Pfizer axing neuroscience jobs, but seeks new VC fund

Pfizer will be redirecting funds "to those areas where we have strong scientific leadership." (Norbert Nagel, Mörfelden-Walldorf, Germany, via Wikimedia Commons)

Big Pharma Pfizer, on the eve of J.P. Morgan, the biggest biopharma dating event on the year, will cut around 300 jobs and a number of earlier stage projects from its neuroscience pipeline.

The move will see it back out of work in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, two notoriously difficult areas for the industry, especially the former, which has not seen any real R&D advance in 15 years.

In a statement on Friday, Pfizer said it will be redirecting funds “to those areas where we have strong scientific leadership and that will allow us to provide the greatest impact for patients,” adding that its total spending on R&D will not change, which amounted to around $8 billion last year.

RELATED: Top pharma R&D budgets: Number 4: Pfizer

The ax will fall predominately in Cambridge and Andover, Massachusetts, and in Groton, Connecticut, with about 100 expected at each site.

Those projects up for the chop are preclinical, early and midstage clinical programs primarily focused on Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s, but Pfizer could outlicense these, or cofund them, through venture investments.

It has a host of meds in these areas, including a phase 2 dopamine 1 activator for Parkinson’s, as well as four phase 1 Alzheimer’s drugs that include PF-05251749 and PF-06648671, a γ-secretase modulator.

This comes after many other Big Pharmas, and smaller biotechs, have failed to move the needle on Alzheimer’s disease drugs in R&D, making ROI on these types of projects precisely zero.

The changes will not hit work on its pain treatments Lyrica and tanezumab, or research into drugs for rare neurological diseases, the Big Pharma stressed.

But the company did say it will set up a neuroscience venture fund “to support continued efforts to advance the field,” although details were not shared. More should come of this later in the year, it adds, and will be focused on external projects.