The closure of Pfizer’s R&D centre in Kent “rips out a major part of the UK’s scientific infrastructure”, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s chief executive Richard Pike.
The closure of Pfizer’s research and development centre in Kent “rips out a major part of the UK’s scientific infrastructure”, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s chief executive Richard Pike.
The American pharmaceutical giant has used the Sandwich site for 55 years, but yesterday (February 2), announced its decision to shut down the R&D centre within two years, leaving some 2,400 staff facing an uncertain future.
Most staff face redundancy, although “several hundred” will be transferred to other Pfizer sites.
According to the company, the decision was made as part of “a global programme of changes to accelerate Pfizer’s long-term R&D strategy”, which includes the company “exiting” certain therapeutic areas, including allergy and respiratory, which is based at Sandwich.
Dr Pike said: “What we are witnessing here is the haemorrhaging of the lifeblood of the British pharmaceuticals industry. This rips out a major part of the UK’s scientific infrastructure. The Government must act now to keep these highly skilled scientific jobs in this country.”
Discussing the closure during Prime Minister’s question time, David Cameron called the news “depressing” and said he had already spoken with Pfizer to discuss options for the future of the state-of-the-art site. However, he asserted that the company’s decision had not been taken “because of some UK-based issue”.
In response to Tory MP Laura Sandys‘ call for Government to secure the site, the high-skilled employees and the local economy in east Kent, Mr Cameron said: “The Government will do everything it can … to try and make sure that we make the best of what, yes, is a depressing piece of news.”
Pfizer senior vice president Ruth McKernan, who heads the Sandwich site, said: “It is with a deep sense of sadness that we announce our proposal to exit our site in Sandwich. It has played an important role in the discovery and development of medicines and has brought many life-saving treatments to patients.
“Sandwich has an extremely talented workforce with a proud and rich history in science research and development. This decision is no reflection on the site, the workforce or the operating environment in the UK. We recognise that this is a difficult time for colleagues and the community and our priority now, and over the coming weeks and months, is to support our people through this process.”