Pfizer, the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical company, has also undergone a major company-wide restructuring, transitioning from a therapeutic area-based organizational structure to a business unit structure. Under the realignment, disease areas such as ophthalmology, previously thought of as an independent commodity, have been grouped into a specialty care unit, one of five units now operating under the Pfizer flag.
Despite speculation that Pfizer might discontinue its ophthalmology activity after the glaucoma drug Xalatan (latanoprost ophthalmic solution) loses U.S. patent exclusivity in 2011, Pfizer officials said the company is looking to grow its activity in the specialty medicine area of Ophthalmology.
The moves include the acquisition of Wyeth Pharmeceuticals and Rinat Research, and partnerships with Bausch & Lomb. Earlier this year, Pfizer started a phase 1 clinical study for geographic atrophy with a novel compound discovered by Rinat — a biotech partner within the Pfizer Research organization.
Pfizer has signed on to at least nine strategic development partnership agreements since 2004 in search of new biologics or strategies to address a range of eye disorders, including glaucoma, retinal pathologies, anti-infectives and dry eye.
In 2006, for instance, Pfizer signed a pact with Quark Biotechnology to develop a small interfering RNA product that operates in the mTOR pathway, the mammalian target of rapamycin. The compound is currently under investigation as a novel therapeutic in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration and/or diabetic retinopathy.
Another effort targeting the back of the eye is a stem cell collaboration with the University College of London. If successful, the stem cell approach might be used for patients with end-stage AMD as well as other degenerative retinal pathologies such as retinitis pigmentosa or geographic atrophy.