6 Months After Pfizer Cuts Neuroscience Development, Adds $600 Million to Venture Arm with 25% Slated for Neuroscience
In late January, Pfizer Inc. abandoned its research and development of new neuroscience programs. Along with the news came 300 job cuts. It was terminating eight different projects. Two were in Phase II while six others were in Phase I. The two Phase II projects were PF-06372865 for epilepsy and PF-06649751 for Parkinson’s disease. Four of the Phase I projected targeted Alzheimer’s disease. The other two Phase I candidates were for a cognitive disorder and schizophrenia.
Now Pfizer is throwing an additional $600 million into its venture capital fund, with a quarter of it earmarked for neuroscience research investments. It will bring Pfizer Ventures’ total funding to over $1 billion. Business Insider notes, “Several drugmakers, including Pfizer, have cut back on neuroscience research after a string of costly trials yielded disappointing results, with some of them betting on startups that are focusing on such areas. Pfizer has already invested in six neuroscience companies and, alongside drugmakers such as GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly, is part of the Dementia Discovery Fund, which has raised more than $190 million since its 2015 launch.”
Those six companies include Aquinnah, Autifony, Cortexyme, MindImmune, MISSION, and Neuronetics.
Glenn Larsen, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Aquinnah, said in a statement, “Pfizer’s investment in Aquinnah is helping advance two exciting Stress Granule neurodegenerative programs in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer’s disease. By being located in LabCentral within the Pfizer building in Kendall Square and through our joint efforts, Aquinnah has access to a leading group of scientific advisors, as well as state of the art technology facilities.”
About $150 million will be invested in early-stage neuroscience companies, with a particular focus on neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation and neuro-metabolic disorders.
Pfizer’s vice president, Worldwide Business Development and senior managing partner of Pfizer Ventures, Barbara Dalton, said in a statement, “By expanding Pfizer’s venture capital efforts under Pfizer Ventures, we hope to extend both the breadth and depth of Pfizer’s support for the development of cutting-edge science from concept to products. Building on our existing investments and proven track-record, we will look to identify and invest in emerging companies that are advancing compounds and technologies with the hope of delivering life-changing therapies to patients in need.”
In addition to the additional funding, Pfizer is expanding the Pfizer Ventures team. It will be still led by Dalton with Elaine Jones and Bill Burkoth. But Denis Patrick, vice president, Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development and managing partner of Pfizer Ventures, Laszlo Kiss, Margin McLoughlin, Chris O’Donnell and Nikola Trbovic will also be joining the group. It consolidates R&D Innovate, Pfizer’s R&D equity investment vehicle with Pfizer Venture Investments.
“By changing the way we invest in neuroscience, we hope to support an energized community of biotech entrepreneurs who are progressing the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of neurologic diseases and help advance potential treatments for people with neurological conditions,” Denis Patrick said in a statement.
About 80 percent of Pfizer Ventures investments will be made in the U.S. It will also commit up to $10 million when it first invests.