Pfizer R&D site closure 'worrying'

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Pfizer's decision to close its leading UK research centre is 'hugely worrying' for Britain, John Denham has warned

Drugs giant Pfizer’s decision to close its leading UK research centre is “hugely worrying” for Britain, shadow business secretary John Denham has warned.

The US group said it is shutting its renowned research and development (R&D) facility at Sandwich, Kent, and will make the majority of the site’s 2,400 staff redundant over the next 18 months to two years.

Medical experts said the move is “devastating” for British science, coming as the latest in a series of UK R&D job cuts as the industry moves to slash costs.

The Royal Society of Chemistry said the science sector is witnessing the “haemorrhaging of the lifeblood of the British pharmaceuticals industry”.

Trade union Unite reacted with dismay at Pfizer’s decision, which it said will see the withdrawal of Sandwich’s biggest employer.

Pfizer has a history at Sandwich dating back more than 50 years and the Kent R&D site lays claim to some of the world’s biggest medical discoveries, including blockbuster drug Viagra.

Mr Denham told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s a hugely worrying decision. This is one of those industries where we should aim to be world-beating in the years to come. It looks as though the Government haven’t been involved as players. This is a warning about how vulnerable we are.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said Pfizer’s decision was “extremely disappointing” and confirmed he was forming a taskforce to mitigate the impact on local jobs.

He is also due to meet Pfizer and other drugs companies to look at continuing R&D activities at the Sandwich site.

Science minister David Willetts told Today: “Pfizer are going to work with us to see if we can find alternative uses for this site. Pfizer have made it clear it’s not because of concerns about the strength of British science.”

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