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Pfizer Invests $6M in Canadian Research Groups

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Pfizer's investment in several Ontario, Canada-based research institutions will seek to discover and develop genetic biomarkers to personalize new and existing colorectal cancer treatments in the pharmaceutical giant's pipeline.
In July, Pfizer Global Research and Development invested $6 million in the POP-CURE program, which is being led by researchers at the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Ontario Institute of Cancer Research. Pfizer's investment in POP-CURE, which stands for PMH-OICR-Pfizer-CURE, represents less than 0.1 percent of the more than $7 billion the company spends annually on research and development.

Simultaneously, Ontario's Ministry of Research and Innovation is investing $900,000 in the POP-CURE project through its Biopharmaceutical Investment Program. The research agreement between Pfizer, OICR, and PMH is for three years.

"The goal of the project is to develop new therapeutic targets and new diagnostics, as well as discover new diagnostic markers in colon cancer patients, on the basis of their individual cancer genotypes," says Bradly Wouters, a senior investigator at OICR and leader of the POP-CURE initiative.

Wouters' research team will use genomic and molecular pathology approaches to develop a large clinical biobank, which in turn will be used to identify molecular signatures in colorectal cancer patients. Pfizer will use these molecular signatures to develop products for early detection, monitoring, and treatment of colorectal cancer.

According to Wouters, the project will also include "work on agents that are closer to testing, and some that are even in testing." Wouters did not specify for which drugs in Pfizer's pipeline the researchers will try to find genomic signatures. Pfizer spokes-person Julie-Catherine Racine also did not disclose the drugs being studied under the POP-CURE project.

"Any opportunities for validation of any research discoveries with targeted compounds will be determined within the multi-year partnership according to most appropriate compound within our selection," Racine says.

— Turna Ray

PGx & Molecular Dx Notes

The UK's National Health Service invested £4.5 million in a pilot program to prepare physicians for the changes that personalized and genomic medicine will bring to the healthcare field. The program aims to provide enhanced training in genetic technologies and clinical applications for healthcare scientists working in laboratory genetics.

University of Miami researchers will use breast cancer microarray technology from Almac Diagnostics in studies of how genetic differences found in varying ethnic groups influence disease. The project has been funded with a two-year, $725,000 grant under the Department of Defense's Synergistic Idea Award program.

Beckman Coulter completed its $780 million acquisition of Olympus' lab-based diagnostics business.

Datapoint
$1.2 million
Amount of two small business grants Won By Micronics to develop nucleic-acid based diagnostic tests for HIV and respiratory infections

Funded Grants
$70,744/FY 2009
The Effect of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms on Protein Structure and Interaction
Grantee: Emil Alexov, Clemson University
Began: Jul. 1, 2009; Ends: Jun. 30, 2010
Alexov and colleagues will use this grant to study three non-synonymous coding SNPs within the spearmine synthase gene associated with X-linked mental retardation "to reveal the molecular mechanism of effect of mutations on structure, function and interactions" of the gene, the abstract says. This may "provide valuable insights towards understanding the cause of the disease."

$266,011/FY 2009
Genomic-Based Diagnostics for Coccidioides, the Causative Agent Of Valley Fever
Grantee: Paul Keim, Translational Genomics
Research Institute
Began: May 15, 2009; Ends: Apr. 30, 2011
Keim and his team will "develop and validate novel direct detection and characterization real-time PCR assays for the causative agents of Valley Fever (VF), Coccidioides posadasii and C. immitis," according to the abstract. Their research strategy involves a multi-faceted translational collaboration.

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