Pfizer has a long tradition of innovation and investments in Belgium. Across four internationally renowned Belgian sites, Pfizer’s presence ticks nearly all boxes of the innovation process of a medicine or vaccine: from Phase 1 clinical research in Anderlecht over aseptic manufacturing and packaging of injectables in Puurs to the global distribution of medicines and vaccines in Zaventem.
Pfizer manufacturing plant in Puurs
Some could say Pfizer has what French-speakers call a ‘coup de foudre’ for Belgium: love at first sight, with its well-anchored and continual investment in Belgium since 1952. Karel Van De Sompel (Country Manager, Pfizer Belgium) explains: “Belgium is known to have a unique ecosystem for the pharmaceutical sector. All elements for a fruitful business can be found here: a talented and highly educated and productive workforce, world-class researchers, top-notch academic centers, an excellent healthcare system, several innovation hubs, a vibrant start-up and scale-up community… You name it, Belgium seems to have it.”
The booming manufacturing and packaging operations in the Puurs site, near Antwerp, have drawn in sustained large investments and increasing number of employees. Even more so since Pfizer announced in May 2020 that it had been selected to be one of the main manufacturing centers of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. This decision led to an unprecedented scaling up of the plant and to the recruitment of hundreds of new employees.
But Pfizer Puurs was not the only Belgian Pfizer site to play a crucial role in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic: Pfizer’s Zaventem Logistics Center has been a key player in the worldwide distribution of the vaccines. This task was on top of its regular business of supplying other medicines and vaccines all over the world, as it handles 2/3 of all Pfizer product and medication flows.
In Anderlecht, the Pfizer Clinical Research Unit (PCRU) is a state-of-the-art research unit dedicated to early stage clinical studies (e.g. Phase I). Pfizer has only two such units in the world: one in New Haven, Connecticut (US) and one in Brussels, on the university campus of the Erasmus Hospital. There too, Pfizer employees work on breakthroughs that change patients’ lives and strive to continually contribute to the unique Belgian pharmaceutical ecosystem.
Inside Pfizer in Puurs
Belgium has developed into a ‘pharma valley’, offering an attractive ecosystem for pharmaceutical companies to say yes to Belgium. Pfizer said yes over six decades ago, and the relationship is still alive and kicking. As Luc Van Steenwinkel (Managing Director, Pfizer Puurs) explains, “We are proud of our footprint in Belgium. Our American headquarters appreciate our expertise and consider us to be a trusted partner in Pfizer’s international supply network. Their trust translates in continued investments, although these are not a given. Every day, we work hard to earn and honor that trust. A stable and competitive economical and entrepreneurial environment is essential to secure future investments too. Although we supply medicines and vaccines to countries all over the world – including developing countries – we still need a strong Belgian foundation to build our operations on.”
Research and development at Pfizer in Puurs