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fizer’s head of research has said that the firm’s R&D have “simply not been good enough” but a more focused approach is already pointing towards much more success in the future.

Speaking at the FT Global Pharmaceutical & Biotechnology conference in London, Martin Mackay, who will be president of the new pharmatherapeutics R&D division at the expanded Pfizer (after the Wyeth acquisition), noted that “we haven’t chosen the right targets often enough…we went after everything”. The company was investigating 475 molecules in January 2007 and “an appalling number worked”, he said, but two years later Pfizer had cut that figure to 175 research projects.

Pfizer has created smaller, more focused research teams, Dr Mackay noted, and introduced single governance committees that simplify the decision-making process. The company is also engaging much more with academia and has made giant strides in extending its R&D network in Asia, he said.

Dr Mackay added that despite the inherent difficulties involved, “we are in a golden age of drug discovery, we’ve never had so many tools”. These tools allow Pfizer to gear its potential treatments for the right patient populations, he noted, giving the example of PF-02341066, a new drug to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer. A subset of NSCLC patients have been identified whose tumours carry a unique mutation and Pfizer will focus on this group in Phase III trials of the drug.

Dr Mackay also referred to the recent establishment of ViiV Healthcare, the new specialist HIV joint venture set up with GlaxoSmithKline as an example of the innovative way in which Pfizer is looking at research and getting the most out of existing compounds. He told PharmaTimes World News that similar ventures could be considered, noting that Pfizer will continue along the path of co-licensing deals, such as the agreement it has in place with Bristol-Myers Squibb for the investigational oral anticoagulant apixaban.