BioCity to support Pfizer scientists facing redundancy


Package of support could lead to new start-up ventures for staff from Sandwich, Kent plant

The closure of the Pfizer plant in Sandwich, Kent, might not all be bad news for the 2,400 people who will shortly be seeking alternative employment, according to BioCity Nottingham.

Europe’s fast-growing bioscience incubator, currently home to 70 companies, suggests that a significant number of new, innovative pharmaceutical companies could emerge when talented Pfizer scientists start looking for new jobs.

Twelve months ago, BioCity responded to the closure of AstraZeneca’s Charnwood site, near Loughborough, by offering a package of support to former employees including training, advice and office or lab accommodation.

As a direct result, several new ventures have emerged. Sarah Hill, a clinical researcher at the Charnwood site, for example, took advantage of BioCity’s advice and support a year ago and is now set to launch Genios Limited.

‘The Bio-Entrepreneur School helped me to focus my ideas at a time when the future looked pretty bleak,’ said Hill. ‘I went on to take advice from the BioCity incubation manager Dr Nick Gostick and pitched my idea to win a place on the Germinator Programme. Since then I have worked with a specialist mentor and used free office space to carry out my market research and business planning. We launch this summer with two employees and a further two jobs planned.’

Former global discipline leader for Pharmacometrics at AstraZeneca, Joachim Grevel, has based his new business BAST Limited in BioCity to take advantage of an attractive start-up package, networking and practical support.

‘We are impressed by the growing international reputation of BioCity and know this will be a good base from which to serve our clients in Germany, Switzerland and the UK,’ he said.

BioCity is offering similar support to staff at Pfizer, Sandwich and will run the 2011 BioCity Bootcamp (formerly the Bio-Entrepreneur School) from 6–8 April.

Pfizer employees who chose to relocate to the East Midlands to start a new pharmaceutical venture will be able to benefit from the offer of 12 months’ free accommodation at BioCity.

Dr Glenn Crocker, chief executive of BioCity Nottingham and author of a recent UK Life Sciences Start up Report, emphasises that if the UK is to build on its strong position in the life sciences it has to nurture and help smaller firms.

‘There is an enormous difference between undertaking research and development within a global pharmaceutical company and undertaking the same work as an entrepreneur, running your own business,’ he said.

‘Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but for those that have the attributes and drive to create their own business it is vital that they are supported to develop the commercial skills to thrive in this entirely new environment.’