Inflammation is a critical response to potential danger signals and damage in organs in our body. But with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and many others, our own immune system turns against our organs. These painful and debilitating conditions take an immense toll on people’s quality of life and many of these diseases are poorly managed by existing treatments that provide only symptomatic relief.
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Iain Kilty: What We’re Working on
For decades, doctors relied on steroids to suppress immune response. Though an important option, steroids come with many potentially harmful side effects. Fortunately, science has continued to advance, and today we have the opportunity to transform the management of inflammatory diseases with new classes of therapies that target other key proteins and pathways in the body.
As science evolves beyond broad immunosuppression and into more selective agents, patients living with autoimmune and inflammatory disease have new hope. Pfizer scientists operate with a sense of urgency, focused on three areas with the greatest unmet need:
Innovation in I&I will remain focused on enabling patients to thrive in remission and to attain cures. It is believed that in the longer term, this will be achieved by evolving the treatment paradigm in inflammation beyond broad immunosuppression. In the clinic, more selective inhibition of pro-inflammatory adaptive pathways is being targeted to deliver transformational induction and maintenance of remission with lower safety risks. Emerging approaches are aimed at promoting restoration of the immune system and tissue health to deliver cures.
Precision medicine is embedded in all of our investigational programs in Inflammation and Immunology, where we seek to better understand the underlying disease biology and identify the group of patients who will respond best to certain treatments. Pfizer sees particular promise in combination therapies to reduce remission rates.
Lovisa Afzelius: What We’re Working On
Work with Us
If you’re interested in collaborating with our Inflammation and Immunology teams, visit our Immunoscience Partnering and Inflammation and Immunology pages to learn more about the work we’re pursuing..
Meet Some of Pfizer’s Inflammation and Immunology Researchers
Michael S. Vincent, MD, PhD
Senior Vice President, Chief Scientific Officer of
Inflammation and Immunology Research and Development
Mike Vincent, MD, PhD, is Senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Inflammation and Immunology Research Unit, leading the scientific pipeline for Rheumatology, Gastroenterology and Dermatology specialties through the end of phase 2.
Dr. Vincent earned his BA, PhD, and MD degrees from Indiana University. He completed his residency and began his post-doctoral and rheumatology training at the University of Vermont, completing his fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. His research while on faculty at Harvard centered on human T cell-dendritic cell interactions, and basic mechanisms of autoimmunity.
Since joining Pfizer in 2011, he has held several scientific leadership roles, most recently as Clinical Head for Pharmatherapeutics in Cambridge, MA. Over this period, he has had responsibility for clinical and translational science in the Inflammation and Immunology, Rare Disease and the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease Research Units, and the Centers for Therapeutic Innovation.
Before joining Pfizer, Dr. Vincent held positions of increasing responsibility within Medical Sciences at Amgen, ultimately leading early clinical development for the Immunology and Neuroscience therapeutic areas.
Lovisa Afzelius, PhD
Head of Computational Precision Medicine,
Senior Director, Clinical Research Project Leader
Lovisa Afzelius, PhD, is Head of Computational Precision Medicine for the Inflammation & Immunology Research Unit. The goal of the Computational Precision Medicine group is to leverage clinical biomarker information to enable data driven decision making related to target validation, patient stratification, indication expansion and combination rationale. In addition, the Inflammation & immunology research unit aims to provide disease relevant baseline data to project teams across our major disease areas which include Rheumatoid Arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), and Dermatology. “Data” is primarily well annotated patient -omics data generated from observational cohorts and internal clinical trials but ranges from single cell RNASeq data for a couple of patients to real world data such as electronic medical records (EMR) and claims data for millions of patients.
Dr. Afzelius received her PhD from Uppsala University, Sweden within the Department of Organic Pharmaceutical Chemistry. She obtained her Executive MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.
Since joining Pfizer in 2013, Dr. Afzelius has held several scientific leadership positions. In her current role, she provides strategic leadership to drive qualitative, translational pharmacology across the Inflammation & Immunology portfolio.
Dr. Afzelius and her team are working to generate or acquire relevant datasets, in order to curate them to enable cross-study analysis and then apply advanced analytics such as machine learning to extract insights. This is an exciting, rapidly developing field with great promise and the Inflammation & Immunology research unit is working with excellent collaborators such as Professor Altman at Stanford, Dr. Scott Snapper and Dr. Joshua Korzenik at Boston Children’s Hospital/Brigham Women’s Hospital as well as Professor Lars Klareskog at Karolinska Institute to hone in on the key questions that will generate applicable insights to support drug development.
Jot Hui Ooi, PhD
Jot Hui Ooi, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Fellow within Pfizer's Inflammation & Immunology Research Unit. She joined Pfizer in 2013 to carry out her postdoctoral research under the mentorship of Nilufer Seth and has recently been promoted to Senior Scientist in Tolerance Group reporting to Aaron Winkler. Her central research interest is to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of action underlying immune tolerance induction.
Dr. Ooi received her BS in Biotechnology and Life Sciences from Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology in Japan and her PhD in Pathobiology with a focus on Immunology from The Pennsylvania State University.
During her postdoctoral training, Dr. Ooi has discovered a novel role of a G-protein Coupled Receptors in promoting host immunity against intestinal inflammation through modulation of innate lymphoid cells and inflammasomes. She is specialized in mucosal immunology, autoimmunity, and gut microbiome, with advanced technical skills in the animal models of inflammation, multicolor fluorescence-activated cell sorting, cell-based assays, and molecular biology techniques.
Lih-Ling Lin, PhD
Acting Head of Cardiovascular Biology
Lih-Ling Lin, PhD, is a Senior Director, currently leading the Exploratory Innate Immunity group, focusing on the emerging science for the drug discovery effort in the Inflammation & Immunology Research Unit.
Dr. Lin received her undergraduate degree in Pharmacy from National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan and a PhD degree in Biochemistry from the University of Arizona.
Dr. Lin joined legacy Wyeth (formerly Genetics Institute) and contributed to the discovery of several key phospholipases that are important in inflammatory response. She has led a discovery team targeting the innate immunity signal transduction pathways involved in the production of inflammatory mediators contributing to the pathogenesis of diseases. These projects include developments of small molecule kinase inhibitors and biologics targeting innate receptors and cytokines, leading to the discovery of clinical candidates in treating autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr. Lin is an author of over 70 scientific papers and patents.
Hozefa Bandukwala, PhD
Senior Principal Scientist
Hozefa Bandukwala, PhD, is a Senior Principal Scientist in Pfizer’s Inflammation & Immunology Research Unit, leading discovery efforts to identify novel targets for autoimmunity.
Dr. Bandukwala obtained his PhD from the University of Chicago, where his research thesis focused on evaluating the contribution of Fc receptors in the function of dendritic cells. Subsequently, Dr. Bandukwala did his postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School, where he focused on the role of epigenetic regulation of genes involved in the inflammatory responses of T cells. His research uncovered a novel link between epigenetic modification in immune cells and their ability to reprogram their metabolic pathways to meet the increased energy and biosynthetic demands required for inducing inflammatory functions.
Before joining Pfizer in 2013, Dr. Bandukwala held a faculty position at the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology, and consulted for a biotech company CalciMedica. His current focus is on immunometabolism, an exciting new area that aims to restore immune homeostasis in patients with inflammatory diseases by modulating the metabolism of pathogenic immune cells.
Selected Publications from the Inflammation and Immunology Research Unit
- Discovery of a novel JAK3-selective inhibitor: Functional differentiation of JAK3-selective inhibition over pan-JAK or JAK1-selective inhibition ACS Chemical Biology Telliez JB, Dowty ME, Wang L, Jussif J, Lin T, Li L, Moy E, Balbo P, Li W, Zhao Y, Crouse K, Dickinson C, Symanowicz P, Hegen M, Banker ME, Vincent F, Unwalla R, Liang S, Gilbert AM, Brown MF, Hayward M, Montgomery J, Yang X, Bauman J, Trujillo JI, Casimiro-Garcia A, Vajdos FF, Leung L, Geoghegan KF, Quazi A, Xuan D, Jones LH, Hett E, Wright K, Clark JD, Thorarensen A. October 28 2016
- Efficacy and Pharmacology of the NLRP3 Inflammasome Inhibitor CP-456,773 (CRID3) in Murine Models of Dermal and Pulmonary Inflammation The Journal of Immunology Primiano MJ, Lefker BA, Bowman MR, Bree AG, Hubeau C, Bonin PD, Mangan M, Dower K, Monks BG, Cushing L, Wang S, Guzova J, Jiao A, Lin LL, Latz E, Hepworth D, Hall JP. September 15 2016
- Inhibiting complex IL-17A and IL-17RA interactions with a linear peptide Nature, Scientific Reports Liu S, Desharnais J, Sahasrabudhe PPV, Jin P, Li W, Oates B, Shanker S, Banker ME, Chrunyk B, Song X, Feng X, Griffor M, Jimenez J, Chen G, Tumelty D, Bhat A, Bradshaw C, Woodnutt G, Lappe R, Thorarensen A, Qiu X, Withka J, Wood L. May 17 2016
- Oral and inhaled p38 MAPK inhibitors: effects on inhaled LPS challenge in healthy subjects European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Singh D, Siew L, Christensen J, Plumb J, Clarke GW, Greenaway S, Perros-Huguet C, Clarke N, Kilty I, Tan L. August 13 2015
- Network pharmacology of JAK inhibitors Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Moodley D, Yoshida H, Mostafavi S, Asinovski N, Ortiz-Lopez A, Symanowicz P, Telliez JB, Hegen M, Clark JD, Mathis D, Benoist C. June 24 2016
- Parsing the Interferon Transcriptional Network and Its Disease Associations Cell Mostafavi S, Yoshida H, Moodley D, LeBoité H, Rothamel K, Raj T, Ye CJ, Chevrier N, Zhang SY, Feng T, Lee M, Casanova JL, Clark JD, Hegen M, Telliez JB, Hacohen N, De Jager PL, Regev A, Mathis D, Benoist C, Immunological Genome Project Consortium. January 28 2016
- Soluble Fn14 Is Detected and Elevated in Mouse and Human Kidney Disease PLoS One Sharif MN, Campanholle G, Nagiec EE, Wang J, Syed J, O'Neil SP, Zhan Y, Brenneman K, Homer B, Neubert H, Karim R, Pullen N, Evans SM, Fleming M, Chockalingam P, Lin LL. May 12 2016