Pfizer exec touts Groton R&D site's recent successes

Groton — A top Pfizer executive told businesspeople Monday that the pharmaceutical giant’s research and development laboratories here are enjoying a boom period.

“R&D is really running hot at Pfizer these days,” John Burkhardt, the Groton labs site director and vice president of global drug safety research and development, said during a luncheon meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut at the Groton Inn and Suites.

Burkhardt said the nearly 3,000 Pfizer employees in Groton have played a part in the company’s recent string of successes, which includes securing regulatory approvals for four new anti-cancer drugs late last year. The Groton labs are the largest of Pfizer’s global research and development facilities.

As of Oct. 30, Pfizer had nearly 100 new drugs in various phases of development.

Burkhardt said the Groton labs now focus their efforts in five therapeutic areas: oncology; internal medicine; vaccines; inflammation and immunology; and rare diseases. In the industry, he said, the trend toward development of so-called “blockbuster” drugs has given way to a greater focus on drugs that treat specialized patient populations.

While Pfizer is constantly in the market for qualified employees, Burkhardt said it retains a high percentage of those it hires, citing as factors the region’s appeal and its reasonable cost-of-living.

Recruiting millennials, however, is “a little challenging,” he said, given their affinity for urban lifestyles.

“How do we compete with the big cities?” he said. “... We’re working on it.”

— Brian Hallenbeck

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