'We'll create a scientific powerhouse': Pfizer defends AstraZeneca takeover bid


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The Independent Online

Pfizer has defended its campaign to snap up AstraZeneca in Britain’s biggest foreign takeover claiming the £63 billion deal would create a “scientific powerhouse”.

The US drugmaker also hit back at politicians’ claims that its statement on UK jobs was not "watertight" as bosses from the two companies prepare to be grilled in Parliament tomorrow and on Wednesday.

In its select committee submissions, Pfizer said of its pledge to keep a fifth of the combined company’s research and development workforce in the UK for five years that although "we had no obligation to make these [jobs] commitments we were willing to do so because we support the opportunity to strengthen the UK life sciences industry.

"We understand fully that they would be binding as a matter of English law."

There are fears that a takeover could see Pfizer axe thousands of jobs, and top scientists — including the provost of University College, London — have warned that medical research in the UK could be “nullified” by the deal.

But Pfizer’s president of research, Mikael Dolsten, who will be giving evidence before the science and Technology select committee on Wednesday, made the unusual move of writing a newspaper column on why the potential takeover “would benefit patients around the world and strengthen the UK’s life sciences industry”.

Writing in the Evening Standard, Dolsten, who joined Pfizer as part of its $68 billion (£40 billion) acquisition of Wyeth in 2009, wrote that as a result he can "speak from personal experience on this subject".

"[The Wyeth deal] provoked similar concerns about the impact of a big merger on scientific progress."

Dolsten claimed the US Viagra-maker has “great respect” for AstraZeneca and its heritage but a merged business would be “better placed to meet society’s demand for the faster and more cost-effective delivery of medicines”.

His attempt to woo Astra’s investors, UK politicians and this country’s scientific community comes despite no firm offer being on the table from Pfizer. AstraZeneca rejected its most recent approach.

Pfizer points out: "AstraZeneca faces difficult challenges [such as] looming patent expiries," in its select committee submissions, but does not mention its own patent cliff, with Pfizer blockbusters including cholesterol treatment Lipitor facing generic competition.

Ian Read, Pfizer’s chief executive, has recorded four videos aiming at winning support for the deal, which he claimed would be a "win win" for investors and science.

AstraZeneca chief Pascal Soriot told The Independent that AstraZeneca was healthier as an independent medicine maker: "We are creating and investing in new drugs which we believe will transform how we tackle diseases and change patients’ lives."