P

fizer has linked up with University College London to develop stem cell-based therapies for ophthalmic conditions, notably age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness.

The collaboration will examine how human embryonic stem cells differentiate into retinal pigment epithelium with the goal of developing therapies primarily for AMD. Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will provide undisclosed funding to UCL and has been granted exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise any stem cell-based therapeutic in the ophthalmology field that comes out of the pact.

Ruth McKernan, chief scientific officer of Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, which was created in November last year, described UCL as “pioneers in the field of stem cell ophthalmology”. She added that “while we have much to learn about how stem cells can be used therapeutically, we are confident that this relationship will increase that understanding”.

Pete Coffey of the UCL Institute for Ophthalmology, said that “we have not only the benefit of Pfizer’s experience of the regulatory process and their expertise in stem cell technology but the ability, if this works, to produce on a much larger scale”. He added that “it has huge implications, not only for our project, but for the field of regenerative medicine as a whole…and it is great that Britain is at the forefront of this research”.

Pfizer excited about Wyeth deal
Staying with Pfizer and chief executive Jeffrey Kinder has told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting that the New York-headquartered giant has “streamlined operations, reduced bureaucracy, set clear expectations and increased accountability, which has better positioned the company to combine with Wyeth”.

At the meeting, Mr Kindler also defended the decision to cut Pfizer’s historically-high dividend in half, from $0.32 to $0.16, saying that the move will help the firm put $5 billion towards the Wyeth acquisition. He also told shareholders that “I recognise our stock price isn’t where anyone wants it to be, but we have taken important steps to position Pfizer for steady, profitable growth.”

Mr Kindler added that "If we deliver on the potential of the many opportunities before us, then an improved share price should follow”. The AGM also saw shareholders approve proposals asking the company's board to give them an advisory vote on executive compensation and to make it easier to call a special shareholder meeting.