What is Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation?

Established in 2010, Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) was founded on the notion that our current scientific and global health challenges are too complex for any one player in the healthcare ecosystem to solve alone. We believe that collaboration is critical to success. CTI collaborates with academic institutions and investigators to push forward great science, using the depth and breadth of the Pfizer enterprise to accelerate concepts into viable therapies with breakthrough potential for patients.

What is Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation?

Established in 2010, Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) was founded on the notion that our current scientific and global health challenges are too complex for any one player in the healthcare ecosystem to solve alone. We believe that collaboration is critical to success. CTI collaborates with academic institutions and investigators to push forward great science, using the depth and breadth of the Pfizer enterprise to accelerate concepts into viable therapies with breakthrough potential for patients.

CTI focuses on accessing cutting-edge science and innovative discoveries aligned with Pfizer’s current core research areas of Oncology, Inflammation & Immunology, Rare Diseases, and Internal Medicine with a strategic focus on the emerging areas of Tissue Resident Immunity, Repeat Expansion Disorders and DNA Damage Response.

Lewis Cantley, Ph.D.

Meyer Director of the Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medical College, Professor of Cancer Biology in Medicine

At CTI, there is a free exchange of information and the ability to bring in expertise from all parts of the company. You’re not just collaborating with one person in a company or even one division. We really shared it all in play – and it was quite unique. I can’t say there’s been any other collaboration I’ve been a part of with that level of accessibility and openness.

Meet the Team

Uwe Schoenbeck

Uwe Schoenbeck

Chief Scientific Officer

As Head of Pfizer’s Emerging Sciences & Innovation (ES&I) organization and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) for CTI, Uwe is responsible for setting the scientific priorities for CTI and driving a strategy of pursuit of breakthrough science through innovative partnerships aligned with Pfizer’s Worldwide Research, Development & Medical goals.
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Uwe Schoenbeck

Uwe Schoenbeck, Ph.D.

Chief Scientific Officer

Emerging Science & Innovation (ES&I)

Senior Vice President, Pfizer Worldwide Research, Development & Medical

Uwe Schoenbeck leads Pfizer’s Emerging Science & Innovation (ES&I) team. Part of Worldwide Research, Development & Medical, ES&I is charged with enhancing Pfizer’s pipeline through translation of external emerging science into breakthrough therapies for patients. Through the dedicated outreach to academia, consortia and biotech via its Emerging Science Liaisons located around the globe, ES&I works across Pfizer’s Therapeutic Areas to harness external cutting edge preclinical assets and breakthrough technologies applying a broad range of partnering vehicles, including research collaborations, consortia, licensing, acquisitions. With its Pfizer Innovation team ES&I also engages in equity investments as well as seed investments and formation of new companies. Its Target Sciences team is focused on novel target and biology discovery research to introduce differentiated First-in-Class programs with enhanced confidence in rationale into the WRDM portfolio. And through its Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) ES&I prosecutes cutting edge science sourced from leading academic and medical centers globally, working in close partnership with external PIs and building an exciting pipeline across the range of Pfizer’s core areas. This end-to-end innovation capability aims to strengthen Pfizer’s research engine and provide key drivers for a pipeline of truly differentiated first-in-class assets as well as breakthrough technologies by effectively combining external innovation with internal drug development capabilities.

Uwe brings fifteen years of pharmaceutical drug development experience to Pfizer’s R&D executive leadership team. Prior to joining the company, he served as Vice President, Emerging R&D Innovation for Wyeth and Vice President, Cardiovascular Research for Boehringer Ingelheim. Before joining industry, he held an Assistant Professor of Medicine position at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He has served as a reviewer for multiple peer-reviewed journals and has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, review articles, book chapters and abstracts with particular contributions in molecular and cell biology, cardiovascular research, immunology and metabolism.

Samantha O’Connor

Sam O’Connor

Head, ES&I Business & Operations

As Head of Business and Operations for ES&I, Sam is responsible for defining and implementing the operational processes, and portfolio and alliance management practices to support the Emerging Sciences & Innovation business and research strategy which includes CTI.
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Samantha O’Connor

Samantha O’Connor, B.Sc (Hons), MBA

Head, Business and Operations

Emerging Science & Innovation (ES&I)

Executive Director, Pfizer Worldwide Research, Development & Medical

Sam O’Connor joined CTI in 2014 to lead the strategic and operational functions for CTI at the time it was emerging from start-up phase into its growth trajectory for long term sustainability. In her role she has responsibility for the operational, portfolio and alliance management activities across the CTI network.

Sam trained as a molecular microbiologist prior to commencing her industrial career at Medicines Australia, the non-profit professional and trade association representing Australia's prescription pharmaceutical industry. She initially joined Pfizer to lead its first R&D investment program with the Australian medical research sector, a highly successful collaborative venture between Pfizer, the academic and biotech research community and the Australian Government. During her time in Australia, she also served as a Non-Executive Director on the National Board of Directors of AusBiotech, the non-profit association representing the Australian biotechnology industry.

Sam subsequently held a number of externally-facing roles within Pfizer’s UK and US operations, responsible for partnering efforts across Europe, Australasia and the USA. She has extensive experience in planning, negotiating and implementing license, collaboration and other agreements to acquire, divest or co-develop new therapies and technologies with a diverse range of parties including academia, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, patient-focused foundations, investors and governmental policy makers.

Having worked and studied in the public hospital sector, academia, biotech advocacy and pharma industry, Sam has a passionate belief in the essential and ever-growing role cross-sector and cross-functional partnerships play in driving innovation and the evolution of organizations for the benefit of humankind.

David Shields

David Shields

East Coast Site Head

As East Coast Site Head, David leads the scientific teams based in CTI Boston (Cambridge, MA) and New York City, and is responsible for the programs these labs lead in partnership with the academic and biotech communities.
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David Shields

David Shields, Ph.D.

CTI East Coast Site Head

Emerging Science & Innovation (ES&I)

Vice President, Pfizer Worldwide Research, Development & Medical

David Shields is the East Coast Site Head for the CTI labs in Manhattan (NY), Kendall Square (MA) and leads CTI activities for the East Coast of the USA and Canada as well as Europe. Prior to joining CTI in 2017, David was Research Lead for the Pfizer Pediatric Oncology Team and the Director of Oncology Therapeutics Discovery in focus areas such as immuno-oncology, epigenetics and cell cycle biology. David has held Group Leader positions across portfolio stages at Pfizer from Target Discovery to Translational Research, led Combination and Resistance Strategy for Pfizer Oncology Research and directed pre-clinical translational support for assets such as Sutent (sunitinb), Inlyta (axitinib) and Ibrance (palbociclib).

David holds a BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Sciences from University College Cork, Ireland and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Alberta, Canada. Subsequent to his graduate studies, David conducted post-doctoral training at The Scripps Research Institute and Moores UCSD Comprehensive Cancer Center. He has authored scientific publications in some of the highest impact journals and is the Pfizer Lead for the public/private ITCC-P4 Pediatric Oncology consortium project.

Joseph Dal Porto

Joseph Dal Porto

West Coast Site Head

As West Coast Site Head, Joe leads the scientific teams based in CTI San Francisco and San Diego, and is responsible for the programs these labs lead in partnership with the academic and biotech communities.
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Joseph Dal Porto

Joseph Dal Porto, Ph.D.

CTI West Coast Site Head

Emerging Science & Innovation (ES&I)

Vice President, Pfizer Worldwide Research, Development & Medical

Joe Dal Porto is the West Coast Site Head for the CTI labs in San Francisco and San Diego, and leads CTI activities for the West Coast of the USA and Canada as well as, Australasia. Joe was one of CTI’s first hires in 2011 and helped launch the inaugural programs for CTI with UC San Francisco. Prior to CTI, Joe was Co-Founder and Director of Modus Biomedicine which was a spin-out from his work at Roche Biosciences, Palo Alto. At Roche, he served as a project and group leader in the Immunology and Inflammation Discovery Division. Joe is an expert in cellular and molecular immunology and worked in the fields of inflammation, autoimmunity, tolerance and immuno-oncology for over 20 years. He has been involved in small and large molecule drug discovery and has overseen the development of several clinical-stage programs and approved drugs.

Joe received his B.S. in Biochemistry from The Johns Hopkins University and remained in Maryland to obtain his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. His graduate studies were focused in the field of cellular immunology in the laboratory of Dr. Garnett Kelso, where he examined the mechanisms underlying affinity maturation of the humoral immune response. Moving from the outside to the inside of the cell, Joe received an Ares-Serono Young Investigator award to study lymphocyte signaling as a post-doc in the laboratory of Dr. John Cambier at the National Jewish Medical Research Center and University of Colorado Health Science Center (Denver, CO). He remained in Denver to pursue a junior faculty position at NJMRC/UCHSC before taking a position with Roche, Palo Alto. In 2006, he was the recipient of an NIH RO1 grant for work in the field of molecular signaling in autoimmunity and has numerous publications in top-tier peer-reviewed journals, has authored several book chapters, as well as having presented his work at the international level.

Karen Seibert, Ph.D.

Professor of Anesthesiology, Pathology and Immunology, and Genetics, Washington University School of Medicine

The opportunity to work with different types of scientists who are exceedingly well-versed in discovery and development, who bring new ways of thinking about the science and hypothesis and ask new kinds of questions that need to be applied, is extremely gratifying. The value proposition for the faculty in these collaborations is to see their work and their interest go in a direction that they might not have taken through traditional academic paths.

How it Works

CTI pursues breakthrough science at the earliest stages. We offer industry-leading drug development expertise combined with the infrastructure of a large biopharmaceutical company in an open, collaborative environment. Once we identify promising research, we work with academic investigators to navigate the challenges inherent in early translational science through hands-on support from subject matter experts across Pfizer and through our network in the broader life science community. Our most successful, enduring relationships rely on close collaboration between scientists. CTI assigns a scientific champion for each investigator and project, who understands and manages the project needs, and coordinates access to Pfizer’s global capabilities and scale to deliver optimal outcomes.

This is an exciting moment in R&D as the opportunity for scientific and medical advancement may never have been greater. CTI’s collaborative model deploys Pfizer R&D resources where breakthrough science is happening at the earliest stages, leveraging the full Pfizer enterprise to translate therapeutic hypotheses from academic collaborators into viable therapeutics. Building and expanding upon our visionary model for translational research, we have built a network of ongoing relationships with dozens of top-tier academic institutions globally.

CTI Researcher
*As of December 2019.

In order to create equitable collaborations and streamline program research starts, CTI has established a model “Participation Agreement” under which CTI research programs with an academic institution sit. and are pre-negotiated with each institution to expedite program commencement. Developed in conjunction with our early academic collaborators, all of our partner academic institutions have reviewed and signed on to our Participation Agreement. Projects are executed via Statements of Work that are governed by the Participation Agreement.

Projects usually commence when a PI proposes a target that is ripe for mounting a drug discovery effort, and then progress collaboratively towards and into the clinic. To date, CTI has progressed 6 drug candidates to the clinic, of which 3 are in Phase II and 2 are in Phase I.

Weining Lu, MD,

Associate Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston University Medical Center

CTI embodies the first-of-its-kind industry and academia collaboration model. Working with CTI, I’ve learned significantly more in terms of drug development. I have worked closely with CTI scientists, who have come to my office and helped map out next steps together from the very first step of proposal submission. This collaboration continues to be one of the best in my career.

https://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/weining-lu-kidney-researcher-innovator-of-the-year

Our Collaborators

Our Collaborators

Building and expanding on our visionary model for early translational research CTI has built an ever-evolving global network of ongoing relationships with dozens of academic medical centers and investigators. We work uniquely with academic investigators to navigate the challenges inherent in early translational science through hands-on support from industry experts across Pfizer. Our collaborators represent notable academic institutions where pioneering principal investigators (PIs) with promising potential drug programs are based. Most of our collaborating institutions are based near our CTI labs in Cambridge, MA, New York City, San Francisco and San Diego, however we also have successful collaborations with other institutions across the US and across the globe.

Benaroya Research Institute
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Boston Children's Hospital
Boston University
Johns Hopkins University
Monash University
NYU Langone Health
The University Of Melbourne
The University Of Queensland
UCSF
Uniquest
University of Massachusetts Medical School

Jeffrey Bluestone, Ph.D.,

A.W. and Mary Margaret Clausen Distinguished Professor of Metabolism and Endocrinology and Director of the Hormone Research Institute in the Diabetes Center, University of California, San Francisco

Sometimes a project might not move forward – for any number of different reasons such as scientific or non-scientific concerns, but the project remains a promising idea and potentially viable, and the PI wishes to continue to explore, generating data that might be attractive to others, including Pfizer, down the road. So what makes CTI unique is that everyone wants to make sure that the investigator who was putting their heart and soul into the project is left with enabling tools to continue to advance the project. That is one of the main reasons I’ve continued to stay engaged with CTI over so many years, the relationship is really a partnership.

Submit a Proposal

CTI takes a staged approach to collaboration to alleviate as much of the burden on the academic institution and investigator as possible.

Before submitting your proposal directly, please contact your institution’s business or Tech Transfer Office (TTO) representative to find out if your institution is part of the CTI network. If so, they will be able to help you submit a pre-proposal for review. If not, please contact us at [email protected].

If you are a member of the TTO or business office of your academic institution, please click the button on the top right of the screen. Log in using your user ID and password.

If you have not logged in before, select Request an Account complete the information required, and a member of our team will verify your details and provide access to the system. Once logged in, you will have access to the Pre-proposal Dashboard where you can create and monitor the status of submitted pre-proposals.

Please note that investigators must use the approved Pre-proposal Template that can be downloaded from the . Once the Investigator has finalized the application, click . Fill in all the fields on the page, then attach the completed template at the top of the screen, and select “submit”. If you forgot your password, please select Reset password and an email will be sent to you.

If you are not from an academic institution or your institution is not currently part of the CTI network, please contact us at [email protected] to discuss.

FAQs

Why partner with CTI?

CTI uniquely works with academic investigators to navigate the challenges inherent in early translational science through hands-on support from subject matter experts across Pfizer. We offer industry-leading drug development expertise combined with the infrastructure of a large biopharmaceutical company in an open, collaborative environment. Our most successful, enduring partnerships rely on close collaboration between scientists. For example:

  • Our joint project teams create focused research plans based on agreed-upon scientific goals and deliverables, supported by complementary expertise of the investigator and Pfizer researchers throughout the length of the project.
  • We offer the opportunity to work alongside our researchers in our labs in New York, California (San Francisco and San Diego) and Cambridge, MA to nurture joint decision-making, learning opportunities and relationship-building.
  • CTI assigns a scientific champion for each investigator and project, who understands and manages the project needs, and coordinates access to Pfizer’s global resources, expertise and capabilities to deliver optimal outcomes. Our scientists actively engage from project conception to exit, ensuring hands-on support and transparent decision-making.
How does CTI select proposals?

CTI takes a staged approach to collaboration to alleviate as much of the burden on the academic institution and investigator as possible. The first stage of the process is for a potential collaborator to submit a brief, two to three page non-confidential pre-proposal to CTI via our .

Pre-proposals pass through an initial triage phase to determine whether they are aligned with CTI’s areas of interest. Those that pass this triage are reviewed by a cross-functional committee represented by experts from across Pfizer’s Research Units and Partner Lines, such as Drug Safety, Chemistry, and BioMedicine Design. This committee will assess the feasibility of mounting a drug discovery program in the proposed research area, working with the relevant academic institution to determine which pre-proposals will progress to full proposal drafting.

How do I submit a proposal for consideration?

Are you a Principal Investigator?

Contact your institution’s business or Tech Transfer Office (TTO) to find out if your institution is part of the CTI network. If so, they will be able to help you submit a pre-proposal for review. If your institution is not a part of the CTI network, please contact us at [email protected].

Are you in the business office / TTO of an academic institution?

In order to submit a proposal on the CTI website please click on the top right of the screen. Log in using your user ID and password.

If you have not logged in before, select Request an Account, complete the information required, and a member of our team will verify your details and provide access to the system. Once logged in, you will have access to the Pre-proposal Dashboard where you can create and monitor the status of submitted pre-proposals.

Please note that investigators must use the approved Pre-proposal Template that can be downloaded from the . Once the Investigator has finalized the application, click . Fill in all the fields on the page, then attach the completed template at the top of the screen, and select “submit”. If you forgot your password, please select Reset password and an email will be sent to you.

Do I need to submit my proposal through my Tech Transfer Office? Or can I submit directly to the site?

Non-confidential pre-proposals must be submitted through your business / Tech Transfer Office (TTO) representative who will submit to the CTI portal on your behalf. If your TTO is unable to submit in this way, please ask them to contact us at [email protected]. If you are unable to reach your TTO, please contact us at [email protected]

How do I find out if my institution has a pre-negotiated Participation Agreement?

Please reach out to your institution’s business / Tech Transfer Office (TTO) to see if your institution has a CTI Participation Agreement. Otherwise, contact us at [email protected].

If CTI is interested in my proposal, what happens next?

Pre-proposals pass through an initial triage phase to determine whether they are aligned with CTI’s areas of interest. Those that pass this triage are reviewed by a cross-functional committee represented by experts from across Pfizer’s Research Units and Partner Lines, such as Drug Safety, Chemistry, and BioMedicine Design. This committee will assess the feasibility of mounting a drug discovery program in the proposed research area, working with the relevant academic institution to determine which pre-proposals will progress to confidential full proposal writing.

Full proposals are co-drafted by the academic investigator and a CTI research leader. These are detailed research plans outlining the goals, activities and ‘go’/ ‘no go’ criteria for the proposed project. Once finalized, the full proposal is reviewed in depth by a joint steering committee consisting of representatives from both Pfizer and the PI’s academic institution. If accepted, the full proposal progresses to the execution of a Statement of Work and the project begins.

What happens if my project is funded, and at some point during the research program, reaches a ‘no go’ decision point?

As with all scientific endeavors, projects may terminate for many different reasons. Should Pfizer decide not to advance jointly developed molecules, the parties can discuss alternatives for those research programs, including the possibility of licensing the IP to third parties. Academic research rights are protected within this collaboration.

If CTI does not select my proposal, or my proposal is not the right fit for CTI, are there other opportunities to partner with Pfizer?

Yes, there are multiple opportunities to partner with Pfizer in different ways. To learn more please visit: https://www.pfizer.com/partners.