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San Diego’s CovX and Pfizer’s New Strategy For Innovation

It has been a year since the largest pharmaceutical company in the world acquired San Diego’s CovX, a venture-backed life sciences company developing new treatments for cancer and diabetes.

At the time, Pfizer already had invested more than $522 million to develop a San Diego campus, which has more than 1,000 employees and operates as a major hub for Pfizer Global Research and Development, or PGRD. So it would have been logical for Pfizer to consolidate CovX within its global R&D operations. But it didn’t.

Pfizer instead made CovX part of a new R&D division that includes other biotech units in Boston and the United Kingdom. Pfizer created the division just 14 months ago as an alternative approach to drug discovery, and calls it the Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Center, or BBC. I sat down recently with Rodney Lappe, the chief scientific officer at CovX, to discuss how Pfizer’s new model for innovation has been working.

“We remain more or less the way we were when Pfizer bought us,” Lappe says. “The goal is to retain that fast-paced entrepreneurial culture, with the resources of a big pharma company.”

In fact, he says, CovX has grown from 65 employees to 85 since joining the Pfizer fold, with R&D expanding from CovX’s original focus on developing new compounds for cancer and diabetes to new candidates for treating pain and inflammation. Yet Lappe says, “Most of the people here really can’t … Next Page »

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