Pfizer said yesterday it will close its Neusentis R&D site in Granta Park, Cambridge, U.K., a shutdown the company said could idle up to 120 employees.

The pharma giant—which plans to acquire Allergan for $160 billion in a tax-slicing inversion merger—said its decision to close the Cambridge site was part of a shift from early-stage research into pain therapies.

“Pfizer is continually reviewing and evolving its R&D strategy to ensure that we are best positioned to deliver breakthrough therapies that meet patient needs while driving a return on investment,” the company said in a statement emailed to GEN. “Scientific research is a complex endeavour, with a lot of inherent risk and failure. Difficult decisions need to be made even in areas where we had hope for meaningful progress.”

Pfizer added that it has begun consultations with affected employees about the shutdown, with the goal of saving at least some of the affected jobs.

Established in 2011, Neusentis consolidated Pfizer's Pain & Sensory Disorders and Regenerative Medicine units in what it called a biotech-like operation that derived its name from the phrase “new science therapeutics,” according to the site’s website, “with a particular focus on pain and sensory disorders.”

“The name, location, and philosophy of Neusentis epitomises the future of drug discovery and development at Pfizer,” the company declared.

Pfizer also noted that it will retain a Cambridge presence by continuing to operate the Device Centre of Excellence, which employs about 30 people who focus on the design and development of drug delivery devices such as injectors or inhalers.

“With more than 2,500 colleagues in the UK, Pfizer will continue to maintain a significant presence, and the UK’s scientific ecosystem will continue to play an important role in how we research and deliver breakthrough therapies that meet patient needs,” Pfizer stated.

That presence, the company added, includes approximately 400 research collaborations and strategic alliances with scientists, academics and clinicians across the UK—as well as its presence as a partner in the $100 million Dementia Discovery Fund, launched in October to accelerate the discovery and development of novel treatments for dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

Just last year, Pfizer cited its U.K. R&D operations as a selling point in trying to build support for its unsuccessful effort to acquire AstraZeneca—several Pfizer offers were flatly rejected by the British-based pharma.

Pfizer was trying to turn back opposition to the AstraZeneca deal that stemmed from its decision in 2011 to shut down another U.K. R&D site in Sandwich, Kent, a closing that affected some 2,400 employees based there. The company sold the Sandwich site, known as Discovery Park, the following year.

[This is an updated version of an earlier report, which includes additional comment from Pfizer].

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