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Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

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Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« Chew On This, Enzyme | Main | Nobel Season 2009 »

September 28, 2009

Which Pfizer / Wyeth Sites Will Close?

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Posted by Derek

I have no solid information on this question myself, but Eric Milgram over at Pharmaconduct is trying a wisdom-of-crowds approach. He's got a survey up of which sites people think will close, and it'll be interested to see how well this matches up with the eventual reality.

At the bottom of the list, naturally, is Pfizer's site at Groton. I think we can safely predict that this one will stay open, but the New London site, right across the river, doesn't fare so well in the voting. In fact, it's the second-highest-ranking Pfizer site on the list, outdone only by St. Louis (the former Monsanto). The rest of the top contenders are all Wyeth, led by Madison and Princeton.

The "wisdom of crowds" method doesn't produce wisdom out of thin air, of course - it's supposed to be a more efficient way of getting to information that's already out there. In this case, though, I don't think that the information is out there, so this should be taken as more of a poll of sentiment, which is certainly how it's presented. To that aspect of it, one thing that Milgram's already noticed is that people who are currently employed at either Pfizer or Wyeth tend to believe that it's those other guys who are most likely to have to close some facilities. We shall see. . .

Comments (44) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets


1. goldilocks on September 28, 2009 10:47 AM writes...

I believe that Pfizer-Cambridge has already been told that they are being closed...

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2. Fred on September 28, 2009 12:17 PM writes...

Then there is the Pfizer plant in New London that was never built. Homes were taken and destroyed as a result of one of the most appalling supreme court decisons. The land is vacant.

Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005)

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3. Oh Boy on September 28, 2009 12:26 PM writes...

"I believe that Pfizer-Cambridge has already been told that they are being closed."

If that's true it indicates that even Harvard and MIT grads can't provide the necessary innovation these companies need to survive.

This should be a dire warning to any of you foolish enough to be considering a career in chemistry. In ten years a degree in chemistry will be on par with an advanced degree in landscaping (these do exist I'm told).

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4. Lucifer on September 28, 2009 12:39 PM writes...

The real question is:

Which sites look more impressive?

Given that pharma management pretends to facilitate research, the impressiveness of a site is more important than it's productivity.

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5. Mark on September 28, 2009 1:23 PM writes...

If this round of closures is anything like the last few, the highest on the list will be ones that Pfizer recently spent an obscene amount of money upgrading.

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6. CMCguy on September 28, 2009 1:49 PM writes...

Without any direct knowledge would suggest any location which is primarily involved in manufacturing is likely to be gone as continued draw down in internal capabilities in favor of outsourcing to Far East.

#5 Mark does that mean Pfizer LaJolla? (guess depends on how you define "recent"?)

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7. Sugar on September 28, 2009 2:57 PM writes...

We are Wyeth workers in Mexico are almost safe that the majority we will lost our employee since Pfizer take the control. I don't understand why the "market" punished us we have left our life in Wyeth; we have to date the best results in North and Centralamerica area. These results can't help us to mantain our work.

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8. milkshake on September 28, 2009 4:13 PM writes...

these things are take place with a sickening predictability. I don't know whom I loath more - Pfizer or ACS. One day the entire pharma industry will be consolidated into a giant smoking crater

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9. anon on September 28, 2009 4:18 PM writes...

Interesting that Pfizer, which is about double the size of Wyeth has seven large sites listed, while the smaller Wyeth has eleven. Scaling the Pfizer sites, allowing for consolidation and the announced 19,000 lay-offs would leave the joint company with about ten sites of these eighteen.

Which ten?

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10. Jose on September 28, 2009 4:27 PM writes...

I am ecstatic to see an ad in the newest C&EN for a webinar entitled "Outsourcing is a Key Pathway in the Future of Drug Discovery." Sponsors include a trifecta of brilliance- Merck, AMRI, and last but not least, the ACS. Boy! I am so glad that I paid my dues so I can help some MBA more effeciently oursource my job.

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11. Lucifer on September 28, 2009 4:51 PM writes...


They are consolidating themselves out of existence.

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12. Sili on September 28, 2009 4:52 PM writes...

Great. I don't even have a ph.d. in chemistry. And I'm not surprisingly getting nothing but rejections letters.

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13. AlchemX on September 28, 2009 4:57 PM writes...

Rejection letters from companies?

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14. milkshake on September 28, 2009 5:14 PM writes...

the problem is not that they will ignobly sink in the end but that they will take everybody with them - and that will include a big chunk of academic chemistry too. I mean, what kind of moron shareholder is giving them money to keep doing this? - so far every major pharma merger in recent memory has been a financial disaster (not mentioning the jobs and promising research bulldozed in the process)

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15. Lucifer on September 28, 2009 5:56 PM writes...


Yes, and I have also said that for some time now.

These idiots (MBA types) are going to burn the ship (pharma) for fuel (personal compensation and short term goals), so there won't be a ship in the end. They might have their lifeboats (golden parachutes), but the rest of the crew will drown.

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16. Rosalind on September 28, 2009 7:06 PM writes...

""I believe that Pfizer-Cambridge has already been told that they are being closed."

If that's true it indicates that even Harvard and MIT grads can't provide the necessary innovation these companies need to survive."

Not necessarily. PFE-Cambridge is a relatively recent creation, and has been working on siRNA, which is a long way away from commercialization anyway. They're a small group in a small yet hideously expensive building that is difficult to get to. WYE-Cambridge contains a few different groups, is a larger campus with plenty of parking, easy highway access, next to the subway station. It's not unreasonable to consolidate both Cambridge sites.

Many of the sites for both companies are smallish. It's pretty clear that PFE employees haven't a clue which Wyeth site is responsible for what, or how the Wyeth business model works for R&D, and the WYE people are probably overly optimistic about the relative honesty and forthright nature of PFE's promises and disclosures--by all accounts, PFE made a lot of empty promises in bad faith to W-L and Pharmacia folks.

Something they will need to consider about Wyeth's Massachusetts sites will be talent retention: It's not at all difficult for the best researchers to find another job in the Boston area. They all rotate between Wyeth, Biogen, Lonza, etc. depending on who is paying the best at that moment anyway.

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17. Anonymous on September 28, 2009 10:26 PM writes...

Any bets on which Merck and/or SP sites will close? These discussions are alos taking place right now.

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18. Don B. on September 29, 2009 9:35 AM writes...

My vote is for the ACS to be the most worthless "professional" organization during my lifetime.

If someone meant "pretty" for "impressive" then I agree. Can someone post pictures of the sites?

Proven success means the site wil be closed by pfe.

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19. Sili on September 29, 2009 11:12 AM writes...

Any opinions on RSC now that there's so much hatin' on ACS?

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20. Petros on September 29, 2009 11:14 AM writes...


pretty similar I'd say. Chemistry in Britain/Chemistry World tends to focus on positives in the chemical industry, not on chemists being made redundant

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21. Anonymous on September 29, 2009 12:15 PM writes...

In response to poster 17. Yes I would lke to know the answer to that question myself. There seem to be various rumours circulating about West Point and Montreal but I would guess that the SP sites are more likey to take the hits. Have heard various about Kenilworth but most seem to be positive! Haven't heard much about the other SP sites - don't know if that is good or not?

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22. ex-Pfizerite on September 29, 2009 5:13 PM writes...

2, Pfizer never was going to build a plant in New London, the area bought and bulldozed was by a group of developers who wanted to build an expensive hotel with conference center but could never get funding.

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23. Max on September 29, 2009 6:38 PM writes...

There are strong rumors in Madison that the site will remain open as the Consumer Healthcare headquarters.

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24. anonymous on September 29, 2009 9:05 PM writes...

In response to #21. Would not be surprised to see any of the Merck sites go. S-P people have been told (via Hassan) that one of the major reasons that Merck bought S-P was for R and D.

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25. Eric Milgram on September 29, 2009 10:12 PM writes...

I have had a number of requests to build a survey for Merck/Schering similar to the one I built for Wyeth/Pfizer.  If someone will send me a list of the Merck and Schering sites, ideally, with a succinct blurb about the focus of each site, I'll create the survey.

My Blog

PS Many thanks to Derek for mentioning my article. My site traffic has gone up over 10 fold average.

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26. Anonymous on September 30, 2009 5:59 AM writes...

Re #24, "Would not be surprised to see any of the Merck sites go. S-P people have been told (via Hassan) that one of the major reasons that Merck bought S-P was for R and D."

You actually believe the things management tells you?

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27. Anonymous on September 30, 2009 7:05 AM writes...

I saw this article in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer. Not sure if Pfizer is telling he truth or not, but thought your readers might be interested.

Pa. isn't expected to lose jobs when Pfizer acquires Wyeth

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28. petros on September 30, 2009 8:35 AM writes...

No one seems to have mentioned the former Organon sites. Aside from the US site, there is Newhouse in Scotland and Oss in the The Nertherlands. Those in Newhouse are especially worried.

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29. ditchdigger on September 30, 2009 11:13 AM writes...

"In ten years a degree in chemistry will be on par with an advanced degree in landscaping (these do exist I'm told). "

Don't kid yourself, you could make a lot of money with an advanced degree in landscaping, probably much more so than you could as a chemist

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30. ol cranky on September 30, 2009 12:17 PM writes...

@#27 they didn't say PA won't lose jobs just that they're fairly sure Collegeville will remain open. There are quite a few folks in Collegeville who will definitely lose their jobs

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31. Anonymous on September 30, 2009 1:32 PM writes...

Hey Petros,

Where do you get your information from. The people at Newhouse are no more worried than any of the other SP sites. We have a good record of achievement, so if a decision is to be made on productivity we will be just fine. Don't forget we have been through this before and the one lesson that we learned was that there is nothing we can do to affect any decision other than do our best every day and then see what happens after that.

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32. ex-Pfizerite on September 30, 2009 7:18 PM writes...

27, That was the same message that Michigan got before Pfizer shut down K'zoo and Ann Arbor. My guess would be that Wyeth vaccines and large molecule stays, Wyeth small molecule probably goes, Pfizer large molecule probably goes and either St. Louis or La Jolla goes.

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33. also ex-Pfizerite on September 30, 2009 9:16 PM writes...

Agree with 32. As a survivor of two site closures while at PFE I would say that this company tends to close sites w/o any apparent logical connection to any measurable factor - performance, maintenance cost, etc. This time it's a fair guess that at what used to be Wyeth anything biologics-related is safer than anything small-molecule related. Likewise anything that's small molecule-related in the pre-acquisition Pfizer is safer than the biologics stuff. Keep in mind that Pfizer did not enter the biologics arena until very late in the game, and even while it did - it did not put enough effort behind this enterprise. Hence the not-too-surprising choice to buy out a company with proven biologics expertise.

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34. Tax Man on October 1, 2009 10:26 AM writes...

The tax environment & operating costs in PA must surely be more friendly than in NY and NJ. Given the grovelling being done by PA politicians (coupled with the previous fact), Pfizer is positioned to make some type of PA-related tax sweetheart deal if it leaves Collegeville open and retains most of its staff. Thoughts?

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35. Chris on October 1, 2009 12:51 PM writes...

It's not the case that Pfizer Cambridge was solely, or even predominantly, staffed with Harvard MIT grads.... but if it makes yo ufeel better - Pfizer Cambridge RTC is a relatively small site. There is a Wyeth site also in Cambridge. It's not like they are bailing out of Cambridge altogether. The MIT/Harvard folks will just have to ride a different bus/subway to do their innovating - hopefully that won't rob them of their intellect.

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36. ex-Pfizerite on October 1, 2009 2:09 PM writes...

Tax-Man, Pfizer took money from Michigan for Ann Arbor it merely put off the shut down. 42nd Street/Kindler will do whatever the Ouija board tells it to do.

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37. Ouija Board on October 1, 2009 3:13 PM writes...






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38. Anonymous on October 3, 2009 11:53 PM writes...

@31 Kenilworth, Summit, and Oss are mentioned in the planning for the merged company - Union and Newhouse have not been mentioned in the plans specifically, nor has Cambridge. And performance record has nothing to do with bottom line decisions. Its all about the next quarterly report. Clark has promised a 16000 head count reduction. No one really cares about the science anymore.

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39. Anonymous on October 5, 2009 7:10 AM writes...

There seems to be lots of chatter about US based sites, but there are also sites outside of the US, such as those in the UK.

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40. Anonymous on October 5, 2009 3:07 PM writes...

Hi #38, I agree these decisions will probably not be taken on past performance alone, unfortunately all sorts of other politics will get in the way. My point really is that we are unable to do anything about the politics and therefore the only thing that we can do is our best and beyond that what ever will be will be!

As for Oss and Kenilworth being mentioned in the integration planning, doesn't mean that everyone on those sites will sleep easy. These sites employ a lot of people carrying out many different essential functions.

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41. Anonymous on October 5, 2009 8:10 PM writes...

"politics will get in the way"

You really believe this?? Politics.....has nothing to do with the decisions. All these decisions are based on short term profit maximization strategies.

Long live the king (pharma) the king (pharma) is dead.

You cannot apply the same MBA business crap to science orgs - yes but not the traditional scientific organizations that these pharma companies were before. They will become( have become) great drug marketing organizations. Better start looking for somewhere else to work if you are a biologist/chemist/etc..............

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42. Jimmy on October 16, 2009 1:10 AM writes...

It's Day One now.

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43. Anonymous on November 3, 2009 10:55 AM writes...

will the former wyeth RTP site remain open?

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44. Bob on November 9, 2009 12:06 PM writes...

It's officially the site in New London. As a repley to the NL comment about the homes destroyed for no obvious reason; They were taken down to make room for hotels and such, never intended or annunced as a Pfizer site, ever.

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