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UK site a casualty as Pfizer reduces pain R&D

Will shut down Granta Park facility in Cambridge with loss of 120 jobs

PfizerPfizer has said it intends to shut down a research facility at Granta Park in Cambridge, UK, with the loss of 120 jobs.

The news comes shortly after Pfizer unveiled its $160bn takeover of specialty pharma company Allergan to create the world's largest drugmaker.

Pfizer said the decision to close the former Neusentis unit - which was set up to focus on pain and sensory disorders - is part of an "evolving strategy" for its R&D operations.  

It also signals a reduced investment by Pfizer in pain research, which has proved a tough challenge for pharma companies. While the market is huge at around $40bn a year, it remains dominated by long-established generic medicines, and efforts to find novel therapies have borne little fruit. 

The company said that its Device Centre of Excellence (DCoE) - also located on the Granta Park industrial estate and which develops drug delivery devices such as injectors and inhalers - will be unaffected. 

Neusentis was formed in April 2011 as a 'biotech-like' unit focusing on ion channels, with its portfolio quickly bolstered by the acquisition of Icagen for $56m later the same year. 

Research in this area was split between the UK and Icagen's facility in Durham, North Carolina, and earlier this year Pfizer took the decision to divest Icagen, spinning it out in a deal that combined it with US contract research organisation (CRO) XRPro Sciences.

The Icagen spin-out came after Pfizer combined its pain and neuroscience R&D into one division and entered into an alliance with Eli Lilly, focused on the development of chronic pain treatment tanezumab, which is in phase III trials. 

"Scientific research is a complex endeavour, with a lot of inherent risk and failure," said Pfizer UK in a statement.  

"Difficult decisions need to be made even in areas where we had hope for meaningful progress. However, we will continue to make investments in the most promising areas of scientific innovation in the UK and elsewhere around the world." 

The pharma giant said it will start a consultation process with staff affected by the closure, and said that with 2,500 employees still in the UK it retains a significant presence in the country, despite the closure of its R&D site in Sandwich in 2011 with the loss of 2,400 jobs. 

The company pointed out that it has opened two research facilities in London - the Genetic Medicines Institute (GMI) and the Rare Disease Consortium (RDC) - in the last five years.

Article by
Phil Taylor

8th December 2015

From: Research

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