Unique public-private partnership - Québec government, AstraZeneca, Pfizer Canada and Merck Frosst team up to stimulate pharmaceutical research and accelerate drug discovery



    SAN DIEGO, CA, June 17 /CNW Telbec/ - At the prestigious BIO 2008
conference under way this week in San Diego, Raymond Bachand, Québec Minister
of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade (MDEIE), Minister of
Tourism and Minister responsible for the Montréal Region; Paul Lévesque,
President and Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer Canada; Mark S. Jones,
President and Chief Executive Officer of AstraZeneca Canada; and Dawn Graham,
President, Merck Frosst Canada, announced the creation of the Québec
Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM). They were accompanied by Dr. Alain
Beaudet, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Fonds de la recherche en
santé du Québec (FRSQ), the province's public-sector health research funding
agency, and by Mr. Max Fehlmann, director of CQDM.
    This consortium, a first in Canada, is dedicated to stimulating research
into drug development in Québec, with a focus on the pre-competitive
stages-which represent a critical step in the process. By bringing together
eminent scientists from industry, university, hospital and government circles,
the CQDM will foster synergy between university and industry research. The
resulting collaborative network will help create tools that are better adapted
to the development of safer and more effective drugs.
    "This is an excellent example of the benefits of public-private
partnership for Québec society. The Québec Consortium for Drug Discovery will
help sharpen our edge in the fiercely competitive global marketplace. By the
same token, it will considerably enhance the quality of our drug discovery
research and the academic programs of our universities. Partnership between
private companies and research facilities is the cornerstone of the Québec
strategy for research and innovation, outlined in a report entitled Un Québec
innovant et prospère, published by the Québec government in December 2006,"
said Mr. Bachand.
    The MDEIE and FRSQ are together contributing $4 million to set up the
consortium. Pfizer Canada, AstraZeneca Canada and Merck Frosst Canada are each
committing $1 million to the first year of operations. Moreover, Pfizer Canada
and AstraZeneca Canada have announced that they will each be investing
$1 million a year over the next four years.
    "This is much more than a question of money. It is first and foremost a
concerted effort to unite the strengths of key players in the pharma, biotech
and academic sectors. As a result, they will be able to determine the core
issues driving drug discovery and implement a research program in line with
the needs of the industry," noted Dr. Alain Beaudet, President and CEO of the
FRSQ, and staunch advocate of the consortium.
    "Quebec has long been a location of choice for science-based
pharmaceutical companies, and this initiative strengthens its leadership
position even further and it will contribute to advance the knowledge-based
economy in Quebec and in Canada," stated Paul Lévesque, President and CEO of
Pfizer Canada Inc.
    "This innovative new partnership will bring together our resources and
scientific talent to enable us to accelerate the drug discovery process and
develop more efficient ways of validating the safety and effectiveness of new
drugs," said Mark S. Jones, President and CEO of AstraZeneca Canada. "Not only
will this benefit scientific research, it will also benefit our universities
and students."
    "By focusing on the discovery of new targets and the initial steps of
drug discovery, our university graduates will be much better prepared for a
career in the biopharma industry," pointed out Dawn Graham, President of Merck
Frosst Canada.
    Minister Bachand explained that the industry, government and
public-sector research community would all be represented on the consortium's
board of directors and strategic steering committee.
    Max Fehlmann, the Director of the CQDM, explained that researchers will
be able to submit projects aimed at accelerating the drug discovery process in
a wide variety of therapeutic sectors. Joint projects will be strongly
encouraged. The strategic steering committee will select the initiatives that
will receive funding and will provide the strategic direction necessary to
optimize resources.
    Drug discovery is a very complex and extremely specialized process that
requires substantial investments in both time and money. Pharmaceutical
companies are generally required to invest 12 years and $1 billion to develop
a single new drug. The pre-competitive stages (identification and validation
of new therapeutic targets and new biomarkers, development of tests to
determine the efficacy or toxicity of the new molecules) represent a
significant portion of this investment.
    Québec is a long-standing leader in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry.
With 145 biopharma firms established here, the province ranks first in Canada
and occupies a place of prestige in North America. Québec is home to five of
the six Canadian research centres specializing in drug discovery. AstraZeneca
and Merck both operate research laboratories in Montréal.

    A photo of the Minister and the other participants will be available
online at www.mdeie.gouv.qc.ca/bio2008.

    About AstraZeneca

    AstraZeneca is one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies with
healthcare sales of US $29.55 billion and an extensive product portfolio
spanning six major therapeutic areas: cardiovascular, gastrointestinal,
infection, neuroscience, oncology, and respiratory. AstraZeneca's brands
include Iressa(R), Crestor(R), Symbicort(R), Nexium(R), Atacand(R),
Seroquel(R), Arimidex(R), Merrem(R), and Casodex(R). AstraZeneca has been
recognized as having the most innovative pipeline by R&D Directions magazine.
With 17 principal research centres in 8 countries around the world,
AstraZeneca invested more than $5 billion in drug discovery and development in
2007. AstraZeneca's Canadian headquarters are located in Mississauga, Ontario,
and its state-of-the-art analgesia drug discovery centre is based in Montreal,
Quebec. www.astrazeneca.ca

    About Pfizer Canada

    Pfizer Canada Inc. is the Canadian operation of Pfizer Inc, the world's
leading pharmaceutical company. Pfizer discovers, develops, manufactures and
markets prescription medicines for humans and animals. Pfizer Inc invests more
than US$7 billion annually in R&D to discover and develop innovative
life-saving and life-enhancing medicines in a wide range of therapeutic areas,
including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, endocrinology, HIV/AIDS,
infectious disease, neurological disease, oncology, ophthalmology and smoking
cessation. Pfizer Canada is one of the top investors in Canadian R&D,
investing more than $1 billion since 2000. Canadian headquarters of Pfizer
Global Pharmaceuticals is in Kirkland, Quebec. As one of the top corporate
charitable donors in Canada, Pfizer Canada is a proud member of Imagine Canada
and its Caring Company program. In 2007, Pfizer Canada's Community Investment
Program supported more than 1400 non-profit organizations and projects across
the country with a total investment exceeding $25 million. For more
information, visit www.pfizer.ca

    About Merck Frosst

    At Merck Frosst, patients come first. Merck Frosst Canada Ltd. is a
research-driven pharmaceutical company discovering, developing and marketing a
broad range of innovative medicines and vaccines to improve human health.
Merck Frosst is one of the top 25 R&D investors in Canada, with an investment
of close to $110 million in 2007. More information about Merck Frosst is
available at http://www.merckfrosst.com

    About the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ)

    Reporting to the Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export
Trade and Minister of Tourism, the mission of the Fonds de la recherche en
santé du Québec (FRSQ) is to support health research in order to benefit the
Quebec population's well-being. Its mandate is to provide financial aid and to
promote this research, to share knowledge and to train researchers, as well as
to establish partnerships that are necessary to the development of Quebec's
research and innovation system and the advancement of research
internationally. For more information, visit www.frsq.gouv.qc.ca
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For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview: Manuela Goya, Press
Secretary, Office of the Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and
Export Trade (MDEIE), Minister of Tourism and Minister responsible for the
Montréal Region, (418) 691-5650; Michelle Dubuc, FRSQ, (514) 873-2114
Extension 235; Dr. Philippe Walker, Vice President, Discovery, AstraZeneca
R&D; Jennifer Robinson, (514) 832-3220; Sylvie Tessier, Pfizer Canada Inc.,
(514) 693-4609; Vincent Lamoureux, Merck Frosst, (514) 428-3456, (514)
893-3456 (cell.); Max Fehlmann, Québec Consortium for Drug Discovery (CQDM),
(514) 889-9595

Organization Profile

CABINET DU MINISTRE DU DEVELOPPEMENT ECONOMIQUE, DE L'INNOVATION ET DE L'EXPORTATION, MINISTRE DU TOURISME, MINISTRE RESPONSABLE DE LA REGION DE MONTREAL

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