New Scientific Agreements between Drug Manufacturer, Colleges Could Propel Clinical Research Into a

A new scientific collaboration between Pfizer Animal Health and three veterinary colleges could speed discovery of new drugs and will increase the number of clinical trials conducted on campus, which creates additional research opportunities and expands medical options for clients whose pets have limited treatment venues, say professionals.

The agreements, signed in 2005 and early 2006 between Pfizer and veterinary colleges at the University of Minnesota, University of Pennsylvania and the Royal Veterinary College in London, will test drugs pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on client-owned pets that develop diseases naturally, said a Pfizer scientist.

Pfizer representatives believe the company is the first to develop this type of arrangement though the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine could not confirm the statement. It allows Pfizer to collect and submit data to the Center for Veterinary Medicine as phase two research in a four phase process that includes discovery, development, and market support process. Described as a unique collaboration between academic researchers and Pfizer scientists, it enables the company to tap rich reservoirs of pets seen at veterinary teaching hospitals, said Michael Spensley, DVM, director of Pfizer’s collaborative research with veterinary colleges.

Prior to this arrangement, this type of research (for phase two data) was conducted on lab animals when possible, Spensley explained. The ability to test the drugs on client owned pets that obtain diseases naturally will be more meaningful, he said.

The colleges selected to participate in the new collaboration have large pools of patients and a diverse array of researcher professionals, Spensley explained.

The hospital in Minnesota sees about 45,000 cases a year, said Bert Stromberg, associate dean of research and graduate programs at the University of Minnesota. “We would be remiss if we didn’t use the clinical data for studies,” he added.

The scientific collaboration is an annually renewable program that has a shelf life of five years. If they are successful, Pfizer may seek additional academic partners, Spensley said.

Financial figures for the scientific collaborations were not released, though unlike individual grants or sponsorships they enable colleges to hire additional staff, pay for research fees, and plan up to three clinical trials in the coming year, according to Stromberg.

As co-director of the Clinical Investigation Center, an office that provides technical support for trials and facilitates interactions between researchers and sponsors, Stromberg hopes that scientific collaborations will make clinical trials more prominent research avenues at the college.