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Pfizer to Invest $100 Million in R&D in Boston Area

From Day, The (New London, CT) (June 9, 2011)

June 09--Pfizer Inc., in the midst of a research-and-development makeover that will lead to 1,100 job losses in southeastern Connecticut, said Wednesday it is increasing its commitment to the Boston area in an attempt to speed up the delivery of critical new medicines.

Pfizer announced it will invest $100 million over five years to partner with major universities and hospitals in the Boston area in setting up a new Centers for Therapeutic Innovation world headquarters that will create about 50 jobs in the Bay State. This is in addition to about 350 positions -- many of which are being offered to local scientists -- that Pfizer previously said would move to Cambridge, Mass., as part of a consolidation of its research division.

"While they are adding bodies in Massachusetts, they are cutting positions in Groton," said John Markowicz, executive director of the SouthEastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, a business-development group. "The trend arrow is in the wrong direction for us."

As part of Pfizer's planned research cuts totaling up to $2.9 billion by next year, Groton will become a support center for Pfizer's R&D efforts worldwide.

The New York-based Pfizer in the past few months has shifted its R&D emphasis toward collaborations with universities and medical schools in major research hubs such as Boston and San Francisco.

"These partnerships allow leading medical and clinical experts to join with Pfizer's highly skilled scientists and advanced drug development capabilities to speed the translation of innovative science into medicines for patients," said Jose Carlo Gutierrez-Ramos, a Pfizer senior vice president, in a statement.

Pfizer, which previously announced partnerships with academic medical centers in San Francisco and New York City, said the latest collaboration will involve Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard University, Partners HealthCare, Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Pfizer personnel and its academic partners will move into about 16,600 square feet of laboratory and office space on the top floor of the 18-story Center for Life Science building in Boston's Longwood Medical Area. San Diego-based BioMed Realty Trust Inc., which rented the space, said Pfizer signed a 10-year lease.

"We are thrilled that Pfizer has chosen Boston," Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said in a statement.

"Boston is leading the life sciences revolution because of the collaboration that happens between our prestigious medical, academic and research institutions," added Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

The Boston Globe reported that Pfizer's five-year investment in the project will be focusing on biologic medicines, derived from living organisms, rather than traditional chemistry-based drugs.

Pfizer previously said it was targeting top-flight research scientists with an interest in seeing basic discoveries translated into commercially viable drugs. Either the scientists or the universities -- or both -- would receive milestone payments from Pfizer as research progressed, the company said.

In return, Pfizer would get first crack at turning discoveries into new drugs, the company said.

"We think it's really a great opportunity to embark on a change and transformation plan which in the end would be very much enabling patients to get medicine sooner ... and we think we cannot as a company do it in isolation," The Globe quoted Pfizer's R&D chief Mikael Dolsten as saying.

Eric Buehrens, interim president of Beth Israel, said in a statement that academic institutions excel at the early stages of drug development but need help in turning discoveries into drugs.

"Our ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between scientific discovery and the delivery of promising candidates to the (drug) pipeline," added Pfizer's Gutierrez-Ramos.

Pfizer said it will staff its new Boston offices and labs with experts in biologics, including antibody engineers, assay biologists/cellular immunologists, protein scientists and project managers.


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Posted: June 2011