Margareta Pagano: NB all politicians: Pfizer's closure is an opportunity...

The political capital being made out of Pfizer's decision to close its Sandwich plant, with the loss of 2,400 jobs, is shameful.

Opposition politicians and union leaders are being utterly disingenuous in their comments about why Pfizer has decided to close this plant, using the loss of people's jobs as a football to score points off the coalition.

And, sadly, most of the press surrounding the closure has been equally sensational. If anyone had bothered to look, they would know that even Viagra-maker Pfizer, like all the Big Pharma drug companies, is facing financial crisis. This latest closure, to be phased out over the next 18 months, stems from Pfizer's decision to slash its budget by more than a fifth to make ends meet. An obvious area to cut was one of the drug areas where it has little competitive advantage – allergy and respiratory disease research, which is based at Sandwich.

That's the reason the American group is closing the plant. It has nothing to do with the UK not being up to research. Nor has it anything to do with our tax regime or that the coalition is not doing its job in backing innovation with grants or R&D allowances – which is what unions and opposition politicians are trying to claim. Neither is Pfizer planning to move any of these jobs overseas to cheaper places. Indeed, the reverse is true, as it's trying to find jobs for as many of its scientists at its Cambridge site as it can.

The reality is that Big Pharma, like the dinosaurs they have become, are near extinction. Developing a blockbuster drug today costs around £1.4bn and takes at least 15 years; high stakes even for Big Pharma. Couple this with the fact that big drugs companies are seeing patents come to the end of their lives – Pfizer is set to lose its statin Lipitor when it comes off patent shortly. When it does, the new generic firms will fill the gap.

There are other factors at play. The new drug discoveries of tomorrow won't come out of 1970s factory-style laboratories where research scientists test their small molecules on mice; they will come from clinicians using patient data and human tissue from hospitals – they are the new laboratories for what's known today as translational medicine; developing drugs is going from the bench to the bedside. In many ways, future inventions are going back to basics, and today's discoveries are more likely to come about in a similar manner to that which inspired Alexander Fleming to discover penicillin. And the next generation of Lipitors is expected to come from a clinician sitting dreaming by his window at one of London's teaching hospitals.

So, while David Cameron and the coalition had nothing to do with Pfizer's decision, here's a great opportunity to turn the disaster into a growth story. Working with Pfizer, the site should be turned into a sort of "trade fair" which the UK's leading biotech entrepreneurs and venture capitalists can visit to meet the scientists and see what spin-outs or intellectual property might be salvaged. It's been done before – when the Swiss Ferring group closed its Southampton site a few years ago, it gave birth to a new spin-out, Vantia, which today employs nearly as many people. The Government may need to stump up some money in the short term to cover transition costs, but if jobs can be saved and new enterprises created, it would be worth every penny. A little jam today could stop Sandwich turning into toast – and not even a dose of Viagra could help it then.

Tryrie's plan for publishing bankers' pay would add a touch of magic to Merlin

I'm told the Project Merlin, which will be announced this week (the sixth week it has been expected), is more or less identical to the Project Merlin which was put together before Christmas. And the reason the so-called peace agreement between the bankers and politicians on bank lending and bonus restraint has taken so long to emerge has nothing to do with differences of opinions between the two sides, and everything to do with the politicians disagreeing among themselves.

Nor has it been a straightforward disagreement. Most of the angst has been on the Lib Dem side of the coalition where Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have had to broker some bitter disputes between their ministers and MPs to get them to agree a compromise package, which they appear to have now done.

One thing they haven't got from the bankers is a promise to provide more transparency in pay. That's why the intervention last week by Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, in asking the FSA to provide a break-down of all bankers earning over £1m, was so sensible. An earlier suggestion by Sir David Walker that banks should publish the number of employees paid more than £1m in bands, was dropped by the Treasury after banks objected that it would damage competition.

Tyrie's plan is much cleverer, and gets around their objections. He wants the FSA to provide bands of the highest paid bankers in our biggest banks so regulators can see how many there are and assess the nature of risk being built up by looking at the number of highly incentivised employees. He tells me that this will help internal risk officers and outside regulators to assess build-up of risk. Look back over the past decade; if they had seen what was paid to traders in asset-backed securities, regulators might have spotted just how risky some trades were. If the authorities want to show they are serious about tackling risk, Tyrie's idea is a no-brainer – and it will give Project Merlin a bit of magic too.

Wolf's Prey: Hermès satisfies its investors – for now

The decision by Hermès to pay its first interim dividend to investors out of its¤¤830m (£700m) cash pile is a smart move and likely to keep the founding families happy for now. So far, the Puech, Guerrand and Dumas families – which own 70 per cent of Hermès – have shown a united front against the advances of LVMH, which has a 20 per cent stake in the headscarves-to-handbags group. LVMH's Bernard Arnault – or the "wolf in a cashmere coat" as he is better known – faces an inquiry by French regulators over worries that he broke disclosure rules while buying the stake in Hermès, whose bags are seen on the arms of such celebrities as Kim Kardashian. As always, Arnault was right that Hermès was on the up: sales soared to ¤2.4bn in the last quarter, while LVMH itself reported profits a third higher on Friday, with booming sales of its TAG Heuer watches and Céline fashion in the Far East. But despite that regulatory bother and his nice words about his prey, the wolf won't lose his appetite.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Direct Marketing Manager - B2C, Financial Services - Slough

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Sr Wealth Manager - San Francisco - Inv AdvisoryFirm

$125 - $175 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Senior Wealth Manager – In...

Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum