Who says technology transfer doesn't pay?
Pregablin, discovered by Northwestern University chemist Richard Silverman in 1989 to become Pfizer's Lyrica, earned the university a cool $700 million when it sold royalties in Dec. 2007.
The nerve pain-cum-seizure pill is funding the $100 million Richard and Barbara Silverman Hall for Molecular Therapeutics & Diagnostics--currently a hole in the ground on the way to the student union--which will employ 245 this fall. Views of Lake Michigan and the duck pond included.
And, thanks to FDA approval in 2007 of Lyrica as the first US drug for the pain condition fibromyalgia, it may earn as much as its molecular relative--Pfizer's Neurontin (gabapentin)--which made $3 billion a year before its patent ran out in 2004.
No wonder they call Lyrica son of Neurontin.
Of course there have been setbacks on the road to marketing Lyrica.
In 2001, Pfizer had to freeze pain trials and restrict pregablin in patients when test mice developed cancerous tumors. Profit warning! But when rats tests were okay, Toni Hoover, a vice president with Pfizer's now defunct Ann Arbor, MI labs sounded the all clear. "The FDA has found that the benefit of taking the drug outweighs any risk," she told the Detroit News.