Q&A: Outsourcing Himself

A year ago, Pfizer announced a plan to exit its research and development site in Sandwich in southern England over the course of 2 years. At the time of the announcement, the site employed about 2400 workers. The company later announced that it would downsize the site instead of closing it. According to recent reports, 1500 employees will lose their jobs by the end of 2012 and 250 will be transferred to other Pfizer facilities. Another 650 or so will remain at Sandwich.

I have mixed feelings really about the change, but overall there’s been a lot of positive aspects.

As of November, some 800 employees had already lost their jobs. One of those was Andrew McElroy, who was trained as a chemist but worked at Pfizer as an outsourcing specialist. Recognizing a growing niche for outsourcing services, McElroy launched The Research Network, which today gathers several dozen former pharma employees into a firm that helps companies work with contract research organizations. Science Careers interviewed McElroy — first by telephone and then by e-mail — and asked him about losing his job at Pfizer, developing his business idea, and his attempt to make a silk purse — a new business — from a sow’s ear. These interview highlights were edited for brevity and clarity.

Tooling Up: The Big Disconnect

Stepping Out of Big Pharma’s Shadow