In recent decades there have been remarkable reductions in death from cardiovascular diseases, largely due to a decreased prevalence of smoking and modern science that has led to effective therapies for hypertension and high cholesterol. Even so, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) remains the number one cause of death worldwide.1
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Metabolic Disease & Cardiovascular Risk
CVD continues as an epidemic, driven by a number of factors, including the rising rates of obesity and its resulting metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus and the metabolic syndrome, which refers to the group of risk factors that increase an individual’s risk for heart disease and other health problems.2 The modern lifestyle has promoted a new array of cardiovascular risk factors, but treatments for these have remained elusive. We believe that a comprehensive program is needed to address the collection of diseases of the cardiovascular system, as well as their root causes, including obesity and metabolic disease.
We now understand obesity leads to diabetes, and diabetes in turn increases the risk of heart failure and other types of heart disease. In fact, more than two-thirds of people age 65 or older with diabetes die from some form of heart disease.3 Another significant area of unmet need that reflects the global dysmetabolic state is non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH is preceded by an abnormal accumulation of lipid in the liver, a condition that is associated with obesity and insulin resistance and is estimated to impact as many as 30% of all adults in the US.4 Ultimately, NASH can lead to liver fibrosis, cirrhosis and eventually liver failure5 or cancer6, and has no approved treatment.
With costly hospitalizations on the rise, economists project that failure to properly invest in prevention and treatment could cost as much as $47 trillion worldwide by 2036.7
Understanding the Underlying Disease Biology of Diabetes
For more than 50 years, Pfizer has led the way in redefining the management of cardiovascular risk by bringing much-needed treatments to patients.
Today, Pfizer is focused on investigating potential therapies that treat both the metabolic abnormalities that increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease and the heart itself by trying to alter the way it responds to the abnormal metabolic state. This includes more targeted potential therapies, as well as possible therapies that are a combination of two or more drugs, which could bring additional benefits to patients.
Our early discovery efforts focus on emerging areas of CV research such as control of eating disorders, type 2 diabetes/muscle uptake of glucose and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease/non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
Work with Us
If you’re interested in collaborating with our Metabolic Disease & Cardiovascular Risk research team and want to learn more about our work, visit our Metabolic Disease & Cardiovascular Risk Partnering page. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can work together.
Blocks after Body
Meet Some of Pfizer's Metabolic Disease & Cardiovascular Risk Researchers
Morris J. Birnbaum, MD, PhD
Senior Vice President, Chief Scientific Officer of Internal Medicine
Morris Birnbaum, MD, PhD, is Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer for the Internal Medicine Research Unit, comprising Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease as well as Neuroscience research. Specifically in Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease, Dr. Birnbaum guides the discovery of novel transformative therapies to reduce the prevalence of cardiometabolic dysfunction, thereby eliminating or diminishing the impact of heart diseases on life expectancy and quality. He is responsible for setting the portfolio and technology strategies to bring programs from initial discovery through to proof of concept in the clinic.
Dr. Birnbaum completed his undergraduate, graduate, and medical training at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island before moving to St. Louis to carry out clinical training in Internal Medicine at Barnes Hospital of Washington University School of Medicine. He then performed postdoctoral studies at the University of California, San Francisco and Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute. Following an associate professorship in the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School, he moved to the University of Pennsylvania as Professor of Medicine and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he later became Associate Dean for Biomedical Cores and Associate Director of the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. Dr. Birnbaum was elected to membership in the American Society for Clinical Investigation and Association of American Physicians, and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has served as Deputy Editor for the Journal of Clinical Investigation and is currently on the Editorial board of Cell Metabolism. His research involves the study of insulin action, metabolism and how organisms respond to both a deficit and a surfeit of food.
Albert Kim, MD, PhD
Vice President, Clinical Research Head
Albert Kim, MD, PhD, is Vice President and Clinical Research Head for the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease Research Unit, he is an accomplished physician-scientist with broad expertise in cardiovascular disease, translational medicine, and drug development. Dr. Kim joined the Pfizer Cardiovasular and Metabolic Diseases Research Unit in 2013 and has served in multiple roles over the past three years leading early asset teams and contributing as a core member of the cardiovascular therapeutic area strategy team. Most recently, he was a co-Global Clinical Lead for the bococizumab Phase III program. In addition to project leadership experience, he has served in advisory and supervisory roles for cardiovascular safety and pharmacovigilance activities, and worked at the US Food and Drug Administration in the Division of Cardiac Devices as a medical reviewer and project lead for the industry guidance document on catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation.
Dr. Kim earned his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering from Harvard and MD and PhD degrees from University of California Los Angeles. He completed internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital, cardiology fellowship training at Massachusetts General Hospital, and clinical electrophysiology training at University of California San Francisco. Prior to joining Pfizer, Dr. Kim joined the University of California San Francisco faculty and subsequently transitioned to the pharmaceutical industry as a Senior Translational Medicine Expert at Novartis, where he led small molecule and biologic asset programs for hyperlipidemia, inflammation, atherosclerosis, and arrhythmia indications. He holds academic appointments in the VA Boston Cardiac Electrophysiology Section, at Boston University, and at Harvard Medical School.
Kendra K. Bence, PhD
Senior Director, Metabolism
Kendra Bence, PhD, is Senior Director of Metabolism, heading up research and discovery efforts in the type II diabetes and Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease/Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis therapeutic areas for the Pfizer Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research Unit. Dr. Bence leads a talented team of scientists focused on developing a deep understanding of the intricate biological mechanisms underlying type II diabetes and fatty liver disease, with the goal of identifying novel ways to treat and eventually prevent these metabolic diseases. She is also the Cardiovascular and Metabolic representative to the Pfizer WRD Post-Doctoral Program and has a strong commitment to training and mentoring the next generation of scientists.
Dr. Bence has a long-standing interest in the pathogenesis of metabolic disease. She received her BA in Biology from Colgate University in 1993, and her PhD in Physiology and Biophysics from the Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University in 2000. Dr. Bence conducted her post-doctoral work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School in Boston, where she became interested in the role of cellular signaling in the regulation of metabolism. In 2006, Dr. Bence joined the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania as an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and was subsequently promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. While at Penn, she served as the Director of Academic Enrichment for the Institute for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, and served on the American Diabetes Association grant review panel as well as on various National Institutes of Health study sections.
Dr. Bence is most well-known for her work on the role of protein tyrosine phosphatases in metabolism, and has co-authored over 45 original research articles, book chapters and reviews to date. Her work has been supported by the National Institutes of Health.
Leonard Buckbinder, PhD
Senior Director Cardiovascular Biology
Acting Head of Cardiovascular Biology
Leonard Buckbinder, PhD, is Senior Director Cardiovascular Biology and Acting Head of Cardiovascular Biology. He joined Pfizer in Groton, CT in 1997 and contributed to efforts in cancer, inflammation, osteoporosis and cardiovascular diseases. In inflammation, Dr. Buckbinder conceived and led the identification of dissociated glucocorticoid receptor agonists. Based in Cambridge, MA, he is the research program leader for the myeloperoxidase inhibitor program. Dr. Buckbinder is currently interim leader for Cardiovascular Research, and organized the group into focus areas of vascular inflammation, cardiomyocyte metabolism and function, and the cardiorenal axis. He is also actively involved in working with the External Research and Development Innovation on external research opportunities.
Dr. Buckbinder did his graduate work in biochemistry and molecular biology at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Stony Brook University with Dr. Danny Reinberg. He studied RNA polymerase II transcription and how phosphorylation regulates AP1 transcription factors. His postdoctoral work at the Carnegie Institute focused on identification of transcriptional pathways regulated by the thyroid hormone receptor during amphibian metamorphosis. He joined Bristol-Myers Squibb in 1992 and advanced the identification of targets of the p53 tumor suppressor, and first connected oncogenic IGF-1 signaling to p53. This work led to anti-IGF1 programs at Bristol Myers Squibb which were advanced to Ph2.
Selected Publications from the Metabolic Disease & Cardiovascular Risk Research Unit
- A long-acting FGF21 molecule PF-05231023 decreases body weight and improves lipid profile in non-human primates and type 2 diabetic subjects Cell Metabolism Talukdar T, Zhou Y, Li D, Rossulek M, Dong J, Somayaji V, Weng Y, Clark R, Lanba A, Owen BM, Brenner MB, Trimmer JK, Chabot JR, Erion DM, Rolph TP, Goodwin B, and Calle RA. March 8 2016
- Characterization of a Novel Intestinal Glycerol-3-phosphate Acyltransferase Pathway and Its Role in Lipid Homeostasis The Journal of Biological Chemistry Khatun I, Clark RW, Vera NB, Kou K, Erion DM, Coskran T, Bobrowski WF, Okerberg C, Goodwin B. February 5 2016
- Discovery of 2-(6-(5-Chloro-2-methoxyphenyl)-4-oxo-2-thioxo-3,4-dihydropyrimidin-1(2H)-yl) acetamide (PF-6282999): A Highly Selective Mechanism-Based Myeloperoxidase Inhibitor for the Potential Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases Journal of Medicinal Chemistry Ruggeri RB, Buckbinder L, Bagley SW, Carpino PA, Conn EL, Dowling MS, Fernando DP, Jiao W, Kung DW, Orr ST, Qi Y, Rocke BN, Smith A, Warmus JS, Zhang Y, Bowles D, Widlicka DW, Eng H, Ryder T, Sharma R, Wolford A, Okerberg C, Walters K, Maurer TS, Zhang Y, Bonin PD, Spath SN, Xing G, Hepworth D, Ahn K, Kalgutkar AS. October 28 2015
- Discovery of a Selective Covalent Inhibitor of Lysophospholipase-like 1 (LYPLAL1) as a Tool to Evaluate the Role of this Serine Hydrolase in Metabolism ACS Chemical Biology Ahn K, Boehm M, Brown MF, Calloway J, Che Y, Chen J, Fennell KF, Geoghegan KF, Gilbert AM, Gutierrez JA, Kalgutkar AS, Lanba A, Limberakis, Magee TV, O'Doherty I, Oliver R1,2, Pabst B1,2, Pandit J, Parris K, Pfefferkorn JA, Rolph TP, Patel R, Schuff B, Shanmugasundaram V, Starr JT, Varghese AH, Vera NB, Vernochet C, Yan J. July 19 2016
- Dynamic GABAergic afferent modulation of AgRP neurons Nature Neuroscience Garfield AS, Shah BP, Burgess CR, Li MM, Li C, Steger JS, Madara JC, Campbell JN, Kroeger D, Scammell TE, Tannous BA, Myers Jr. MG, Andermann ML, Krashes MJ, Lowell BB. September 19 2016
- Evaluation of a mathematical model of rat body weight regulation in application to caloric restriction and drug treatment studies PLoS One Selimkhanov J, Thompson WC, Patterson TA, Hadcock JR, Scott DO, Maurer TS & Musante CJ. May 26 2016
- FGF21 Regulates Sweet and Alcohol Preference Cell Metabolism Talukdar S, Owen BM, Song P, Hernandez G, Zhang Y, Zhou Y, Scott WT, Paratala B, Turner T, Smith A, Bernardo B, Müller CP, Tang H, Mangelsdorf DJ, Goodwin B, Kliewer SA. February 9 2016
- MAP4K4 is a Threonine Kinase that Phosphorylates FARP1 ACS Chemical Biology Schwaid A, Su C, Loos P, Wu J, Nguyen C, Stone K, Kanyo J, Geoghegan K, Bhattacharya S, Dow R, Buckbinder L, Carpino P. September 30 2015
- Pharma and Academia: What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate Cell Metabolism Birnbaum MJ. September 13 2016