Call over drugs research centre

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The closure of a state-of-the-art centre where Viagra was invented will 'significantly compromise the UK's status as a centre of excellence'

The closure of a state-of-the-art centre where Viagra was invented will significantly compromise the UK’s status as a centre of excellence for pharmaceutical research, said one of the inventors of the drug.

Pfizer, the world’s biggest drugs company, announced last week it is to close its centre in Sandwich, Kent, within two years in a move that will see most of the site’s 2,400 staff lose their jobs.

The move by Pfizer has fanned fears that the UK is losing its position as a centre of excellence in drugs research and follows the announcement of job cuts at drugs giants GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in recent years.

Simon Campbell, previously a senior executive at Pfizer and a key member of the team that developed the sex drug Viagra, slammed the decision and said the plant must not be allowed to lie idle.

He said: “It is difficult to understand the closure of Sandwich, which was the most productive research site in the world.

“The position of the UK as a centre of excellence for pharmaceutical research has been significantly compromised.

“Capital investment of more than one billion US dollars (£621.2 million) has been made at Sandwich and such state-of-the-art facilities cannot simply lie idle.”

The Sandwich site is the European hub of Pfizer’s global research and development division, but has already been hit with redundancies in recent years and Pfizer closed its manufacturing operations at the site in 2007.

As well as developing erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra, for which the group received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, the Sandwich site also developed Celsentri, the first oral class of HIV treatment in more than a decade, life-saving anti-fungal treatments Diflucan and Vfend and heart disease drugs Istin and Cardura.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that Pfizer chief executive Ian Read, a Briton who was promoted to chief executive of the American firm in December, could receive a bonus of up to 2.6 million US dollars (£1.6 million) on top of his 1.7 million US dollar (£1.1 million) salary.

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