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UK research centre falls victim to Pfizer merger

Published on 28/10/03 at 03:51pm

A leading UK drug discovery centre is one of a number of global sites to close following Pfizer's recently completed $53 billion acquisition of Pharmacia.

The Medical Development Centre in High Wycombe was opened by Pharmacia just over a year ago to manage and develop clinical trials, but will now close with the majority of its 250 jobs expected to be lost.

The cuts part of a global review of R&D operations that will contribute to Pfizer's $2.5 billion post-merger cost savings are yet another setback for the European pharmaceutical sector, which continues to lose investment to the US.

Cutbacks in continental Europe and the UK will mean greater focus on Pfizer's regional R&D headquarters in Sandwich, Kent, but even this site will be experience some job losses.

In sharp contrast, the company announced an extra 1,000 jobs would be created to fill expanded global headquarters in New York, although these will be largely filled by former Pharmacia employees.

The closure of Pharmacia's former headquarters in Peapack, New Jersey will be offset by a $400 million investment in Pfizer's nearby Consumer Healthcare operations.

Pfizer is now conducting a statutory 90-day consultation period with staff at Pharmacia's UK headquarters in Milton Keynes, and says every effort will be made to minimise job losses and help redundant employees find new work.

The restructuring will add to the 3,000 jobs lost in pharmaceutical research in the UK over the last two years, largely due to the seemingly inexorable shift of investment towards the US.

One of the most notable departures came in 2001 when Roche transferred its hi-tech anti-viral research from Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire to California, a move which has been mirrored many times throughout Europe, including Novartis' decision to move its R&D headquarters to the US last year.

Pharmacia had intended to move its clinical development for Europe and Middle East and North Africa to the High Wycombe site, opened by then-Chief Executive Fred Hassan who said the UK was the most "positive" environment for pharmaceutical industry investment in Europe.

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