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Pfizer drops neuroscience R&D, cutting 300 jobs

The new direction will see the termination of early-stage Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s candidates

Pfizer

Pfizer has said it will end research into diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, shedding 300 jobs at R&D units in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The move is part of a redirection of its research spending - rather than a reduction - and will not affect late-stage projects such as nerve growth factor-1 inhibitor tanezumab for chronic pain associated with osteoarthritis Lyrica (pregabalin) for fibromyalgia, as well as CNS-targeting drugs in its rare disease programme.

The funds will be channelled “to those areas where we have strong scientific leadership and that will allow us to provide the greatest impact for patients”, it said in a statement. It will also set up a dedicated venture capital fund to invest in other companies carrying out neuroscience R&D and “support continued efforts to advance the field”.

Pfizer is already one of the founder members of the cross-company Dementia Discovery Fund, which was set up in 2015 by various companies including GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson, but said its new fund will run separately to that effort.

The job cuts will come mostly at its sites in Cambridge and Andover, Massachusetts, and in Groton, Connecticut, with about 100 losses expected at each.

Pfizer’s decision will see the termination of a number of early- to mid-stage programmes in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, two diseases which have both resisted efforts to develop new therapies in recent years.

Alzheimer’s in particular has been a barren wasteland for new drugs with dozens of candidates - many targeting beta amyloid including Pfizer’s own bapineuzumab candidate - failing to have an impact on cognitive and memory decline in patients with the disease, and the loss of a big pharma player will be viewed as a blow to the field by dementia researchers.

According to the company’s latest pipeline update, candidates that look set to be dropped - or potentially become licensing candidates - include dopamine 1 activator PF-06649751 for Parkinson’s, currently in phase II. It also has three Alzheimer’s drugs in phase I trials: casein kinase I delta/epsilon modulator PF-05251749; gamma secretase inhibitor PF-06648671; and PF-06751979, which targets an unidentified enzyme.

Pfizer’s decision comes after its former head of neuroscience R&D Michael Ehlers left to take up the top R&D role at Biogen in 2016.

Article by
Phil Taylor

8th January 2018

From: Research, Sales

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