Pfizer to close New London campus

Jacob Appleby pauses while working on the new roof over the deck at On The Waterfront on Pequot Ave. in New London Monday Nov. 9, 2009 as the buildings of Pfizer Global Research & Development Headquarters loom in the distance.
Jacob Appleby pauses while working on the new roof over the deck at On The Waterfront on Pequot Ave. in New London Monday Nov. 9, 2009 as the buildings of Pfizer Global Research & Development Headquarters loom in the distance. Tim Cook/The Day

Pfizer Inc. announced today the company will be closing its former R&D headquarters in New London, but the impact locally is expected to be minimal because New London workers will be consolidated into the pharmaceutical giant's Groton campus.

The announcement today that Pfizer will be closing six R&D sites worldwide means that 1,500 positions currently based in New London will be transferred to Groton, where about 3,500 people work.

"In Groton and New London, there will be a minimal headcount effect," said Martin Mackay, president of Pfizer's PharmaTherapeutics Research and Development division, in a conference call. "Our presence in Connecticut will be approximately the same ... it's about 5,000 now, and that number will continue, though the makeup will change around the edges."

The announced closing of the New London site eight years after it opened to great fanfare came as a blow to a city that had counted on Pfizer's multimillion-dollar facility to help revive its fortunes.

New London City officials were broadsided by the news Monday morning.

"I'm very sorry to hear they're closing," said Mayor Wade Hyslop, who had met recently with a Pfizer official but was surprised at the news. "I wish there had been something we could have done to keep them here."

Councilor Rob Pero, who also had no advance warning, said Pfizer officials told him they would have a better idea of what was happening by mid-November.

"Why would they build a facility 10 years prior and then just move 1,500 people out,'' he said. "Why leave a complex of that nature and ship them across the bridge. I would want to know why. I would like to know what their issues were.''

But Dennis Popp, mayor of the City of Groton, called today's announcement "fantastic news" for Groton and for the region.

"That is bad news for the City of New London and business there, and maybe some of them will find their way over here," he said. "But it's just good news that people are keeping their jobs."

Mackay said the consolidation process could take up to two years and promised that "very active discussions" are under way to arrange a sale or lease of the site in part or in whole.
At the same time, consolidation of the two sites will mean upgrading facilities and creating new office space in Groton, a job made easier with the elimination of Pfizer's manufacturing plant at the end of 2007.

"It's not going to happen overnight," said Mackay. "But Groton is certainly going to be a state-of-the-art facility."

While Pfizer's local presence will be at full strength, other R&D sites have been eliminated or cut significantly as part of a consolidation related to the company's merger last month with Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

Groton's R&D site will be among the five central hubs of Pfizer's newly revamped research operations. The other sites are in Cambridge, Mass., Pearl River, N.Y., La Jolla, Calif., and Sandwich, England. They will join with research sites in San Francisco, where monoclonal antibody discovery will be centered; Cambridge, England, where regenerative medicine work will be focused, and Shanghai, China, where other R&D activities will be ongoing.

"By focusing our R&D operations in these centers, we are building the world's premier biopharmaceutical R&D enterprise," said Mikael Dolsten, a former Wyeth executive who is now president of Prizer's BioTherapeutics Research and Development.

New York-based Pfizer will be discontinuing operations in Princeton, N.J., Chazy, Rouses Point and Plattsburgh, N.Y., and at its North Carolina facilities in Sanford and Research Triangle Park. Other closings will occur in the United Kingdom at Gosport and Slough/Taplow.

Pfizer also will significantly reduce R&D activities in St. Louis, Collegeville, Pa., and Pearl River, N.Y. Pfizer was not giving out figures for headcount reductions in any of its individual announcements, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the St. Louis site, which is a legacy Pfizer operation, will see 600 jobs cut out of a total work force of 1,000.

Pfizer said it has agreed to sell the St. Louis site but will be keeping a presence there as part of its BioTherapeutics Pharmaceutical Sciences operation.

Groton will continue its research focus in neuroscience, antibacterials and metabolic diseases, Mackay said.

The series of downsizings and closures will reduce Pfizer's global square footage devoted to R&D by 35 percent, the company said.

Pfizer's stock price reacted positively to the news, up about 2.4 percent in early afternoon trading.

"The key message in Connecticut is this maintains a really important site for us," Mackay said. "In fact, Groton will be our biggest R&D facility. It's a very important part of the network for us."

Pfizer sites

Research
Groton
Cambridge, Mass.
Pearl River, N.Y.
La Jolla, Calif.
San Francisco
Sandwich, England.
Cambridge, England
Shanghai, China

Closing
New London
Princeton, N.J.
Chazy, N.Y.
Rouses Point, N.Y.
Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Sanford, N.C.
Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Gosport, United Kingdom
Slough/Taplow, United Kingdom

Downsizing
St. Louis
Collegeville, Pa.
Pearl River, N.Y.

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