Pfizer to shutter R&D operations in RTP, Sanford

Posted November 9, 2009

— Pfizer (NYSE: PFE), the world's biggest drugmaker, is closing two research and development operations in North Carolina and four others among 20 in the company, reorganizing and consolidating others, and cutting the jobs of roughly 15 percent of its scientists and support staff.

Research operations in Princeton, N.J.; two sites each in New York and Research Triangle Park and Sanford, N.C., and one in the United Kingdom will be closed.

Wyeth also operated a large manufacturing plant in Sanford that was part of the Pfizer acquisition.

Pfizer operates a Poultry Health Division in RTP that employs some 165 people. That site was part of a company known as Embrex before it was acquired in Pfizer in 2006.

Wyeth utilized the 325,000-square-foot plant in Sanford primarily to make components for its pediatric vaccine Prevnar, which targets pneumococcal bacteria.

Some 1,200 people worked at the facility before layoffs hit 10 percent of its workforce just a year ago.

Wyeth operated in Sanford for two decades before the merger.

The moves are part of Pfizer Inc.'s massive reorganization after buying drug and vaccine maker Wyeth just 3 1/2 weeks ago.

The executives heading the combined research operation told The Associated Press exclusively that integrating and reorganizing the two companies' laboratories will boost research productivity and efficiency and save money as well.

New York-based Pfizer will eliminate about 35 percent of the 16 million square feet of research space it now has around the world.
It will now have five key research centers, each focused on a couple of specific disease areas, plus nine other laboratories with specialized research capabilities.

Research operations in Princeton, N.J.; two sites each in New York and another in the United Kingdom also will be closed.

“In less than a month, we have made complex business decisions needed to combine these two R&D organizations thoughtfully yet quickly,” said Martin Mackay, president of PharmaTherapeutics Research & Development for Pfizer, in a statement. “Moving forward on our aggressive timeline, we are analyzing the combined portfolio and prioritizing research projects that will address unmet medical need and bring Pfizer’s scientific and competitive advantage to the benefit of patients.”

Pfizer could not say how many scientists and support staff the combined company has in research and development.

Savings from the job cuts and the plant closures will be poured into research on key diseases Pfizer is targeting, including Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases, cancer, pain and inflammation, diabetes and infectious diseases.

"We essentially will have a portfolio up and running on the diseases that we care about this year," Martin Mackay, president of research and development for pills and other traditional medicines, said in an interview.

That's an unusually fast transition for an already-huge company that just completed a $68 billion acquisition on Oct. 15.

By comparison, when Pfizer acquired Warner-Lambert Co. in 2001, it spent the next two years making a series of decisions about what to do with different parts of the research organization. It still hadn't finished the integration of the two companies when it bought another drugmaker, Pharmacia Corp., in 2003.

Moving quickly to eliminate uncertainty for employees is essential for maintaining research productivity and innovation, as well as "employee dedication," said Mikael Dolsten, president of research and development for vaccines and biotech drugs.

Those areas were both strengths of Wyeth's, key reasons Pfizer bought the company, which was based in Madison, N.J.
Affected employees were being notified today.


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  • irishale Nov 9, 2009

    "Irishale, my point would be that I don't think that a family making $40,000 a year pays a larger percentage of there income in taxes than an entity that that makes millions or billions of dollars. Therefore, I would say that they are paying there share."

    Yes, this is true, but I guess I wasn't clear. What I mean is: they (big business) seem to feel like they should pay the same percentage as the average family, despite the fact their 'left over' income well exceeds the total income of bunches and bunches of families.

    We ALL know it'd be ridiculous for them to pay the same actual amount :)

  • FE Nov 9, 2009

    "Question: If I fall down and break my leg tomorrow on my own staircase in my own home, would that be Obama's fault too? Probably, because the staircase was in existence after he took office so it must be his fault." - happymom

    Actually, to many it would probably be George Bush's fault.....

    While some of these changes with Pfizer are a result of the economic issues related to the corporate merger, you don't have to dig too deeply to see that the government is beginning to pick on selected corporations (oil, insurance, banks) which make "too much" money. The board of directors would be stupid to ignore the political trend and at least try to so something to reduce their exposure.

    And the problem with the "Prevenar" drug cited by wattsun was a bad BATCH which has since been recalled. No need to add to the hysteria....


  • agmurphy1976 Nov 9, 2009

    Irishale, my point would be that I don't think that a family making $40,000 a year pays a larger percentage of there income in taxes than an entity that that makes millions or billions of dollars. Therefore, I would say that they are paying there share. If you have proof this is no the truth, than please, share with the rest of the class. Try the web site below and you'll see that people making $65000+ a year are paying 85% of the taxes in this country, not your family making $40000.

  • annieaamrm Nov 9, 2009

    I really doubt he paid half in taxes.

  • BluHevn Nov 9, 2009

    Profit is not needed to fund research. That money comes from the R&D budget. Profit is what is over after ALL the expenses, including money for R&D and other budgetary items, which also included salaries. Profit is excess money after everything else is spent. It is not needed. It just goes to the shareholders and the outrageous bonuses the top dogs in the company get. There are nonprofit companies that do research, too. They don't have to worry about laying people off to make more profit.

    And unless you want the govt to have total control of private business, there is really nothing the govt can do about this. Unless they are willing to pass strict laws forbidding American companies to have employees overseas and limit the profits. But then people will cry it's Socialism or Communism. The thing is, if the govt doesn't do something, corporate America is just going to take advantage of our system with greed.

  • luvbailey Nov 9, 2009

    "The reward in saving lives is knowing you don't go to hell. Anything beyond that is not moral."

    Laughable. Saving lives has NOTHING to do with where you spend the hearafter. There is nothing you can do to earn your way into heaven (or stay out of hell). You get to heaven by believing that Jesus was the Son of God and that He died to save you from your sins. It's very simple. And it's a gift. You cannot earn it, you can only accept it (or reject it if you chose to).

  • BluHevn Nov 9, 2009

    Laying off people all in the name of more profit. Profit is EXCESS, after all the exspenses, salary and budget have been met. It is not needed income. It's just more money for the top dogs of big business.

  • luvbailey Nov 9, 2009

    Wattsun, who cares what the guy makes?? I just care what i make. If he brought that much value to shareholders, then good for him. If not he needs to be gone. But not because he made more than me or the people that buy the companies products. That's how a Marxist would think. At a minimum you exemplfy class envy. And besides, he paid over half in taxes. That's 2.5 million. How much did you pay in taxes???

  • 12345_here Nov 9, 2009

    This is a very poor article.

    Why is the Manufacturing site in Sanford being referenced in a R&D closure notice. the PRess release says nothing about shuttering the manufacturing facility. Just the R&D operations being consolidated to different sites.

    Still a bit of a loss for RTP/Sandford, but not in the order of thiusands. Bad Article editing WRAL

  • OSX Nov 9, 2009

    Why are drugs in the USA so high? I was in South America over the summer. You could buy about anything at reasonable prices. Chantix here is $200 a month and over there it is $20. The drug companies make there money here is why.