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Pfizer set to add 350 jobs in Mass.

By Robert Weisman
Globe Staff / February 2, 2011

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Pfizer Inc. said yesterday it will add about 350 jobs in the Boston area and look for a new site to house a pair of research units it will move here from southeastern Connecticut.

The news came as Pfizer, the world’s largest drug company with $67.8 billion in revenue last year, unveiled a broad restructuring plan that will slash its global research and development outlays by $1.5 billion, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs around the world. It was the second major research cutback since New York-based Pfizer acquired Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in 2009.

But even as Pfizer shrinks research operations globally, it will be growing in Massachusetts, where it already has about 2,300 workers at two research labs in Cambridge and a former Wyeth biotechnology plant in Andover.

“We have recognized that we want to have a very significant footprint in Massachusetts,’’ said J.C. Gutierrez Ramos, the Cambridge-based Pfizer senior vice president of biotherapeutics research and development. “This emphasizes Pfizer’s commitment to increase our interactions with the academic medical centers, our interactions with the biotechnology companies and entrepreneurs, with all of the stakeholders in biomedical research.’’

Shares of Pfizer jumped 5.5 percent to $19.23 yesterday, gaining $1.01 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Pfizer’s decision to increase research in the Boston area follows similar recent moves by global drug makers such as Novartis AG of Switzerland and Sanofi-Aventis SA of France, which want to plug into the area’s life sciences industry at a time when drug discovery has slowed worldwide.

Like other companies, Pfizer is also refocusing its own research on core areas ranging from neurology and immuno-inflammation to vaccines and cancer treatments.

“It’s a confirmation that, when some of these companies have to make tough decisions, they continue to favor Massachusetts,’’ said Susan Windham-Bannister, president of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, a state agency created to implement Governor Deval Patrick’s life sciences initiative. “It’s a good place to partner, it’s a good place to keep the finger on the pulse, and it’s a good place to tap into a skilled workforce.’’

Ironically, the increased presence of big pharma comes as some of the state’s top biotechnology companies, such as Genzyme Corp. of Cambridge and Biogen Idec Inc. of Weston, have been trimming their payrolls locally.

But despite those cutbacks, Pfizer remains bullish on the region. Even as it eliminates 1,100 jobs in Groton, Conn., about a quarter of its workforce there, the company said it will be consolidating its neuroscience and cardiovascular metabolic research operations in the Boston area. Those operations will be housed in a new site, probably in Boston, Cambridge, or Waltham, said Gutierrez.

Together, they are expected to create about 450 jobs here, he said. But Pfizer will cut about 100 other jobs in the Boston area, many at a lab it plans to close on Memorial Drive in Cambridge. That lab conducts research into regenerative medicine and other therapeutics. Pfizer will continue to be involved in those types of research, but will do less work with its own staff and more with outside collaborators, Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said some of the projects taking place on Memorial Drive may be folded into other Pfizer operations and some researchers there may be transferred to other sites. Pfizer will still operate another lab, formerly owned by Wyeth, in the Alewife neighborhood of Cambridge.

Windham-Bannister said state government officials will work with Pfizer to assist any employees who lose their jobs as part of the restructuring, helping them to find other life sciences jobs in Massachusetts.

Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.