Pfizer and Merck signal deep cuts in R&D groups

Pfizer and Merck have begun to spell out exactly where the axe will fall as they each absorb a big new acquisition into their organizations. According to Pharmalot, Pfizer has told New Jersey officials that 400 people at Wyeth's old Monmouth Junction research center are getting the pink slip at the end of this month. And Merck will eliminate 500 jobs--mostly sales and administrative positions--from Schering-Plough's old headquarters in Kenilworth.

These layoffs are just the beginning, of course. Both pharma companies are planning deep cuts to eradicate any overlaps with the companies that they are swallowing. And in another ominous note for Big Pharma's embattled R&D organizations, Merck CEO Dick Clark (photo) told an audience attending a Goldman Sachs event that the company has to look at "the number of research sites you need" post-merger.

None of this can come as any kind of a surprise at the companies, which have made it clear that the old days of monolithic R&D groups left in complete charge of new drug development are over. They also have to deliver big cuts to investors hungry to see some real synergies following the M&A splurge. The cuts, though, create new opportunities for biotech companies with bright pipeline prospects.

- here's the Pharmalot story
- check out the Wall Street Journal report