Pfizer: ‘Dropped preclinical programs do not change commitment to biosimilars’

In the latest example of a Big Biopharma reducing its biosimilar presence, Pfizer has abandoned five of its preclinical programs. The decision is part of an R&D review set to cut 150 jobs in Illinois and India.

In November 2018, Bioprocess Insider reported claims that Big Pharma is set to exit from the biosimilars space over the next five years. Within weeks of publishing, Boehringer Ingelheim joined the likes of Germany’s Merck KGaA and Novartis division Sandoz in abandoning elements of its biosimilar pipeline, specifically its non-US programs.

And now Pfizer is joining this lists, axing five preclinical biosimilar programs as part of an R&D shake-up.

Five preclinical biosimilars have been given the axe in Pfizer’s R&D shake-up. Image: iStock/PaulMaguire

“As a result from our recent R&D investment review that we conduct every year we decided to stop the development of five preclinical biosimilar assets which would not be available to patients for at least four to eight years, and reallocating the funding to late stage programs across Pfizer’s other key therapeutic areas of research,” spokesperson Thomas Biegi told this publication.

Instead, the firm is opting to focus on “cutting edge late stage programs in disease areas where patients have only a few or no treatment options, for example in oncology or rare diseases.”

While the decision effects five preclinical assets, Biegi said Pfizer has not changed its overall commitment to biosimilars, and “will continue to monitor the biosimilar opportunity as part of Pfizer’s annual portfolio evaluation process.”

“With three marketed products and five biosimilars in mid- to late stage development, Pfizer is the leading biosimilars company. Pfizer remains committed to bringing our late-stage portfolio of biosimilars to market and ensuring patients around the world have access.”

Jobs and Illinois

The decision will impact around 150 jobs at the firm’s Lake Forest, Illinois facility, and in Ticel Bio Park in Chennai, India.

Pfizer added Lake Forest to its R&D and manufacturing network as part of its $17 billion (€14.9 billion) acquisition of Hospira in 2015.

“Since the acquisition of Hospira, Pfizer has recognized the importance of our Lake Forest site and has continued to make investments at the site,” Biegi said. “While this specific portfolio decision will impact some colleagues at the site who supported the development of the biosimilars pipeline, Pfizer expects that the important work being done in Lake Forest will continue.

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