Sunday, 28 February 2010

Fizzing Pfizer

Good news with Pfizer announcing 50 extra jobs for a research lab with a company called Peakdale Molecular:

Worth a couple of points in that:

1. Far more jobs created in Thanet by this one move than years and decades of TDC and KCC activity

2. I’m hugely supportive of Pfizer as an excellent local company – particularly compared to rogue polluters like Infratil and TDC - and with my manifesto aim of a “2nd Pfizer” eg Glaxo etc this should ensure not just full employment at Pfizer (I’d like to understand what office and lab space is available on site: to much of what passes for regeneration in Kent is simply road or office construction when we’re hardly short of either) but also a pharma hub linked to schools and universities and Kent Science park

3. Redevelopment of brownfield sites such as Richboro would be ideal for future expansion – it’s clear to me that TDC is simply hoping to ignore contaminated sites such as Richboro and even Manston in the hope that someone else will clean up the pollutants. It seems all the more bizarre given public funding to do just such clean-up sand the risk of even poisoning their own staff and their families. Let’s hope Morgan Sproates and the Cabinet and Board at TDC are able to improve the toxic clean than to date.

One other relevant point for discussion with Pfizer would be loosening pharma license regulations such as TRIPS. One of the issues with the large pharma companies is that they rely on very heavy patent legislation for relatively minor improvements to drugs.

Even issuing patents for one molecule change in an existing patent.

I know from my court case how flawed and merely legal make-work much of patent law is – I’m still had no reply why – even with an affidavit from a respected Canterbury law firm of over 250 years standing – neither the barrister nor Bar Standards Board can explain or even respond as to why duplicate papers and costs were filed in High Court. More concerning is neither could the Judges.

An issue with pharma is clearly when these patents limit research and development of lifesaving vaccines especially for the UN Millennium Development Goals of Malaria, TB and HIV.

An over-reliance on “Western pharma” such as athletes foot or cancer ignores the millions of deaths and shortened lives from malaria and TB.

There must be potential for Pfizer – given it’s already a partner in the UNMDG Call to Action - to lead the way in providing “research licenses and funds” for TB, Malaria and HIV for Africa and India for say 10 years.

An approach suggested by Joseph Stiglitz the head of the World Bank and former White House aide.

This would stimulate Western pharma research into these underfunded areas, meet the UNMDG by eradicating these diseases, and increase generic manufacturers (for which the pharma companies receive a royalty anyway) outside Europe.

Pfizer must even be aware of the economic potential in not just fine-tuning existing vaccines for Malaria, TB and HIV, and EU and World Bank funding, but the ongoing market in vaccinations for the billions of people in the Global South.

Polio has been eradicated but vaccinations continue.

It makes good business sense to save humanity from these epidemics. We may even in Europe need the vaccines with increased Climate Change and warmer and wetter weather encouraging malaria, and any TB outbreaks.

The issue is not that vaccines can’t be found for these diseases. Several vaccines already exist. They merely need refining and improving and better vaccines found.

Nor that production of the vaccines can’t be upscaled: the likes of Pfizer or generic pharma manufacturers such as Brazil’s Farmanguinhos could easily turn out millions of does of any vaccine. Just as happened recently with Swine Flu vaccines.

Or even Government forcing manufacturers to release vaccines as in the 2001 anthrax scare and Bayer being forced to release-license Cipro the anti- anthrax vaccine.

The issue is one of excessive patent reliance limiting development of lifesaving drugs.
A witches brew of reducing research and ensuring a death warrant for millions. And a lack of business will and direction to eradicate these scourges of humanity.

Equally just imagine if the polio vaccine had been patented. We’d all still be suffering from the scourge of polio that crippled and killed millions.

The new Pfizer initiative is terrific news for East Kent and promises much for the future.


The Sunday Timers details more information on the post I wrote yesterday on sacking civil servants. The article on page 19 by Harriet Sergeant “The Public sector’s big evil: it does not sack” details the reluctance of the public sector to regulate itself through improved performance and the failure of politicians to implement such reforms.

It seems bizarre that only in the public sector could there be a debate over firing someone for poor performance.

Failure to do so engenders a culture of incompetence at worst or inadequacy at best. The result being under-performing teachers and schools or failing councils and public services. And the public suffer.

Maybe part of the issue is excessive trade unionism in the public sector (80% compared to 19% in the private sector) – but trade unionism isn’t about securing jobs for people who can’t or won’t do them or institutionalising failure and incompetence.

Maybe it’s a too softly-softly approach within the organisations. But the result is often a diminishing of the service provided.

Maybe it’s a failure of regulation by politicians: there seems an excessive culture of quangos: simply forming another oversight body to do what politicians should be doing.

Or perhaps worst of all, is when even politicians have “gone native” and somehow view themselves as an arm of the civil service. Rather than an arm of the public.

In Thanet I’m amazed at the lack of oversight and scrutiny for the NHS, Education, Police and Coastguard. These bodies seem to have no regular reporting to councils or the public and only adhoc oversight by MP’s.

It’s astonishing for example that Kent Police could be sourcing and quoting and spending time on buying military spy drones without any politicians or the organisation itself being aware of it. What a waste of funds and time that could be spent on – arresting criminals rather than filming them from three miles up.


Newsnight last week had an interesting debate on the future of the armed forces: end of the Cold War, peace in Europe, the end in sight for operations such as Iraq and Afghanistan and no major enemy.

The amusing thing was seeing each armed service desperate to defend its patch by talking up war-threats and the potential of each service.

I can see no reason for not merging the RAF into the Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm. The future of aviation is missiles and helicopters rather than Cold War fighters and bombers.

While any future military operations are likely to be small-scale and led by the Army as in Sierra Leone. I think we’ve reached a stage described by Ramsgate’s General Dannatt that “we’re not turning spears into ploughshares but certainly into pruning shears.” - with any likely armed actions likely to be in Africa or the Middle East and largely under UN mandate.

While if the Royal Navy has only handfuls of Somali pirates in rubber dinghy’s top contend with then we’re fortunate. And in Somalia the surprising thing is what a bun-fight it seems to be with each Navy trying to get involved - again desperate to use forces that now have no real use – and certainly not as intended for the Cold War.

We seem to have a bloated MOD with almost one civil servant per soldier and barely able to commission flak jackets, armoured cars or machine guns – all of which could easily and cheaply be manufactured in Britain or bought from America or European allies on the open market.

And hundreds of tanks and helicopters and 20,000 troops sat in barracks in Germany.

Not even being used in Afghanistan - nor anywhere else.

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