients as soon as possible.”

The Washington University faculty serving on the joint steering committee include Karen Seibert, PhD, a professor of anesthesiology and of pathology and immunology and of genetics; Michael S. Kinch, PhD, associate vice chancellor and director of Washington University’s Center for Research Innovation in Business; Thaddeus S. Stappenbeck, MD, PhD, the Conan Professor of Laboratory and Genomic Medicine; Leena M. Prabhu, PhD, associate director of Washington University’s Office of Technology Management; and Patricia J. Gregory, PhD, assistant vice chancellor and executive director of corporate and foundation relations.

“This kind of collaboration between academic medical centers and private industry holds great potential for identifying the best ideas and moving them through the research pipeline as quickly as possible,” said Seibert, who served as vice president of research and development for Pfizer at the company’s St. Louis site before joining Washington University.

“The fact that Pfizer has a long history of operating in St. Louis with well-established laboratories, equipment and a local team of experienced scientists means we have the potential to begin our collaborations and joint projects right away,” added Seibert, who also co-directs the Center for Clinical Pharmacology, which is a collaboration between the St. Louis College of Pharmacy and the School of Medicine.

Washington University School of Medicine‘s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.