Pfizer: Discovering the Future of Medicine

Published: Tuesday, Feb 19, 2008
Founded in 1849, Pfizer Inc. is focused on “helping people live longer, healthier, happier lives” through “discovering and developing breakthrough medicines; providing information on prevention, wellness, and treatment; consistent high-quality manufacturing of medicines and consumer products; and global leadership in corporate responsibility.”

Each day, Pfizer assists 38 million patients by utilizing the skills of 12,000 medical researchers and more than 100,000 colleagues. Part of Pfizer’s success in the pharmaceutical industry is in part due to the “entrepreneurial environment of a small biotech and the support of the largest drug discovery organization in the world,” which allows the company to take on risks in the pursuit of revolutionary approaches to drug discovery.

Pfizer Research Technology Center

Pfizer’s Research Technology Center (RTC) is a 97,000-square-foot research and development facility located between MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA. Founded in 1999, the RTC staff consists of 100 full-time employees who are focused on applying cutting-edge technology to address challenges that prevent patients from receiving the innovative medicines they need. Located in the vicinity of the world’s leading universities and hundreds of young biotech companies and major pharmas, the Research Technology Center is able to tap into a collective energy and expertise that is unmatched. The RTC “focuses on project work in the early stages of the drug discovery process, including target identification, high through-put screening, hit-to-lead chemistry, optimization, and chemical tool production.” One of the current RTC projects is the Kinases Platform, a strategy to “identify and prosecute members of the kinase gene family as drug discovery targets.”

The Drug Pfinder™ Mission

Th e mission of the Drug Pfinder™ group is to “bring novel discoveries to Pfizer Global R&D through collaborations with academic groups,” with the ultimate goal being the introduction of new drugs that will treat unmet medical needs. The program, developed in 1996, is meant to seek novel molecular targets for discovering new drug therapies in areas such as allergic diseases, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, immune enhancement, obesity, tissue repair, and many more.

Discovery Biology Research

The role of biology research in the development of new drugs “covers broad areas of discovery research, beginning with seeking out at the genetic level the mechanism believed to be involved in the target disease.” This process also involves “establishing an experimental regime that can screen large amounts of compounds; establishing an in vitro experimental regime that will uncover the lead compound and using it to collect and analyze data on the compound; and establishing an in vivo model regime to verify whether there is an effect on the disease.”

Pfizer scientists use the newest technology and equipment in the structure-activity relationship research that is the basis for drug development, evaluating drug effectiveness using animal disease models that reflect human pathology. The aim of this research is to “develop new disease models through active research on the pathophysiology of various kinds of pain, the pathophysiology of gastroesophageal reflux disease, and the mechanism of disease onset.”

Research Informatics

The research informatics department at Pfizer has two subdivisions, each with its own set of responsibilities. The information technology section “deploys and optimizes global systems, and databases, responds to requests from the laboratories, streamlines the analysis of data from test equipment, evaluates newly installed equipment, examines all types of applications, and conducts training for global applications.” On the other side, the research informatics group operates the library, manages information requested by the researchers, handles external communications, and offers guidance in copyright compliance. Pfizer’s global team has also developed a system that includes compound databases and experiment databases which researchers worldwide can use in common.

Pfizer’s Nagoya Laboratories has many research activities that are unique to their locations; however, to improve efficiency, the research informatics group “is involved with the research team from the beginning of a project, finds processes that can be systematized, and develops and installs a system.” With more than 700 personal computers at the site, the Nagoya Laboratories allows users to access approximately 2,000 periodicals from their PCs.


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