Yale Ophthalmology Researcher Named Pfizer Visiting Professor

Miguel Coca-Prados

Glaucoma researcher Miguel Coca-Prados, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Yale School of Medicine, recently completed a professorship at Pfizer’s Groton Laboratories as the 2006 Yale-Pfizer Global Discovery Visiting Professor.

Now in its third year, the Visiting Professor Program is a 12-week sabbatical for an outstanding Yale faculty member to consult and do research on site at Pfizer Global Research and Development in Groton/New London. Not only does this program strengthen the working institutional relationship between Yale and Pfizer, it provides Yale faculty an insider understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and generates new collaborations for future research.

Coca-Prados studies the how mutations causing glaucoma alter the normal function of the cells in the eye where it is expressed. His laboratory has identified a number of genes relevant to the cell and molecular function of ciliary epithelium, a tissue that regulates intraocular pressure. In glaucoma, an abnormal elevation of intraocular pressure is one of the strongest known risk factors for developing the disease, which affects about 67 million people worldwide. His work is creating a better understanding of the molecular and cellular changes of glaucoma and producing new strategies to revert the abnormal function of the protein myocilin when it is mutated.

During his stay at Pfizer, Coca-Prados delivered four lectures and had a chance to visit many different Pfizer sites, including the Clinical Research Unit in New Haven, the Research Technology Center in Cambridge, Mass., the Proteomics Center in Ann Arbor, Mich. and the Ophthalmology Research laboratories in La Jolla, Calif.

“One of my goals was to learn innovative techniques in proteomics and systems biology,” said Coca-Prados, who sought to develop long-term collaborations for his research. “As a result of our new collaboration with Pfizer researchers at the Ophthalmology area in LaJolla we will begin studies on predictable biomarkers and targets in glaucoma.”

The Yale-Pfizer Global Discovery Visiting Professor Program was developed and sponsored by the Discovery Laboratories at Pfizer Global Research and Development, the Women’s Leadership Network at Pfizer and the Office for Women in Medicine at Yale.

“Over the past three years, our scientists have brought three distinct areas of research to the collaboration. Each has had a unique first-hand experience in the challenges of the pharmaceutical industry and each has returned to their students and fellows with new insights for their research,” said Merle Waxman, associate dean and director of the Office for Women in Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. “We are delighted with the ongoing success of the Pfizer Visiting Professor Program partnership,”

“I was impressed with how efficiently the labs are run in Groton,” Coca-Prados said. “I look forward to incorporating my newfound knowledge into my future research. I encourage other Yale investigators to take advantage of this opportunity.”

“The 2006 Visiting Professor Program expanded the breadth and depth of interactions between our Yale visiting professor and the global Pfizer organization,” said Karen Houseknecht, associate research fellow and past-president of the Women’s Leadership Network at Pfizer.

“Dr. Coca-Prados not only had the opportunity to build relationships with Pfizer scientists at five of our U.S. research/clinical sites, but he also interfaced with leaders throughout the organization including clinicians, sales and marketing colleagues,” Houseknecht added. “This unique program gave him the opportunity to learn about, and give his input on, the myriad complexities and challenges of discovering, developing and marketing new and innovative medicines for patients. We are excited about the new relationships being built between Pfizer and Yale scientists participating in this program, and look forward to future collaborations.”

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Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326