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Innovative Target Exploration Network (ITEN)

In 2017, we started the Innovative Target Exploration Network (ITEN), an early-stage partnering model that fosters collaborative relationships with selected academic institutions in key hubs of scientific excellence.1

3d illustration of enzymes. Scientists are studying the links between deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBS) and historically 'undruggable' targets.

Each network is designed to identify academic research projects that have the potential to deliver innovative therapeutic targets within Pfizer’s core areas of expertise.

As part of this effort, in 2018 we initiated a new ITEN focusing on deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs), an exciting research area that combines the scientific talents of Cambridge University, Oxford University, Imperial College and University College London.1

Within the world of drug discovery, there are certain protein-based targets that are perceived to be ‘undruggable’.This is because they are considered too challenging to bind with conventional molecules. However, thanks to scientific advancements in DUBs, these so-called undruggable targets are now 'in play'.

DUBs are a family of ~100 proteins that help to regulate the balance of proteins in our cells.2 Academic research published between 2017 to today suggests that this enzyme family could have the potential to help treat cancer, autoimmune disease, cardio-metabolic diseases and rare diseases.3

Whilst the science is still emerging, focusing on DUBs may help to uncover promising therapeutic applications. That’s why, through the ITEN collaboration, we aimed to partner with the scientific talent that would be best placed to help advance our understanding of DUBs and who could bring unique, yet complementary, skill sets. With the UK being a hotbed for scientific research we are really pleased to be partnering with Cambridge University, Oxford University, Imperial College and University College London.

"This is another great example of Pfizer scientists working collaboratively with UK universities in a new emerging area of science" Olivier Drap, R&D Business Development, Pfizer

By tapping into the unique expertise of each of the UK University's research teams, Pfizer scientists hope to discover potential new biological targets and develop better research tools, with the ultimate goal to find the therapeutic areas where DUBs can make the biggest impact for patients.

In November 2019, the first face to face network meeting in was held in London, and gave scientists from our UK academic collaborators and Pfizer colleagues from Pfizer research centres the opportunity to discuss the recent advances of the DUBs projects funded by Pfizer.

One year later, the ITEN network of collaborators met again - this time virtually - with all ITEN collaborators highlighting the great progress made in the last 12 months, with the continuous support of Pfizer colleagues.



In 2015 we joined ADDoPT, a 4 year £20.4 million collaborative project between government, pharmaceutical companies, SME's and academia.


INSPIRE Programme

Our INSPIRE partnerships with NHS research networks are part of Pfizer’s international network of preferred sites for clinical research.


  1. Pfizer data on file

  2. Nature. Drugging the undruggables: exploring the ubiquitin system for drug development. March 2016.

  3. Nature. Deubiquitylating enzymes and drug discovery: emerging opportunities. Sept 2017.

    PP-UNP-GBR-2910 / November 2022
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