Pharma News: Pfizer to close R&D facility

2nd February 2011

The day after British inventor and entrepreneur Sir James Dyson called for tax breaks for research and development, pharmaceutical firm Pfizer said it is to close its R&D facility in Sandwich in Kent.

Admittedly the main thrust of Dyson's argument was about engineering (Guardian).

But he also called for changes to corporation tax and for R&D investment.

"We need a government with a strong vision for the future; with policies that aren't eclipsed by the current financial black hole; and an agenda for growth that isn't short-sighted, but based on exports," he wrote.

Pfizer argues that its retreat from Kent with the probable loss of 2,400 jobs is for global reasons and that is Reuter's assessment too.

New CEO Ian Read wanted to reassure Wall Street that the firm, which has been trading at a discount to rivals, had not got too big after several mergers.

The report also notes a trend among some big pharma firms to outsource their R&D.

However the move has stoked the row about the UK's industrial strategy with Science Minister David Willetts taking to the airwaves this morning (BBC) to say that Pfizer had reassured him that the decision was not due to the environment in the UK.

To gauge why this might be embarrassing for Willetts, here is a report by Sustainable Gov, from happier days only a few months ago when he opened a new Pfizer centre on Havant in Kent.

On the Telegraph comment board, kestrel seems to be in support.

He writes: "This is a big blow for Pfizer employees and for Sandwich. But there is no reason to blame UK industrial policies. Pfizer, along with the rest of 'big-pharma' has to reduce costs, fast; and its venerable research model does not deliver the new, highly-targeted molecules. Closure of the Sandwich site has been discussed for five years. Britain attracts industry because of its flexibility and it will attract replacements for Pfizer. That is a heck of a lot better than introducing laws that make it hard to close sites but ensure that no new ones are opened."

Reading between the lines, Martin Carter is a little more cynical.

martincarter says: "If you were the strategy planners for Pfizer, what sort of factors would you add in looking forward over the next ten to twenty years (tick all that apply to the UK).

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