Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute said today it has entered into a collaboration with Pfizer to identify new therapeutic targets for preventing and treating complications of obesity and diabetes. The collaboration—which marries Pfizer’s expertise in drug discovery with Sanford-Burnham’s expertise in basic disease biology and muscle metabolism—was established through a three-year agreement whose value was undisclosed.

Multi-disciplinary teams from Sanford-Burnham and Pfizer will team up to identify and validate new targets for drug discovery. Researchers will use systems-biology approaches and screening technologies developed at Sanford-Burnham, with the goal of discovering new therapeutic strategies for reducing insulin resistance in obesity and diabetes, the research institute said.

The investigators will use Sanford-Burnham’s Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics to screen for new relevant targets using investigational compounds from Pfizer as well as evaluate previously identified compounds from the NIH chemical library. The Prebys Center houses Sanford-Burnham’s screening facility, established to accelerate the rate of commercialization of basic research in an independent medical research setting. Its drug discovery capabilities include ultra-high-throughput screening, high-content screening, phenotypic screening, and target deconvolution technologies.

Once the screening identifies compounds of interest, Sanford-Burnham and Pfizer scientists will characterize and further study the “hit” compounds with the aim of understanding their mechanism of action. The compounds will be used as “probes” to identify new therapeutic targets for the treatment of diabetes.

“Working with Pfizer, we can more quickly bridge the gap between basic and translational research,” said Stephen Gardell, Ph.D., senior director of scientific resources at Sanford-Burnham’s facility at Florida’s Lake Nona.

The collaboration is Sanford-Burnham’s second with the pharma giant and one of numerous partnerships the research institute has established in recent years with pharma and biotech companies. In 2011, Sanford-Burnham teamed up with Pfizer’s Centers for Therapeutic Innovation (CTI) to announce a collaboration focused on speeding up drug discovery by allowing the institute to use CTI’s resources, including select Pfizer compound libraries, proprietary screening methods, and antibody development technologies relevant to the investigators’ work.

Earlier this year, the research institute renewed a partnership with Takeda Pharmaceutical that focuses on developing new obesity therapeutics, and it established a collaboration with Intrexon that is designed to accelerate human induced pluripotent stem cell research.

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