"As we put these companies together, we will continue with our
pipeline, AZ will continue with theirs," Pfizer's Chief Executive
Ian Read told lawmakers on a second day of questioning about what
could be the biggest ever UK corporate deal.
"There is absolutely no truth to any comment that some products of
critical nature would be delayed getting to patients, if anything we
would accelerate that to patients."
AstraZeneca said on Tuesday that Pfizer's proposal risked disrupting
its research and delaying getting life-saving new drugs to market,
as well as undervaluing the business.
"What will we tell the person whose father died from lung cancer
because one of our medicines was delayed - and essentially was
delayed because in the meantime our two companies were involved in
saving tax and saving costs?" the British company's Chief Executive
Pascal Soriot said on Tuesday.
On a second day in Parliament focused on the concerns of the science
community, Read faced calls from a committee of lawmakers and other
speakers for Pfizer to extend its commitment to UK jobs and research
from five years to 10 or more.
"I would like to see a longer period than that (five years),"
science minister David Willetts told the committee.
But the U.S. boss defended his five-year horizon, saying it was
enough time to select medicines that had the greatest chance of
approval and the biggest opportunity to meet the needs of patients.
Pfizer had changed its R&D strategy to avoid lengthy, and ultimately
fruitless, research by bringing in commercial and development
expertise at the proof of concept stage in the assessment of
experimental drugs, he said.
"It's very important for me for productivity to ... hold
(scientists) accountable, to say 'I'm allocating you capital on a
five-year period and I'm going to review that on five-year
periods'," he said.
Pfizer has indicated it could raise its offer for Britain's
second-biggest drugmaker from $106 billion, if AstraZeneca is
prepared to talk, but lawmakers are deeply concerned about the
impact of a takeover on the country's science base.
The U.S. company has a record of making deep job cuts after past
takeovers of companies including Wyeth, Warner-Lambert and
Read said on Wednesday there would likely be fewer scientists in a
newly combined company than currently work in the two firms, but he
declined to put any numbers on it.
[to top of second column]
Nobel laureate Paul Nurse, the president of the Royal Society,
Britain's national academy of science, wrote to the chairman of
Parliament's science committee Andrew Miller to express his concern
that Pfizer's promises so far were vague and inadequate.
Pfizer's five-year commitment includes completing AstraZeneca's new
research center in Cambridge, retaining a factory in the
northwestern English town of Macclesfield and putting a fifth of its
research staff in Britain if the deal goes ahead.
But it has also said this could be altered if circumstances changed
"significantly" and Scottish-born Read said he could not commit to
maintaining a specific R&D budget for Britain.
Nurse said a five-year pledge was simply not good enough.
"A five-year commitment to the UK is insufficient. A commitment of
at least 10 years is required. Science is not a quick win," he
AstraZeneca has rejected Pfizer's cash-and-stock offer, which was
worth 50 pounds a share at the time it was made on May 2, arguing it
has a bright future as an independent business, with a pipeline of
promising new drugs.
So-called Parliamentary select committees cannot block corporate
transactions but they can question executives ferociously, as banks,
energy companies and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp <NWSA.O> have all
found out in the past.
(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Mark Potter)
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