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PFIZER Rethinks Plan For U.K. Site

Pharmaceuticals: Firm keeps some U.K. R&D staff while advancing plans for research park

by Ann M. Thayer
July 4, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 27

Credit: Pfizer
Pfizer will keep about 15% of the workforce at its Sandwich site.
Credit: Pfizer
Pfizer will keep about 15% of the workforce at its Sandwich site.

Pfizer will keep about 350 employees at its Sandwich, England, R&D center instead of cutting all 2,400 jobs as announced in February. The drug company will still exit most of the site by the end of 2012.

After failing to find outside partners to conduct R&D at the site, Pfizer concluded that the best solution was to keep some of its pharmaceutical sciences operations going. The site is known for work on small-molecule drugs, and the remaining staffers will support mid- and late-stage product development. Their long-term fate isn’t certain, however; Pfizer will reevaluate the operation within a few years.

In the meantime, the firm hopes its continued presence will support plans to market the site as a discovery park, which it is doing with help from the U.K. Trade & Investment agency and the county investment promoter Locate in Kent.

“Securing 350 jobs on-site by Pfizer is a step in the right direction,” says Paul Carter, Sandwich Economic Development Task Force chairman and Kent County Council leader. Last week, local officials asked the U.K. government to designate the park as a tax-advantaged enterprise zone. This status would “stimulate new business start-ups and urgently needed new business growth and employment in the area,” Carter adds.

To date, no new tenants have been found. “We began actively marketing the site as ‘Discovery Park’ in June,” says Nick Compton, senior director at the real estate firm CB Richard Ellis. “We expect the site and its unique facilities to attract interest from companies across a range of industries.” In early 2010, the contract research firm Peakdale Molecular put 50 synthetic chemists on the site as part of a chemistry services deal with Pfizer.

Separately, Pfizer has sold a bulk biologics facility in Shanbally, Ireland, one of several manufacturing plants it has up for sale, to BioMarin Pharmaceutical. Completed in 2009, the plant has been used since 2010 to produce materials for late-stage clinical trials.

According to BioMarin, the $48.5 million purchase price is about one-fifth of what it would cost to build a new facility. BioMarin put supply-chain and logistics operations in Dublin earlier this year.



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