UCSF, Pfizer Renew Research Collaboration, Citing Progress in Drug Discovery Research

By Laura Kurtzman

2 UCSF researchers examining a brain scan
Daniel Lim (right), MD, PhD, is part of the UCSF team collaborating with Pfizer on developing a treatment for malignant brain tumors in young children due to a genetic mutation. Photo by Bruce DaSilva

UC San Francisco and Pfizer Inc.’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) have renewed an agreement to identify and develop biologic compounds against both known and novel targets, including the immune system, in diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

The collaboration allows UCSF and Pfizer to find and fund early-stage research projects. Projects are identified periodically through a process that includes an announcement of requests for proposals, proposal submissions, and reviews by a steering committee composed of leading Pfizer and UCSF scientists.

In 2010, UCSF became the first university to enter into a collaboration with CTI, a Pfizer research group with the goal of speeding the discovery and development of innovative antibody drugs, and, in 2013, it was the first institution to enter into a collaboration with CTI specifically to identify potential new small molecules against novel disease targets.

There are several ongoing research projects under the collaboration. One focuses on developing a treatment for malignant brain tumors in young children due to a genetic mutation with a novel small molecule kinase inhibitor. The team at UCSF consists of Nalin Gupta MD, PhD, Daniel A. Lim, MD, PhD, and Michael D. Prados, MD, from the Department of Neurological Surgery. Another, in which CTI has partnered with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and is working with UCSF scientist Jeffrey Bluestone, PhD, focuses on developing a novel immune-modulatory agent to treat Type 1 diabetes, which may be on an accelerated path toward human clinical trials. 

“This type of public-private collaboration holds great promise for identifying new drug development strategies and for moving the best ideas more quickly into clinical trials,” said Daniel Lowenstein, MD, executive vice chancellor and provost at UCSF. “It’s an essential path to follow if we are going to help people suffering from debilitating and life-threatening chronic conditions. We are seeing promising molecules begin to emerge under this collaboration, and we look forward to more success in the years to come.”

According to Pfizer CTI’s Chief Scientific Officer Anthony Coyle, PhD, “CTI’s collaboration with UCSF has set a course for exciting drug discovery projects. As a scientist, I see novel research being done under CTI’s collaboration with UCSF; involving Pfizer’s powerful drug development resources has the potential to be a game-changer for patients.”

The collaborations between UCSF and Pfizer CTI are managed by UCSF’s Office of Innovation, Technology and Alliances, which is responsible for coordinating the University’s efforts in building collaborations that focus on translating cutting edge science on campus into therapies and products that directly benefit patients worldwide. The office oversees intellectual property, technology transfer, and innovative alliances with commercial, non-profit, and government organizations.

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences; and a preeminent biomedical research enterprise. It also includes UCSF Health, which comprises top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland – and other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area.