May 12, 2014 / 6:42 AM / in 4 years

Pfizer R&D head presses case for AstraZeneca deal

LONDON, May 12 (Reuters) - Pfizer’s research head pressed the case for combining with AstraZeneca on Monday in the latest stage of a campaign by the U.S. drugmaker to counter critics of its proposed $106 billion deal.

Mikael Dolsten said he had been through five different mergers and acquisitions and denied such big transactions disrupted drug research.

“If you keep your sense of curiosity and an open mind, you can learn tremendously,” he said in a video posted on the company’s website.

“We must stay laser-focused on our important projects. And that‘s, of course, true for Pfizer scientists and AZ scientists and will be true also if we can make a potential combination come together.”

British lawmakers are due to quiz Dolsten’s boss, Pfizer Chief Executive Ian Read, on May 13 and 14 about his plans to acquire Britain’s second-biggest pharmaceuticals business. They will also interrogate AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot.

Buying AstraZeneca would be the largest foreign takeover of a British firm. Pfizer’s approach has been rejected by AstraZeneca and the idea of a merger is opposed by many scientists and some politicians who fear it would damage the country’s science base.

Dolsten said there was “a really great fit” with the products that AstraZeneca had in its portfolio, with potential for combining drugs in areas such as lung cancer to offer much more effective treatments.

Pfizer has given a five-year commitment to complete AstraZeneca’s new research centre in Cambridge, retain a factory in the northwestern English town of Macclesfield and put a fifth of its research staff in Britain if the deal goes ahead.

But the U.S. firm has also said it could adjust those promises if circumstances change “significantly”, prompting demands for more watertight pledges.

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday he had made “very good progress” in securing guarantees from Pfizer. However, Dolsten’s remarks contained no new pledges on preserving British science jobs.

Pfizer’s Read also laid out the case for a merger in videos posted by the U.S. group on Saturday, when he said strong British research was a key reason for the deal. (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Jason Neely)

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