Pfizer is launching Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, a unit that will combine its current work in stem cell research into a single organization based jointly in Cambridge, England, and Cambridge, Mass. It will be headed by Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Ruth McKernan.
Expected to employ 70 researchers, the group will straddle Pfizer's new Biotherapeutics & Bioinnovation Center and Pfizer Global Research & Development. McKernan will report to both Corey Goodman, head of BBC, and Rod MacKenzie, head of worldwide research.
The regenerative medicine unit is intended to coordinate and expand stem cell research, including small-molecule screens of stem cell lines, according to Goodman. Last year, he says, the company broadened its research policy to include embryonic stem cell lines that qualified for federal funding.
It's a coincidence that the launch comes within weeks of the election of Barack H. Obama as the next president, Goodman says. When Obama takes office, he is expected to overturn current federal funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research (C&EN, Nov. 10, page 7).
The federal restrictions on stem cell research have hampered R&D efforts at big drug companies partly by limiting the training of new investigators, according to industry watchers. "There has been less research—thus fewer ideas that would have otherwise gone to industry," says Lawrence A. Soler, vice president of government relations with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Goodman agrees that the benefits of increased public funding will accrue for drug companies. In fact, in the weeks ahead, Pfizer plans to announce stem cell research partnerships with academic labs and small biotech firms.