Pfizer has announced plans to set up a research unit with bases on both sides of the Atlantic which will investigate the therapeutic use of stem cells.

The New York-based drugs giant has launched Pfizer Regenerative Medicine, an independent research unit which the firm says will “build on recent scientific progress in understanding the biology of stem cells…to discover and develop a new generation of regenerative medicines for major medical needs”. In particular, scientists involved in the project will explore the use of stem cells to develop treatments that may prevent disability, repair failing organs and treat degenerative diseases.

PRM, which will get funding of $100 million over the next five years, will be co-located in what Pfizer calls “the biotech hubs of Cambridge, UK and Cambridge, Massachusetts”. Some forty researchers at the former site, based in Granta Park, will focus on neural and sensory disorders, while thirty US scientists, working out of Pfizer’s Research Technology Centre will concentrate on endocrine and cardiac research.

Corey Goodman, president of Pfizer’s Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center, said the new unit represents another key step forward in the firm’s bid to be “at the forefront of new approaches in biotherapeutics and bioinnovation and to expand our research efforts and expertise into emerging areas of biomedical science”. Ruth McKernan, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer who will lead the new unit, said that “while there is still a lot to understand about how stem cells can be used therapeutically, we believe it is one of the most promising areas of scientific research”.

The company said it will announce “several significant scientific collaborations” in the coming weeks, adding that it will look to “foster a biotechnology culture and environment” at the unit.