Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A fat Pfizer pushed away the pioneers

My column this week over at Michigan Business Review discusses the Pfizer plant closings that have caused a great deal of trauma in local communities. I blame Pfizer for refusing to live up to its end of the patent-cycle bargain and refusing to look at the work of those who are truly pushing the boundaries of medicine, including nanotech pioneers here in Michigan. Here's an excerpt:

Instead, there pervaded a culture that gave collective shrugs against those who pushed the frontiers, against those who were developing methods of avoiding the kinds of side-effects that gave Pfizer and others such a black eye a couple of years ago. Remember Celebrex and Vioxx? So, most experimental therapies were shown the door.


I am thinking of companies like Ann Arbor’s NanoBio Corp. or Avidimer Therapeutics Inc., both companies spun out of the nanotech labs of the University of Michigan’s James Baker, and both working on the next generation of targeted, timed cancer therapies that could do away with painful chemotherapy.

Last year, when Pfizer began trimming its Ann Arbor workforce, Baker told me that there was an exciting ‘’critical mass’’ of people in Ann Arbor available to help his companies -- people who know the pharmaceutical business and can help with process development, clinical and regulatory issues, toxicology and other aspects of the business.

I also think of Donald Tomalia, a former Dow chemist who now heads Dendritic Nanotechnologies Inc. in Midland. His company is also working on a whole platform of potential game-changing anti-cancer compounds based on an invention he had more than 20 years ago. He told me that large pharmaceutical companies are finally realizing that their pipelines are empty even as their blockbuster drugs are coming off patent.

Now, almost a quarter-century after Tomalia’s invention of the dendrimer, the doors to Big Pharma are at last being opened for him.

Read the whole column here.

Update: Family ties bring good fortune to John Wu. And he wants to extend his "family" to former Pfizer workers looking for opportunities in China. Story here.

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