Pfizer mulls early-stage site to tap into German research infrastructure

Pfizer ($PFE) is considering setting up a research site in Germany, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports. The investment would represent a rare foray by a Big Pharma into basic research in Germany, but Pfizer's chief in the country thinks the ability to work with existing academic and medical institutions means the plan has merits.

Pfizer's Peter Albiez

Peter Albiez, who heads up Pfizer's operation in Germany, outlined the idea to FAZ at a conference in Frankfurt. The plan is to set up a 50-person research site in Germany, possibly at the site in Berlin that serves as Pfizer's national headquarters and oversees its cancer operation in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific. Pfizer would use the site to conduct basic and translational research, taking assets from the earliest stages of the process and moving them into the clinic. Programs could then advance into the global development network Pfizer uses to usher its assets toward approval.

While the idea of a Big Pharma investing in basic research, a field that has suffered repeated cuts, in Germany, a country away from the global biotech hot spots, appears unusual, Albiez thinks it has legs. Pfizer already has a medical department in Berlin and works closely with the city's university hospital, Charité, on its oncology R&D programs. Albiez sees the research site giving Pfizer another way to collaborate with Germany's universities and medical research institutions, which have kept stellar reputations throughout a period in which the country's biopharma sector has fallen behind.

The idea could still fail to come to fruition--or undergo significant changes in the two years Albiez estimates it will take to turn it into a reality--but the Germany chief knows what he wants to achieve and why the initiative might appeal to Pfizer's top brass. If Pfizer sets up the site, it would join a very short list of German research operations run by U.S.-based Big Pharma companies. As Derek Lowe and his commenters note on In The Pipeline, AbbVie ($ABBV) has a research team working out of its R&D and production site in Ludwigshafen but most U.S.-based companies lack a presence.

- read FAZ's article (German)
- and Lowe's take