Stem Cells Live: Celebrating the Differences, How the Biotech Culture and Big Pharma Penetrate can Help Each Other Grow the Regen Med Industry


Tim Allsopp of Neusentis, Pfizer joins host Alain Vertes for the first in a series of fireside chats focusing on Big Pharma’s role in the future of regenerative medicine. Pfizer’s strategic decision to invest in regen med stimulated the creation of Neusentis, a unit of Pfizer dedicated to this area. Dr Allsopp also spoke of Pfizer’s active identification of opportunities for collaboration with biotech companies in this area owing to the time constraints preventing de novo builds of new facilities.

When quizzed on the relationship between more central elements of Pfizer and Neusentis, Dr Allsopp commented on the “individuality” that Neusentis (and external biotech units acquired by Pfizer) were encouraged to maintain. Indeed, it was added that Pfizer is re-juvenating the way that its employees consider R&D. A calculated risk approach is encouraged amongst staff in this area, the theme of individuality and maintaining a biotech philosophy again permeated through into the rhetoric.

Pfizer have sought to gain access to the cell therapy market through collaborations with Athersys and Moorfields Eye Hospital, London. The subject of recently published data from Athersys’ ulcerative colitis clinical trials (detrimentally referred to in the panel discussion in the morning session) was broached by Alain Vertes. Whilst Dr Allsopp acknowledged initial results of trials may have been disappointing from an efficacy standpoint, he pointed to the fact that this therapy was proven to be safe and tolerated by patients was a major plus point. Speaking more broadly on the relationship between Pfizer and Athersys, the Neusentis delegate described how a mutually strengthening process had been achieved during which both parties had gained vast amounts of knowledge. Moreover, Dr Allsopp revealed that Pfizer was dedicated to making use of the cultural differences between big pharma and biotech with its collaborators in order to maximise potential results – an approach which celebrates the differences, perhaps.

Finally, hearkening back to some of the talks earlier today Dr Allsopp identified the reduction of manufacturing cost of goods and achieving efficient scale up of production process (to the point of reaching near parity with the biologics sector) when questioned on what might dictate the success or failure of regenerative medicine.

Michael Jenkins for Total BioPharma at WSCRM Congress, London

Michael is an EngD research student at University College London. His work, in collaboration with Neusentis Ltd., investigates cost of goods modelling and economic optimisation of hiPSC bioprocesses.

Twitter: @MJ_Jenks

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