You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 3 p.m.

600 University of Michigan employees now working at ex-Pfizer site after recent department shifts

By Nathan Bomey

The University of Michigan is shifting its DNA sequencing operation and cardiovascular research activities to the ex-Pfizer property in northern Ann Arbor as part of a plan to populate the 174-acre campus with scientific research in a few key areas.

U-M said today that 60 researchers in "a cardiovascular research cluster" would move to the former Pfizer property. The first two, Eric Devaney and Todd Herron, already have started laboratory research at the site.

Devaney and Herron, whose labs were previously located 10 miles apart, are pursuing new technology that would use stem cells to create new heart muscle. They're the first university employees to start conducting lab research at the former Pfizer site, which U-M bought for $108 million in 2009.

The university has also transferred 23 workers from its DNA sequencing division to the former Pfizer site, which has been renamed North Campus Research Complex.

Altogether, U-M has transferred about 600 workers to the former Pfizer property, including its health care research units, Technology Transfer Office and Business Engagement Center. Among the other operations already located at the property are a Michigan State University spinoff biomaterials company and several startup companies launched by U-M professors.

The resuscitation of laboratory activity at the Pfizer campus comes about two-and-a-half years after the pharmaceutical giant completed its exodus from Ann Arbor, displacing more than 2,100 workers and exiting 2 million square feet of facilities.

"We are thrilled to have the fantastic lab facilities here at NCRC used again, and seeing our careful planning process produce results,” NCRC executive director David Canter said in a statement. "We are continually moving towards creating a center of innovation— a place where collaboration spurs new ideas.”

U-M has said that it expects to have about 1,000 employees working at the Pfizer site by late 2012.

The university plans to place a heavy emphasis on a few specific types of interdisciplinary research at the site, including medical devices, oncology, imaging, cardiovascular science and health services research.

Overall, U-M has said it wants to have 2,000 to 3,000 workers at the site by the end of the decade.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

Thousands of jobs that paid taxes,and a company that paid property taxes have been replaced with state funded jobs and a facility that does not pay property tax. I agree that some fundamental research is important, and the US has many national labs across the country. What I don't want are revenue creating jobs replaced with revenue taking jobs, which is exactly what happened at the old pfizer site. I believe research money is better spent by private companies because they are under pressure to generate a product. In my experience, national labs are not as efficient with their research money. (Argonne, Oakridge etc.)


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 4:51 p.m.

If you remember, Pfizer left Ann Arbor in 2007 under its own volition. U of M was essentially the buyer of last resort. If it weren't for U of M purchasing the site, it would still be vacant, or have been likely demolished to reduce its tax burden. In this economic climate there are exceedingly few private enterprises that can afford to purchase such a large site or fund research on such a large scale. During 2007, there were many potential private suitors for the site, but none ultimately came forward. Private biomedical enterprise isn't always successful with generating profitable research (I.E. the pharmaceutical industry and its bleak pipeline of new medications). Research is expensive and often fraught with failure. Its important to have federal support in this risky endeavor. Research should not be viewed as revenue taking, its an essential investment in the future, just like education and infrastructure. Simply put, if we fail to invest, then we fall behind.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

UM is using this site to consolidate all of its existing lease space from around the area as they expire. So not only were they able to purchase a commercial and taxable property at a significant discount and take it off the City's books but by migrating existing departments and staff to the facility they are devaluaing the surrounding commercial space that they are vacating. Double, or even triple, whammy.


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:49 a.m.

I'm glad to hear that the move is progressing and as a former Pfizer employee I wish U of M the best for the full transformation of the site. I'm admittedly troubled by the complaint regarding tax-payer funding of federal research. Government research is what advanced economies do and how they prosper both scientifically and economically. Oftentimes this research is at the behest of the federal government, military, etc. Federally funded research often drives the innovation that helps the private sector create the important products and jobs that they do, so research should be seen an essential use of taxpayer funds. Moreover, if a laboratory in the United States doesn't get to investigate a potentially groundbreaking idea due to lack of funds, in this globalized research climate it'll gladly be investigated, patented and licensed by another lab somewhere else in the world (somewhere where government-sponsored research is seen as a benefit to society and not simply another drain on taxpayer resources).


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 1:20 a.m.

An excellent location to study and research . . . the back of one's eyeballs. You do know research induces fatigue? Or it might just be the caffeine. Pleasant dreams . . .


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

No problem with research but I am troubled that it is all funded by the taxpayers


Tue, Mar 8, 2011 : 2:16 a.m.

Who do you think is going to fund it? If you don't like government-funded research, don't take antibiotics, get treated for cancer, use plastic, drive a car, watch TV, get satellite news, use your cell phone -- all funded by government research.


Mon, Mar 7, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

UM better be careful, some of the researchers going out to the NCRC might not have ongoing money if the Republicans in Washington get their way. $1.6B in cuts to the NIH are proposed.