Tag Archives: pharmaceutical

Pfizer European Headquarters, Sandwich, Kent

By Alan Dronsfield

This pharmaceutical firm, where several world famous drugs were discovered, was awarded with a Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) blue landmark plaque on 15 October 2010. The prize was in recognition of more than half a century of discoveries carried out by one of the UK’s leading companies, Pfizer. Its European research headquarters site is located in Sandwich, Kent. The company is widely recognised as having been at the forefront of many medicinal breakthroughs over the last fifty years.

Some of those discoveries include Viagra, the drug used to treat erectile dysfunction; Istin, the world’s leading treatment for hypertension and angina; Diflucan and Vfend, which treat life-threatening systemic fungal infections and, more recently, CelsSentri, a promising advance in the war against Aids/HIV, as well as Dectomax, which treats parasites in cattle.

In making the award, the RSC said: “Such discoveries are only possible by ensuring the highest level of research and development excellence. The long and consistent track record of the Pfizer, Sandwich, site is fully worthy of recognition under the Royal Society of Chemistry Chemical Landmark Award Scheme.” Dr Simon Campbell, who only a week earlier had been designated as thirty-first in the Times‘ “Eureka list of the 100 most important people in science”, is a former research leader at Pfizer and a past president of the RSC. He said: “I am very pleased Pfizer has received such a well deserved Landmark. This award recognises the innovation and dedication of thousands of Pfizer scientists in the discovery and development of innovative new medicines which have brought significant benefit to millions of patients world wide.” Dr Campbell was also involved in the research teams that produced Cardura, also used to treat high blood pressure and angina, and Norvasc, for high blood pressure and prostate enlargement.

The plaque was presented on behalf of the RSC by their immediate past president, Professor Dave Garner. Rod McKenzie, Senior Vice-President, Pfizer Research and Development said:

I am very proud to receive this award on behalf of Pfizer and our Sandwich site. Sandwich has long been a chemistry powerhouse, built on the passion and desire of generations of outstanding scientists to change lives for the better.  It is a wonderful testament to the many groundbreaking contributions to medicine Sandwich has made over the site’s fifty-six year history.

This was adapted from a Royal Society for Chemistry press release prepared by Paul Gallagher, Media Relations Executive.

May and Baker (Sanofi-Aventis), Dagenham, East London

By Alan Dronsfield

May and Baker advertisement, 1922

The Royal Society of Chemistry presented a National Chemical Landmark plaque to Sanofi-Aventis (formerly May and Baker) to commemorate its research and manufacturing activities at the Dagenham, East London, site which started there in 1934. The presentation was made on 2nd July 2010 by RSC President Elect Professor David Phillips to Jim Moretta, Site Director Sanofi-Aventis, and the plaque itself was unveiled by Councillor Nirmal Singh Gill, Mayor of Barking and Dagenham. The Historical Group was represented by David Leaback, Peter Morris and Alan Dronsfield

The citation on the plaque reads

“….in recognition of the pioneering research and manufacturing work
carried out at the May & Baker (sanofi-aventis)
Dagenham site in a wide range of chemical
and pharmaceutical fields since 1934.
These products continue to benefit patients
and their quality of life
around the world”

Colin Ward, Ex Head of Analytical Development & Compliance, Quality Operations, Dagenham, has kindly supplied the following background to the Award:

The Dagenham site was bought by May & Baker then based in Wandsworth, for £1l,000 in 1919 but was not opened for business until 1934. It was to become the headquarters of the multinational, May & Baker Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rhône-Poulenc S.A., and in its heyday the site employed some 4,000 people.

The Dagenham site was diverse in terms of chemical manufacture with active pharmaceutical ingredients, pharmaceutical products, veterinary medicines, aromatic chemicals, agrochemicals, photographic chemicals, plastics, industrial and fine chemicals being manufactured there over the last 75 years.

In addition to chemical and pharmaceutical manufacture, Dagenham had a strong R&D base and some significant molecules were synthesised here. Perhaps the most notable are the bacteriostatic sulphonamides, with M&B 693, Sulphapyridine, synthesised in 1937 and M&B 760, Sulphathiazole, a year later. Both were very active against cocci infections and were the forerunner of the antibiotics. During WW2, it was noted that M&B 693 had saved many thousands of lives. Indeed Sir Winston Churchill extolled the virtues of M&B 693 having been treated with it for pneumonia infections twice during the war.

Research on sulphonamides stopped after these two products but continued with other therapeutic agents and agrochemicals. Dagenham was instrumental in developing the diamidine group of bacteriostats, including Pentamidine, Propamidine and Dibromopropamidine, the beta-blocker Acebutolol hydrochloride, the HBN herbicides, Ioxynil and Bromoxynil, the phenoxybutyric acid herbicides and the carbamate herbicide, Asulam. In addition it developed and manufactured the veterinary compounds, Dimetridazole, Sulphaquinoxaline and Isometamidium chloride and marketed many improved products in the field of photographic chemicals, developers and fixers.

The site has won the Queens Award for Industry three times for technological innovation and in 1974 was granted a royal warrant as suppliers of agricultural herbicides to HM Queen Elizabeth II.

From its May & Baker beginnings. Dagenham has had several name changes and as the Company expanded and merged the site became consecutively Rhône-Poulenc Ltd., Rhône-Poulene Rorer, Aventis and latterly Sanofi-Aventis. However, although the sign on the gates is now Sanofi-Aventis, the site is still very much “May and Bakers” to the local community.

However, in recent years many of the plant’s activities have either been has been discontinued or transferred to other Sanofi-Aventis locations. At present it is only manufacturing sterile oncology products and a couple of other anti-cancer drugs. The work force has shrunk to 450 employees and in December 2009 it was announced that the whole Dagenham operation would close by 2013. The site will be redeveloped as an industrial park and sadly an era of London’s chemical industry will become history.

Original article written by Alan Dronsfield and published in V. Quirke (ed), Royal Society of Chemistry Historical Group Newsletter, August 2010.