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Pfizer's Singapore slash and burn could be good news for CROs

Drugmaker looking to cut $1B-plus from R&D this year
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Pfizer ($PFE) is dumping its clinical research operation in Singapore, part of an effort to cut about $1.3 billion from its R&D budget, and the divestiture could mean more opportunity for outsourcers looking to partner with the drug giant.

The Singapore outfit employs about 30 people, Business Times reports, and Pfizer plans to shutter the site by the middle of this year. This comes as the drugmaker has closed up R&D shops around the globe, and the company revealed in January that its 2012 research budget dropped to $7.8 billion from $9 billion in 2011.

Pfizer is looking to get its total R&D budget down to around $6.5 billion, and while all that cutting likely means more out-of-work researchers, it also means a big chance for CROs that can advance Pfizer's programs at a cost well below internal development.

And Pfizer's no stranger to reaching out to outsourcers: In 2011, the company struck up a 5-year preferred partner deal with Icon ($ICLR) and Parexel ($PRXL) to run clinical trials and handle some drug development, an agreement rumored to be worth almost $7 billion. Earlier this year, Pfizer signed on with SFJ Pharmaceuticals, tasking the company with running Phase III trials for lung cancer candidate dacomitinib.

Retreating from Singapore is likely a blow to Pfizer's efforts in the fast-growing Asian market, but the company has made some inroads in China, in September launching a joint venture with a local API producer to sell branded generics in the country.

More such deals are likely as Pfizer continues to slim down, looking to keep its pipeline moving without pouring loads of cash into high-risk programs.

- read FierceBiotech's take
- here's the Business Times piece

Special Report: Singapore - Top Emerging CRO Markets

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