Boosting Mission Bay's goal of becoming a hub for cutting-edge biotech, Pfizer has plans to establish a research center at the 303-acre former industrial site overlooking San Francisco Bay, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
New York-based Pfizer plans to set up its Center for Therapeutic Innovation within the next few weeks in 11,000 square feet of space at Mission Bay, it said. Pfizer last year said the center's first research partner would be UCSF, whose Mission Bay Research Campus and forthcoming medical center anchor Mission Bay. Pfizer has committed up to $100 million for joint projects with UCSF over the next five years, spokeswoman Kristen Neese said.
"Pfizer's Center for Therapeutic Innovation will serve as a cornerstone of San Francisco's burgeoning biotech cluster," Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement. "This move... affirms San Francisco's role as the location of choice for top life sciences companies."
This is Pfizer's second go-round with Mission Bay. In August 2008, it announced plans to headquarter its new biotech research unit in 100,000 square feet of space there. A year later, it abandoned those plans amid its acquisition of Wyeth, a move seen at the time as hurting San Francisco's hopes of establishing a biotech zone.
The therapeutic innovation center represents Pfizer's attempt to create more-nimble R&D by establishing multiple centers near university researchers and biotech companies. Other such centers have been announced in Boston and New York.
Pfizer chose San Francisco and UCSF for its first innovation center partnership "in large part due to the tremendous entrepreneurial culture that exists in the Bay Area," said Anthony Coyle, Pfizer vice president and chief scientific officer of its global center. "It's a very different type of culture from our very centralized, vertically integrated organization."
While Pfizer's Mission Bay space will accommodate a relatively small staff of 40 researchers—both its own scientists and academic collaborators—its significance looms large as a magnet for other biotech companies and as a catalyst for turning research into real-world drugs and treatments, experts said.
"Proximity leads to progress; this promises to be a very strong liaison," said Dr. Warner Greene, director of virology and immunology research at Gladstone Institutes, a basic-science research nonprofit at Mission Bay that will sublease space to Pfizer. "There is a valley of death for many basic-science discoveries that have significant promise because they are not far enough advanced to be of interest to a biotech or pharmaceutical company. By forming closer relationships between Pfizer and biotech companies, I think more creative solutions can be had for moving research down the pipeline."
Regis Kelly, director of UCSF's QB3, the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, which works to bring together the academic and the private sectors, said, "Basic scientists are focused on discovering biological principles and don't get exposed as much to what society and medicine really need. Interacting with companies like Pfizer is a way for our students in particular to get insight into what the world needs."
Mission Bay eventually will include more than 4 million square feet of lab and office space, of which 1.7 million feet is now complete, according to the mayor's office of economic and workforce development. Slightly more than half of 6,000 planned housing units have been built there, along with 13 acres of parks and more than $400 million of roads and infrastructure. The $648 million T-Third Muni Metro Line provides a public transit link between the redevelopment area and the rest of the city.