Pfizer to retain R&D unit at Sandwich

By Gareth Macdonald

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Contract research organization

US drug giant Pfizer will maintain a 350-strong research unit at its facility in Sandwich, Kent in the UK after revising its previous plan to find CROs to take over R&D operations.

The move is a turnaround for Pfizer, which announced its decision to cease all operations at the site by 2012 in February​ this year as part of an ongoing effort to integrate with Wyeth.

At the time Pfizer spokesman Andrew Widger told that: “We intend to create novel and flexible partnerships to externalize R&D services that do not drive competitive advantage for Pfizer. Discussions around these partnerships are underway."

In May the Sandwich Economic Development Task Force​ confirmed this, explaining that Pfizer was in talks with a number contract research organisations (CRO) about potentially moving to the Kent site and hiring some of the 2,400 staff currently employed there.

Pfizer is progressing commercially confidential negotiations with potential CROs and exploring the potential for small spinout companies to develop from the site which could potentially involve a few people​.”

Now however the plan seems to have changed. According to a Press Association​ report, Pfizer said: "After a rigorous diligence process, Pfizer determined that retaining a portion of its pharmaceutical sciences operation at Sandwich presents the best solution at this time for Pfizer's business​."

The firm added that the Sandwich unit will support the development of its mid and late-stage drug portfolio in concert with its Pharmaceutical Sciences centre is at its Groton, Connecticut, US.

Local councillors welcomed Pfizer’s new plan.

Paul Carter, Chairman of the Sandwich Economic Development Task Force and Leader of Kent County Council told the UK’s Independent newspaper that: "Securing 350 jobs on site by Pfizer is a step in the right direction and is positive news.

"We must now work with Pfizer and their marketing agent CBRE to secure further investors and businesses on-site, and encourage inward investment and occupancy in a whole array of business activity​."

Whether Pfizer will continue to seek CROs to develop the site remains to be seen.

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