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Cluster of Five Major UK Universities Announces Agreement With Pfizer in Rare Disease Research

On May 9, the Global Medical Excellence Cluster (GMEC) announced a five-year collaborative agreement with Pfizer Inc. that provides a framework for the research and development of new and innovative medicines for rare diseases.

by Global Medical Excellence Cluster
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A new agreement between Pfizer and GMEC provides scientists from the GMEC partners the opportunity to work with Pfizer scientists on joint drug discovery programmes.Image courtesy of Pfizer via Wikimedia CommonsThe agreement provides scientists from the GMEC partners – Cambridge University, Imperial College London, King’s College London, Queen Mary University London, University College London and Oxford University – the opportunity to work with Pfizer scientists on joint drug discovery programmes. Bringing together the scientific and clinical excellence of the Universities and Academic Health Science Centres in the GMEC cluster with the drug discovery and development skills of Pfizer has the potential to accelerate the translation of basic science into a new generation of innovative medicines for the treatment of these debilitating and life-threatening conditions.

There are over 6,000 recognised rare diseases and, whilst each affects less than 0.1% of the population, collectively they impact more than 3.5 million people in the UK alone and about 60 million across Europe and the USA. Approximately 80% of rare disease is thought to have a genetic origin and so analysis of patients’ genomes is increasingly allowing researchers to identify the biochemical pathways which cause disease, thus enabling the design of new approaches to treatment.

The initiative will build on advances in understanding the molecular mechanisms underpinning rare diseases and will benefit from the significant progress made by the UK Government in building support for genomics research, for example the creation of Genomics England. Initial rollout of the programme has already begun. Senior Pfizer scientists, including Dr. Kevin Lee, Chief Scientific Officer of Pfizer’s Rare Disease Research Unit and GMEC CEO, Dr Jim Hagan, are visiting the GMEC Universities to launch the initiative.

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Professor Sir John Bell, Chairman of GMEC and Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford said, “We are looking forward to working with Pfizer on this project. It underlines the UK’s strengths in biomedical research and creates an important vehicle for academic and industrial scientists to work together with the goal to translate fundamental research into benefit for patients.”

“Collaboration between industry and the scientific community is vital to the goal of driving the development of a new generation of medicines to improve the lives of patients with rare diseases,” said Mikael Dolsten, M.D., Ph.D., President, Worldwide Research and Development, Pfizer Inc. “We are excited about establishing this new relationship with GMEC and look forward to working closely with these highly regarded UK institutions to potentially develop new treatments for debilitating genetic disorders.”