Pfizer Inc., one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, will build a $35 million, state-of-the-art clinical research facility in downtown New Haven to evaluate new medicines, officials announced Tuesday at the Yale University School of Medicine campus.

The 60,000-square-foot facility, which will be built on a 2.5-acre site between Park and Howe streets, will include 50 beds and will employ between 40 to 50. Construction will begin this fall and the research unit is expected to open in 2005, according to a Pfizer press statement.

The land, which is currently owned by the state of Connecticut, will be transferred to Pfizer for $1, Gov. John Rowland told the media at a press conference following the formal announcement.

“Investments like this one are critical to the state’s long-term economic health,” Rowland said. “This collaboration between Pfizer and Yale University marks yet another milestone in Connecticut’s efforts to be recognized worldwide as a ‘hot spot’ for bioscience companies.”

At the research unit, healthy volunteers will be given medicines in development and medical staff will use the latest technology, including positron emission tomography, to monitor how these medicines work within the body. Some studies will be undertaken in collaboration with the medical school, which has established itself as a world leader in imaging technology.

“We are gratified that Yale’s presence at the center of research in the region was an important factor in Pfizer’s decision,” Yale President Richard Levin said. “Pfizer had many options for the facility, and we can all take pride in the fact that New Haven proved to be the most attractive one.”

New Haven provides a location within close proximity of Pfizer’s major research and development facilities in New London and Groton, officials said.

When Pfizer first came to Connecticut in 1946, officals did not have any idea how invested the company would become in the state, Pfizer Chief Executive Hank McKinnell said. Its New London facility, which opened in 2001, is the company’s $294 million global research and development worldwide headquarters.

“We already have a substantial commitment in Connecticut and we are delighted to further contribute to economic development here,” McKinnell said. “This is very good news for New Haven, for Yale, for Pfizer and, most importantly, for patients waiting for new treatments. [The] partnership has allowed us to bring investment, jobs and cutting-edge science to the heart of this city.”

The new facility will be eligible for property tax abatements under the Enterprise Zone program. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the investment will bring in about $180,000 in annual tax revenue to the city. The announcement of Pfizer’s development project comes at a time when both state and local budgets are facing major shortfalls.

“I want to remind everyone how important it is to stay focused and competitive,” Rowland said. “We are all in this together. We have two of the best partners in America: Pfizer and Yale. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Rowland commended the work done by the University and the city to lure development to the city and to revitalize the downtown area.

“It sends a message about the vibrancy of our inner cities, particularly here in New Haven,” Rowland said. “I’ve watched Rick Levin roll up his sleeves and really recognize the potential here. It’s all about a better quality of life for the next generation so that you and I and our grandchildren will have hope for the future.”

DeStefano — who on Monday announced major budget deficits and predicted more layoffs in his annual State of the City address — welcomed Pfizer to New Haven, “the biotech capital of Connecticut.”

“In the age of new medical technology, biotech companies in the Elm City will continue to find progressive ways to fight disease,” DeStefano said. “We look forward to a long partnership with Pfizer.”

And a long partnership with a company like Pfizer will have a positive impact on Yale’s campus and will create “buzz” that is bound to attract students here, Levin said.

“When a Pfizer comes to your town, you know you’re doing something right,” Levin said.

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