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Pfizer, UCB Joint Venture

Cyclofluidic, a microfluidics firm, will start up with help from the U.K. government

by Ann M. Thayer
October 27, 2008 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 86, Issue 43

Pfizer and the Brussels-based pharmaceutical company UCB have jointly created Cyclofluidic, a new company that will exploit microfluidic techniques for directing small quantities of materials through miniature channels. The U.K. government's Technology Strategy Board (TSB) helped structure the deal.

"Our role is to stimulate the development and deployment of technologies, which, as well as benefiting society, also provide global business opportunities for the U.K.," said Iain Gray, TSB's chief executive, when the launch of Cyclofluidic was announced last week. According to the board, the drug industry accounts for 25% of industrial R&D spending in the U.K., which conducts more pharmaceutical R&D than any other European Union country.

For investment of about $1.7 million each, Pfizer and UCB will jointly own the new company, and each will be represented on its board and through scientific observers. TSB will provide matching R&D funding, and the venture may take on other investors as well.

Pfizer and UCB believe they can accelerate the pace of drug discovery with microfluidic flow chemistry and flow biology. "Cyclofluidic's entry into the rapidly evolving microfluidic technology area has the potential to radically transform the medicinal chemistry and biology interface," said Neil Weir, senior vice president for research at UCB.

To achieve these gains, Cyclofluidic will develop a closed-loop microfluidic system that can be used to screen potential drug candidates against therapeutic targets. It will develop the system through collaborations with academic researchers and component manufacturers. The company also will train scientists at its facility, to be located in the south of England.


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