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Pfizer Pressing Charm Offensive Over Potential AstraZeneca Buy

By Bio-IT World Staff 

May 12, 2014 | After weeks of rejected offers to acquire AstraZeneca, and public skepticism over the outcome of such a deal, Pfizer this morning released a series of videos promoting the potential merger as a boon to science. The videos feature Mikael Dolstein, Pfizer's President of Worldwide Research & Development, speaking about drugs in both Pfizer's and AstraZeneca's development pipelines, and more broadly about the implications of a merger for R&D. "We must stay laser-focused on our important projects, and that of course is true for Pfizer scientists and AZ scientists, and will be true also if we can make a potential combination come together... Science must go on, and patients can't wait," said Dolstein in a video titled "Approach to R&D." 

The decision to deploy Dolstein, and to speak specifically about the scientific aspect of Pfizer's business, seems to be an attempt to head off criticisms that the bid to acquire AstraZeneca has more to do with tax obligations than interest in that company's specific portfolio of projects. It has been widely noted that Pfizer stands to gain a substantial tax break if it can acquire the British AstraZeneca and transfer a large portion of its assets to the U.K., where the corporate tax rate is lower. Observers have also pointed out that previous Pfizer acquisitions have been followed by drastic job cuts in R&D, leading to concerns by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic that a post-AstraZeneca Pfizer could shed scientists at sites in Maryland, Delaware, Cambridge, U.K., and other locations. 

In the videos released today, Dolstein said that Pfizer is looking at opportunities to expand operations in the U.K.'s "golden triangle" of London, Oxford and Cambridge, though he made no specific claims as to what such an expansion might entail. 

AstraZeneca's board members have so far remained firm in rebuffing Pfizer's offers, which have topped $100 billion. 

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