Global R&D centers brace for new blows as Pfizer circles AstraZeneca

Pfizer CEO Ian Read

When Pfizer ($PFE) set out to lobby for its proposed buyout of AstraZeneca, CEO Ian Read made a point of reassuring Britain's political establishment that it will keep a large portion of R&D operations in the U.K. But it never bothered to clarify what its plans are in Sweden.

And it's not likely to start, as AstraZeneca ($AZN) has already moved to shutter the bulk of its research work in the country, where it was once based. In the U.S., meanwhile, analysts have been wondering where Pfizer would cut--not if.

"There's no doubt in my mind that if they are making these concessions to the British government, there will be cuts on this side of the Atlantic," Aegis analyst Raghuram Selvaraju tells Reuters. And the Reuters story highlights Pfizer's remaining work in La Jolla, CA, as a potential target, given the pharma giant's earlier decision to concentrate more of its efforts around the Boston hub.

After closing two big Swedish research centers at Lund and Södertälje, AstraZeneca held on to the work it's doing at Mölndal, keeping it as one of its prioritized sites. But the proposed megamerger is raising fears that a combined company would soon eliminate that last outpost of Big Pharma.

"I don't know if it was possible to keep AstraZeneca headquarters in Sweden when the company became half-English, half-Swedish, but if they had, that letter would have been sent to the Swedish government," Torun Nilsson, a writer for Dagens Industri, tells TheLocal.

It may be anybody's guess what Pfizer would do at Mölndal, but Nilsson says the handwriting is on the wall as far as it comes to Big Pharma drug research. "Sweden could be on its way to becoming a production country," she says. 

- here's the story from TheLocal
- here's the Reuters piece