(Semi) Open Innovation @ Pfizer

I ran into Virginia Acha last week at the NESTA event in London, but she didn't tell me about this!

Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline notes that Pfizer is apparently allowing external companies to screen against their internal library.

But I'm told that Pfizer has been meeting with several other (mostly smaller) companies, offering their (entire?) compound library as a screening resource. As I understand it, you need to come to them with a reasonably formatted HTS assay, and there's a fee in the high hundreds of thousands to run the screen.

This isn't all the way towards open innovation. In a true open innovation sense, the fees and the barriers would be lower, as the goal would be to maximize dealflow. But that probably means, as Derek also notes, that the IP issues aren't settled.

Should anyone involved want to talk about how to settle those issues, we'd be interested in hearing about how this process is working out.

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Why deal with Pfizer in the first place? Anything you might find they'll keep and you're SOL. We have a compound library that started from 1.4 million cmpds from Chemdiv, Chembridge, Maybridge and Tripos. I talked them into using our exclusion criteria (developed by my old buddies from Pharmacia - we all got Pfired when Pfizer took over Kazoo) and got rid of all the junk we didn't want (1 million). From there we used a "molecular equivalence" program to pick only unique compounds that we wanted to purchase - 100,000. I built my own library of off-patent FDA approved drugs (except opiods and benzo's). You can come to us with your screen and run it against our library of 10,00 (select set) or 100,000 full set and you get to keep whatever you find. No IP issues. Check us out.

Well, question for you, Darryl: One of my Big Pharma colleagues was once in their HTS group. He left, oh, about 2 years ago for a different Big Pharma in the northeast. When asked recently by a very senior manager what advantages we had over Pfizer when it came to HTS, he said that our library material went through a significantly more stringent QC because our compounds are >99% pure, whereas while he was at Pfizer their library compounds were not so pure (he mentioned a range of 80-90% pure). He felt that their library didn't produce quite so many good hits as it could because of contamination issues.

What say you? Do you feel confident in the purity of the compounds? It's been my experience that Pfizer chemists are more than a little cocky and unused to having things kicked back to them for reworks, that they have a culture of "good enough," sort of thing, so my colleague's opinion seemed reasonable to me, but I'd be interested in yours too.

Also, what system are you using for liquid handling? I'm hating on our currently liquid handling system and was wondering if perhaps yours was different (and reliable)?