The University of California (UC) San Diego is the latest recruit to the Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI), the global open-innovation network launched last year by Pfizer to accelerate drug discovery and development through partnerships with academic research institutions.

The new partnership, which could be worth more than US$50 million to UC San Diego over the course of a five-year agreement, draws on the university’s research strengths in key areas such as the neurosciences, cancer, inflammation, metabolism, clinical pharmacology, HIV and pain.

Pfizer will give UC San Diego researchers access to some of its antibody libraries and technologies, as well as providing funds to support the pre-clinical and clinical development of sponsored programmes. CTI partners will receive intellectual property rights as well as milestone payments and royalties linked to the progress of mutually agreed drug candidates.

Building on CTRI

The alliance will also build on the efforts of the expanding Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI) at UC San Diego’s School of Medicine. The CTRI was launched in 2010 to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration among UCSD scientists and to develop innovative approaches to complex medical challenges.

The CTI laboratory staff will include Pfizer employees as well as leading basic and translational science investigators and doctoral candidates from UC San Diego School of Medicine and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, along with other UC San Diego researchers in biological sciences and bioengineering and from the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

“Public-private partnerships are increasingly important in science, especially in an era of limited federal grant support, when new resources are needed to commercialise innovations related to healthcare,” commented UC San Diego chancellor Marye Anne Fox.

Faster delivery

The CTI model provides leading investigators with the resources to pursue scientific and clinical breakthroughs through access to select Pfizer compound libraries, proprietary screening methods and antibody development technologies that are directly relevant to their work, noted Dr Gary Firestein, dean and associate vice chancellor of translational medicine at UC San Diego and director of the CTRI.

The outcome, he hoped, would be improved testing of clinical hypotheses, increasing the speed at which medicines could be delivered to patients in need.

Open network

The first partnership under Pfizer’s CTI initiative was an $85-million deal with the University of California San Francisco Last November.  Other US partners include Rockefeller University Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Columbia University Medical Center and Weil Cornell Medical College.

The Centers for Therapeutic Innovation unit is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the initial focus is on collaborations within the US. However, the network is expected to expand into Europe and Asia during 2012.

The idea behind the CTI is to break with the conventional model of public-private partnerships by creating an open network of researchers from Pfizer and academia to allow combined working on the identification and development of promising experimental drugs.