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Drugmaker invests in New Haven facility and joint projects at Yale

Like many enterprises with international reach, Pfizer makes its corporate home in New York. But the company has deep roots in southeastern Connecticut, having built what was then the world’s largest manufacturing plant for antibiotics in Groton in 1946. Today, more than 6,000 Pfizer scientists and personnel work in drug discovery in Groton and at the company’s Global Research and Development headquarters in nearby New London.

With the April opening of the $35 million New Haven Clinical Research Unit (CRU), a 50-bed dedicated facility for Phase I drug trials, Pfizer further strengthened its ties to Connecticut and added new luster to a three-year-old research alliance with Yale.

At the CRU, volunteers will participate in trials of potential medicines that have cleared several years of safety studies in the laboratory. Pfizer will collaborate with bioimaging experts at the School of Medicine, who will use positron emission tomography (PET) and other technologies to track the action of drugs in the human body, especially in the brain.

Diane K. Jorkasky, M.D., Pfizer’s vice president of clinical pharmacology, said that the ability to draw on the expertise of Yale scientists figured heavily in the company’s decision to locate the CRU in New Haven. But those collaborations are just one example of Pfizer’s partnerships with Yale.

In 2003, the company established a fellowship in memory of the late Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic, Ph.D., a renowned Yale neurobiologist, to support a graduate student in neuroscience in Yale’s Combined Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences. Through Pfizer Faculty Development grants, five assistant and associate professors in the School of Medicine have been granted up to $50,000 worth of research time at the medical school’s Magnetic Resonance Research Center. And in a new joint effort of Pfizer’s Women Leaders Network and the medical school’s Office for Women in Medicine, a female medical school faculty member will spend 12 weeks working alongside Pfizer researchers in Groton and New London each year.

“The relationship is one of win-win for Yale and Pfizer,” said Jorkasky, “and the biggest winners will be the patients who will benefit from the science that the partnership explores.”