At Pfizer, we are investing in next-generation science and technology to invent tomorrow’s innovative therapies. The breadth and depth of our colleagues’ technical expertise is second to none, and underpins our approach to the discovery and development of medicines and vaccines. The Medicinal Sciences group has a central role in this endeavor, from the conception of an idea all the way through to the delivery of a new therapy to patients.
Meet Some of Pfizer’s Medicinal Sciences Researchers
Carolyn Leverett, PhD
Principal Scientist, Oncology Medicinal Chemistry
Carolyn Leverett, PhD, is a Principal Scientist in Oncology Medicinal Chemistry. Since joining Pfizer in 2012, she has been involved in the development of a variety of microtubule inhibitor-based payloads for use as an antibody-drug conjugate towards the treatment of cancer. This work has resulted in several publications, including a recent report in ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters (ACS Medicinal Chemistry. Lett. 2016, 7, 999) describing the SAR and synthesis of a number of tubulysin payloads, natural-product based cytotoxic agents which have shown to be potent against a variety of cancer cell lines.
Dr. Leverett is a native of North Carolina and obtained her BS in chemistry from North Carolina State University. She completed her doctoral studies under the direction of Professor Albert Padwa at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, working on total synthesis (i.e. molecular architect) of several piperidine-based natural products as well as the complex alkaloid minfiensine.
Prior to joining Pfizer, Dr. Leverett was a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Professor Daniel Romo at Texas A&M University, exploring new applications of nucleophile-catalyzed aldol lactonization reactions, which ultimately enabled an asymmetric synthesis of curcumalactone and curcumanolide A.
Fabien Vincent, PhD
Associate Research Fellow,
Hit Discovery and Lead Profiling
Fabien Vincent, PhD, is an Associate Research Fellow in the Hit Discovery and Lead Profiling Group at Pfizer. His laboratory provides molecular pharmacology support for the small molecule project portfolios of the Inflammation and Immunology Research Unit and the Centers for Therapeutic Innovation. This work includes developing assays for high throughput screening as well as additional assays to elucidate the structure-activity relationship of active compounds, understand mechanism of action and demonstrate translation into pre-clinical models. His main research interests are centered on improving the translation of discovery research to subjects and specifically include phenotypic screening and atypical molecular mechanisms of action.
Dr. Vincent received a Diplôme d’Ingénieur in organic chemistry from CPE Lyon (France) before conducting graduate research in the fields of chemical biology and enzymology in the laboratory of Professor Harold Kohn at the University of Houston. He later became a postdoctoral fellow in chemical biology at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego. He entered the field of drug discovery as both a drug discovery research project leader and molecular pharmacology-biochemistry group leader. He has authored more than 25 peer-reviewed articles and has been invited to present his research at more than 15 conferences. Dr. Vincent is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Chemical Probes initiative and has been a National Institute of Health study section reviewer on High Throughput Screening and molecular probe identification. He was recently a guest editor on a special issue in MedChemComm, surveying progress and advances in the field of phenotypic drug discovery.
Dr. Vincent has become a leading voice in the Phenotypic Renaissance currently taking place in the pharmaceutical industry. This drug discovery strategy aims to reverse the disease phenotype (i.e. the set of observable characteristics of the disease) rather than focusing on specific hypothesized protein targets. In other words, the goal is to focus on what works rather than what we think could work. Dr. Vincent recently led a team of Pfizer scientists in an analysis of how best to approach phenotypic screening, and specifically how to design the optimal phenotypic assays, those which can best predict compounds and mechanisms that will be effective in subjects (Science Translational Medicine., 2015, 7, 293ps15).
Jennifer Lafontaine, PhD
Senior Director, Oncology Medicinal
Chemistry Synthesis and Analytical Group
Jennifer Lafontaine, PhD, is a Senior Director leading the Oncology Medicinal Chemistry Group in La Jolla. Dr. Lafontaine has worked as a medicinal chemist and people leader at Pfizer for 18 years and throughout her career has led drug discovery efforts across a number of therapeutic areas and chemistry sub-disciplines. She has led teams responsible for the delivery of multiple clinical candidates from research into development, including several compounds for ophthalmology and oncology projects.
Dr. Lafontaine joined Pfizer in Groton, CT, in 1998, after receiving her PhD in synthetic organic chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. During her time in Groton, Dr. Lafontaine led a chemistry team targeting small molecule ß3 agonists for the treatment of obesity, leading to the discovery of CP-722,221, which was progressed into early development in 2001 (Lafontaine JA, et al. Discovery of Potent and Orally Bioavailable Heterocycle-Based ß3-Adrenergic Receptor Agonists, Potential Therapeutics for the Treatment of Obesity. Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. 2007, 17, 5245.)
Dr. Lafontaine transferred to Pfizer’s La Jolla Research and Development site in 2001, where she continued to work on obesity and diabetes projects, and later became Director of Ophthalmology Chemistry, leading a group of chemists on projects targeting a range of diseases. In this role, she was awarded the Pfizer Global Research and Development People Leader Award in recognition of her commitment to supporting and leading her group.
From 2009 to 2015, Dr. Lafontaine served as Director of Cancer Platform Chemistry, a group comprised of a range of project-based and platform synthetic and technology groups. The team members work integrally with chemists and other project scientists to apply cutting-edge and innovative analytical technology for the advancement of projects.
Associate Research Fellow,
Inflammation and Immunology Medicinal Chemistry
Katherine Lee, PhD, is an Associate Research Fellow within Pfizer Medicine Design group. She is a drug designer and project leader who is responsible for delivering drug candidates into clinical trials. Most recently Dr. Lee led the Medicinal Chemistry team in the discovery of a first-in-class inhibitor of the kinase IRAK4 as a drug candidate for the treatment of autoimmune diseases – an agent currently in clinical trials (ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02224651). She was also recently Chair of the Northeastern Section of the American Chemical Society (NESACS) – one of the largest (>6000 members) and most vibrant sections encompassing world-renowned academic institutions and the vibrant biopharmaceuticals hub in Boston.
As the NESACS Chair-Elect, Dr. Lee organized an outstanding scientific program which catalyzed the assembly of a diverse array of scientists from the local community, including Nobel Prize winner Professor Martin Karplus. As NESACS Chair, Dr. Lee focused on career support for young scientists and established members, setting and realizing the goals for the whole organization. Dr Lee obtained her B.S. from Yale University, summa cum laude, with Honors in Chemistry and her Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with Professor Rick Danheiser. She conducted her post-doctoral training at the University of Texas at Austin, with Professor Steve Martin.
Dr. Lee regularly presents at academic institutions, such as MIT, providing career insights for students, and is a mentor to young female scientists via the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. Also active at the national ACS level, Dr. Lee chairs committees supporting awards and fellowships for young chemists. Her drive to build a vibrant chemistry community in the Boston area benefits all of her constituency, not least the vitally important biopharmaceutical industry.
Olivier Dirat, PhD
Associate Research Fellow and Group Leader,
Chemical Development Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients
Olivier Dirat, PhD, is an Associate Research Fellow and Group Leader in Chemical Development Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients. In 2006, he joined Pfizer’s Chemical Research and Development Department in Sandwich, UK. He focuses on late stage development projects (from Phase 2b to commercialization) and is currently a group leader and API project manager involved in route scouting, route development, technology transfer, QbD, Science of scale and regulatory submissions. He is also member of Pfizer’s impurities council with a specialization in genotoxic impurities. Dr. Dirat has co-authored 19 peer-reviewed publications and three patents.
Dr. Dirat was born in Paris in 1971 and received two degrees, one in Physics and one in Chemistry and a MS degree in Chemistry from ESPCI (Paris) in 1996. In 1999, he received a PhD from the Université Paris-Sud (Orsay) under the guidance of Professor Yves Langlois on the topic of the application of diastereoselective [3+2] cycloadditions to the synthesis of naturally occurring ß-lactones. He then moved to Stanford University for a post doctorate with Professor Barry Trost, where he completed the total synthesis of epi-Hygromycin A and the first total synthesis of Callipeltoside A, establishing thereby its relative and absolute stereochemistry. In 2002, Dr. Dirat joined Merck Sharp and Dohme at Terlings Park in the UK as team leader in Medicinal Chemistry, where he focused on lead optimization programs in the field of neuroscience.
In 2006, after the Terlings Park site closure, he took the opportunity to change careers and moved to process chemistry.
Olugbeminiyi Fadeyi, PhD
Principal Scientist, Inflammation and
Immunology Medicinal Chemistry
Olugbeminiyi (Niyi) Fadeyi, PhD, is a principal scientist in Pfizer’s Inflammation and Immunology Medicinal Chemistry Group. Since joining Pfizer, Dr. Fadeyi has worked on projects targeting sickle cell disease, multiple chemical biology projects, and has developed a number of new synthetic methods applicable to the synthesis of drug molecules.
Originally from Nigeria, Dr. Fadeyi completed his BSc in Chemistry at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria, under the direction of Professor Craig Obafemi. Following his undergraduate studies, he worked for GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria and briefly for Nigerian-German Chemicals. Dr. Fadeyi later traveled to the United States for graduate studies and obtained his MS in 2007 from Tennessee State University, under the direction of Professor Cosmas Okoro. He continued on to the doctoral program at Vanderbilt University, where under the mentorship of Professor Craig Lindsley, his research focused on the synthesis of enantioenriched betafluoroamines, aziridines and medium ring azabicycles. Dr. Fadeyi also completed the total synthesis of brevisamide, carpanone, polemannone B & C, grandisine D, B & F, amabiline and cremastrine.
In 2011, Dr. Fadeyi obtained his doctorate degree and joined Matthew Shair’s laboratories at Harvard University as a UNCF/Merck postdoctoral fellow, working on the scalable synthesis of cortistatin A.
Ravi Shanker, PhD
Senior Research Fellow,
Ravi Shanker, PhD, is a Senior Research Fellow in Pharmaceutical Sciences, with 25 years of experience at Pfizer Worldwide Research & Development. He has been involved in the development of several successful drug delivery technologies utilizing and applying fundamental principles of physical chemistry, physics, biology and biopharmaceutics. Dr. Shanker had developed platform techniques, such as solid form selection, as well as platform drug delivery technologies, such as spray dried solid dispersions, that have been widely used to advance numerous, structurally-diverse molecules with intractable physicochemical properties and utilized by the pharmaceutical industry at large. He has published numerous papers and has many issued patents in the field of drug delivery.
Dr. Shanker received a B. Pharm and M. Pharm. from Banaras Hindu University, India and an MS and PhD in Pharmaceutical Chemistry from the University of Kansas. He has mentored PhD dissertation research for students in the United States and United Kingdom, and taught graduate courses as an adjunct faculty member. Dr. Shanker has collaborated with academic researchers and entrepreneurial companies for enhanced fundamental understanding of drug delivery and reduction to practice of drug delivery technologies, respectively.
Dr. Shanker has been an invited speaker at numerous national and international conferences and served as a member of the Editorial Board of Journal of Pharmaceutical Science for 15 years. His current responsibilities include leading a global Biopharmaceutics Group at Pfizer. Dr. Shanker’s current research interests include, but are not limited to, the following categories: the use of advanced physical chemistry principles for molecular design for optimizing solubility; dissolution rate and permeability; utilization of nanotechnology constructs for tissue targeting and intracellular delivery; optimization of pharmacokinetic profiles of drugs to maximize pharmacodynamic outcomes; creation and sustainment of supersaturated solutions of drugs and drug products; understanding and maximizing the oral absorption of drugs for optimal PK and PK-PD outcomes especially for molecules with intractable physicochemical properties and the advancement of the concepts of integrated systems based pharmaceutics for a holistic understanding between manufacturing processes and performance of drug products in subjects.
Bruce Thompson, PhD
Sr. Principal Scientist,
Biotherapeutics Pharmaceutical Sciences
Bruce Thompson is currently a Pharmaceutical Sciences Team Leader (PSTL) in the Portfolio and Project Management group within Pfizer’s Biotherapeutics Pharmaceutical Sciences. He is currently leading a team of talented colleagues in the development of Pfizer’s Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cell (CART) programs. This includes defining the GMP manufacturing strategy and CMC package for various health authorities. Previously, he has worked on several of Pfizer’s pre-POC programs. He has worked in both technical assay development (Bioassay) and project leadership roles (Analytical lead and PSTL) over the last 9 years. In addition, he has served on various Expert Working Groups, including the Immunogenicity and Biologics Control Strategy EWGs.
Bruce received his B.A. in Biology cum laude from the University of Louisville, followed by a M.S. in Biochemistry at The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Following postdoctoral work at Washington University in St. Louis in the labs of Drs. David Fremont and Michael Diamond, he joined Pfizer in 2008.