Pfizer looks to spin off cream of Japan lab

TOKYO Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:36am EDT

A view of the Belgian headquarters of U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, in Brussels January 23, 2007. Pfizer Inc, the world's largest drug maker, said on Friday it is in talks with investors about spinning off its Japanese research and development laboratory, albeit as a much smaller organization. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

A view of the Belgian headquarters of U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, in Brussels January 23, 2007. Pfizer Inc, the world's largest drug maker, said on Friday it is in talks with investors about spinning off its Japanese research and development laboratory, albeit as a much smaller organization.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

TOKYO (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc (PFE.N), the world's largest drug maker, said on Friday it is in talks with investors about spinning off its Japanese research and development laboratory, albeit as a much smaller organization.

Its drug discovery research centre in Nagoya, central Japan, is set to close by April next year as part of major restructuring by Pfizer that means about 10,000 job cuts worldwide.

While that closure of the lab, which has some 380 employees, will go ahead, investors are interested in funding a new company of 80 people, centered around its top researchers, Hiromitsu Iwasaki, chief executive of Pfizer Japan, told a news conference.

U.S, European and Japanese investors, which include banks and funds, have shown interest although that level varies greatly depending on Pfizer's potential stake.

"We have some investors who say they think the company will do much better if is independent and any Pfizer stake is small and we have others who say they would be more comfortable with bigger Pfizer participation," he said.

The newly reborn laboratory would initially focus on discovering drugs for pain-related and gastro-intestinal diseases but also move on to clinical trials later, the company said.

A spokesman for the laboratory said it may take on developing dormant patents on Pfizer drugs for the Japanese markets.

Pfizer had come under much criticism in Japan for closing the lab, with industry executives saying the company might find it hard to attract top people in the future.

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