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Pfizer, University to develop
new animal vaccine research center
March 9, 1998

The University of Connecticut and Pfizer Inc. have announced a major new alliance to create the "Center for Excellence in Animal Vaccine Research" at UConn for innovative animal vaccines.

The collaboration represents a dramatic expansion of a relationship between Pfizer, a research-based global health care company, and UConn, the state's only public research university and a leader in agricultural and animal vaccine research.

The new partnership is expected to lead to breakthroughs in the prevention of livestock diseases that compromise food safety, endanger farm animal welfare, and increase agricultural animal production costs.

Governor John G. Rowland, who was on hand Thursday at a press conference to unveil the new partnership, said the University and Pfizer have helped "transform the state almost overnight" into one that is on the frontier of biomedical research.

"This (collaboration) is just another example of the momentum that is building," he said. "It provides testimony that public-private partnerships work in Connecticut.

"This mutually beneficial and cost-effective strategic alliance will help Connecticut by contributing to an educational experience that prepares students for a range of high-tech jobs in the state," Rowland added. "It will also lead to imaginative and cutting-edge solutions to research issues at Pfizer and position UConn researchers to acquire significant levels of additional research funding from external agencies."

Under the terms of the agreement, the University will lease land to Pfizer for 35 years and the company will construct a $19 million, 60,000 square foot building on the Storrs campus, with mixed office and animal health research space. Pfizer will lease 20 percent of the building back to UConn for University research programs. The company will pay taxes to the Town of Mansfield on the 80 percent of the building and equipment it uses.

"We're excited by this opportunity to create a unique and powerful center for vaccine research in Connecticut by joining the strengths of Pfizer, a leader in the discovery and development of innovative medicines, and UConn, already known for pre-eminent vaccine research," said George M. Milne Jr., president of Pfizer Central Research. "This center has the potential to become the single most important public-private venture in vaccine research to promote animal health ever created.

"For Pfizer, our ability to collaborate with such distinguished researchers in this field will provide us with the competitive edge we need to remain at the top of our industry," he said. "We believe that this center will be a magnet that attracts world-class vaccinologists, establishing UConn as pre-eminent in this field."

The partnership builds on the roots of both UConn, founded as an agricultural school in 1881 and now the state's land grant university, and Pfizer, which has had research and development headquarters in Groton, Conn., since 1959. The collaboration's new facilities will enhance the University's ability to educate and train students, conduct research and attract research grants.

"This collaboration is an important step forward in our work with the state's business community to advance Connecticut's economic development," said UConn President Philip E. Austin. "This is a vital part of a land grant university's mission, and as we approach the 21st century, implementing that mission has to take new and innovative forms. Equally significant from our perspective," he said, "Is the fact that this partnership helps us build a center for excellence in one of our areas of natural strength. Pfizer is an international leader in pharmaceutical research and I am gratified, though by no means surprised, by their eagerness to work with us in this endeavor."

Milne said the partnership is also on the frontier.

"What is unusual about this is that scientists from the University and Pfizer will be working side by side. What we're doing will become a model for the rest of the country," he said.

Chancellor Mark A. Emmert said "The University is in the midst of a remarkable transformation. Partnerships like this are key to that transformation," Emmert said. "If we want to be recognized as a world-class institution, we need world-class partners.

"Great universities of the 21st century will be engaged in path-breaking research in targeted areas of excellence. This collaboration provides unique educational opportunities for students which include direct access to cutting-edge research and to the faculty engaged in it," he said.

The research building, to be located on East Campus near the Kellogg Dairy Barn, will house cattle, swine, goats and sheep. The facility, which will be managed by the University, will be used for research and development of novel approaches to vaccine discovery.

Initially, 24 jobs will be created by the partnership, Milne said. According to Rowland, Connecticut was second only to Washington state last year in high-tech job creatio.

Pfizer Inc. is a research-based health care company with global operations. Pfizer Central Research, with major research facilities in Groton, Conn.; Sandwich, England; Amboise, France; Nagoya, Japan; and Terre Haute, Ind., is the company's principal pharmaceutics and animal health research and development arm.

In 1997, the company reported sales of approximately $12.5 billion and invested $1.9 billion on research and development.