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Vertex moves out, Pfizer moves in

The pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is looking to consolidate its two Cambridge locations into a single, more centrally-located facility. FierceBiotech reports. The company said in a release that it plans to "enhance its presence" in Cambridge, and to shift "selected resources" up from Groton. That, presumably, translates to more high-caliber biotech jobs for the Boston area. Pfizer already ranked as the tenth-largest employer in Cambridge last year, with 1,300 workers.

The news emerged in an interview John Carroll scored with Pfizer's worldwide head of R&D, Mikael Dolsten. It comes a week after Vertex Pharmaceuticals announced it had extracted a lavish package of benefits and incentives from Boston and the state in exchange for consolidating its operations into two new buildings on the Fan Pier, something it had in any event long wanted to do. And it underscores the way in which Cambridge, over the past few years, has benefited from long-term shifts within the pharmaceutical industry.

Pfizer is not the only multinational looking to break ground in Cambridge. Novartis recently announced its plan for a $600 million expansion, featuring a 140-ft tower designed by Maya Lin, to house an additional 300 workers. That development may now be dwarfed by Pfizer's plans. (As part of its R&D reorganization, Pfizer will also close some Cambridge units, but it will still post a substantial net gain in jobs. It had already said that, as it consolidates, it will exit its space in the old Model-A Ford Tire Factory on Memorial Drive.) The moves reflect an industry struggling with a lack of blockbuster products in its pipeline, which is looking to leverage relationships with research institutions to spread costs, identify new targets, and apply new approaches. That makes the concentration of academic and research institutions in Cambridge - and across the river - uniquely attractive.

There is a sad footnote to this piece of great news for the Hub. Pfizer will be shuttering its facility in Sandwich, England, and slashing more than 1,100 jobs from its facilities in Groton and New London. (Some of those jobs will relocate to Cambridge.) The two Connecticut cities lured the multinational giant to their derelict waterfront districts with lavish incentives, controversially clearing away existing neighborhoods, and trumpeted their new role in the innovation economy. But, it would seem, supporting a high density of academic and research institutions provides a better and more lasting path to economic growth.

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