By Turna Ray
Pfizer's new research collaboration with Medco subsidiary United BioSource Corporation is in line with a growing trend among drug developers to work with companies that house large databases of patient data in an effort to advance personalized therapies.
The Pfizer deal is the second such agreement that UBC has signed in the last six months. In June, Sanofi-Aventis announced that it would conduct comparative effectiveness research with UBC in order to make strategic decisions about which drugs to advance in its pipeline. The deal may also help Sanofi opportunistically develop personalized medicines (PGx Reporter 6/29/2011).
Earlier this year, AstraZeneca inked a similar CER arrangement with national payor WellPoint. Under that agreement, AstraZeneca gained access to Wellpoint subsidiary HealthCore's enrollee database, which may allow the drug developer to advance more pharmacogenomically guided treatments (PGx Reporter 2/16/2011).
In the same vein, Pfizer said that its research effort with UBC will support its "precision medicine approach, which integrates genomic and phenotypic information, to help understand the underlying biology of disease and identify patients likely to benefit from a new drug."
Through this collaboration, Pfizer will use Medco's rapidly growing database of genotype and phenotype data on patients. With the help of UBC, Pfizer can investigate the genetic, environmental, and patient traits that contribute to the development of certain diseases. "Based on information about similar patients, it may be possible to determine if these individuals are more likely to benefit from one course of treatment than another and provide information to guide treatment decisions that can improve the health of others in the same subgroup," Medco and Pfizer said in a statement.
Under the partnership, Pfizer and Medco will work together to evaluate whether certain investigational drugs and marketed drugs are more efficacious in certain subgroups with common characteristics than in the general patient population. The partners said they will jointly plan and implement precision medicine studies and will design them in line with patient privacy and consent requirements.
Pfizer did not respond to PGx Reporter's questions about the specific resources that Pfizer and Medco will contribute to the collaboration.
"Through this collaboration, we will apply our collective capabilities toward the goal of strengthening innovation from discovery to clinical practice — identifying high-potential drug targets, the characteristics of patients who are most likely to benefit from treatment, and new solutions for patient needs that emerge from our joint studies over time," Mikael Dolsten, president of worldwide research and development at Pfizer, said in a statement.
Pfizer and Medco have previously collaborated on various product-specific programs, and said that they are in the process of identifying collaborative opportunities under this new agreement.
As previously reported by PGx Reporter, Pfizer and Medco worked together in 2009 to educate physicians about Pfizer's molecularly targeted HIV drug Selzentry through an "HIV adherence program" (PGx Reporter 3/3/2010).
The deal with UBC to spur personalized medicine research comes as Pfizer is ramping up its investment in developing molecularly targeted treatments. The company in August received US Food and Drug Administration approval for a non-small cell lung cancer drug that benefits patients with ALK mutations, who comprise between 3 percent and 5 percent of NSCLC patients (PGx Reporter 9/7/2011).
Additionally, Pfizer is investigating personalized medicine strategies for a number of cancer treatments in its pipeline, including axitinib in kidney cancer, dacomitinib in NSCLC, and the PARP-inhibitor PF-01367338 in breast and ovarian cancer.
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