Pfizer expands into biologics
its biologics pilot plant in Chesterfield in a move that comes at
time when the drug giant is cutting back in other business
The world's largest pharma company would be roughly doubling the size of its facility by adding 50,000 sq ft. as it actively pushes into the potentially very profitable biologics market. The investment comes at a time when Pfizer is instigating several cost-cutting strategies as it battles patent expiries, scales back production on lack luster drugs and faces fierce market competition. The company has reduced its staff by almost 10,000 - 10 per cent of its global workforce - and shed 20 per cent of its European sales force in an attempt to save over $1bn by the end of 2008. Meanwhile, it plans to reduce its number of manufacturing sites from 93 to 48 by the end of next year including the closure of five R & D sites and the relocation of projects amongst remaining facilities and external sites. But in the midst of the cost-cutting strategies, the drug giant is moving head strong into biologics, with the aim to have 20 per cent of its pipeline product portfolio in the sector by 2009. "It's a growing area," Pfizer associate director of public affairs Ed Bryant told US-PharmaTechnologist.com. "What these medicines do is they offer some very unique ways to target disease." Since the acquisition of Pharmacia and the Chesterfield facility in 2003/2004, Pfizer has stressed its plans to build a major presence in biotherapeutics, with investing in businesses such as biologics and vaccines stated as the company's "third prong" in its business development strategy. There are currently 14 biologic compounds in the company's pipeline, including vaccines and antibodies to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and flu among other conditions. And, in the past three years the firm has spent $6.7bn in acquisitions as it expands "aggressively" into biologics, including the acquisitions last year of PowderMed, a UK company specializing in DNA-based vaccines for influenza and chronic viral disease and Rinat, a biologics company focusing on central nervous system drug candidates. According to Pfizer's 2006 annual report, the company intends to increase resources dedicated to biotherapies with the objective of launching one product per year within 10 years, while strengthening their antibody platform and building up the vaccine business. The Chesterfield expansion, which would be primarily for R & D, would meet the anticipated demand for the number of candidates going into clinical trials, Bryant said. The facility is the only plant Pfizer has for the production of large quantities of biologics for clinical trials. Bryant said it was possible that future construction of facilities may be required for commercial scale production of biologics should they enter the market. Construction is expected to start soon with the completion date set for the end of 2009 and operations to start mid-2010. Last week, sister site in-PharmaTechnologist.com reported the premature announcement that Pfizer had been awarded a contract to build a biotech production plant in Ireland. Rumors emerged in May that Pfizer was possibly planning a new biologics facility in the Emerald Isle but at the time the company would only say the plans were at a very early stage and yet to be approved internally - although the company did admit that it had applied for planning permission at the site in Shanbally. Last week Pfizer continued to claim the plans had still not been finalized. Biologics is considered the fastest growing area in the pharmaceutical industry with some suggestions that biologics could make up 60 per cent of pharmaceutical companies' revenues by 2010. Already the market is worth more than $56bn.