The Niche

Pfizer launches regenerative medicine unit

The pharmaceutical giant made it official today. It has launched a regenerative medicine unit co-located in Cambridge, UK and Cambridge, MA. It will have about 70 full-time employees, but the cheery news for stem-cell start-ups is the focus on deal-making. The company’s press release hinted that several scientific collaborations would be announced this week, and Pfizer’s head of bio-innovation reportedly said that this initiative might very well help some young companies stay alive through the financial crisis. (See the Wall Street Journal blog. For a broader view, see In search of a viable business model.)

The first time I heard a Pfizer official talk about this was at a stem cell conference in September (See Companies have company at stem-cell conference). The company line was caution: stem cells would be tools to finding, vetting, and assessing small molecule drugs. Cell therapies were a stretch. Sure, at that point, Pfizer had already invested in a little cell therapy company for eye disease, but those funds comprised the tiniest fraction of a giant R&D budget (See Pfizer dips a toe in stem-cell research). Today, ten days after the election of a stem-cell-friendly US president Pfizer sounds more ambitious. “Scientists at Pfizer Regenerative Medicine will explore the use of stem cells to develop future treatments that may prevent disability, repair failing organs and treat degenerative diseases. The ultimate goal will be to deliver new medicinal products that can pave the way for the use of cells as therapeutics.”


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