Pfizer’s mammoth five-hour meeting with analysts in New York ended with the firm extolling the virtue of its late-stage pipeline, laying out plans for expansion in China and talking down any major “disruptive” mergers.

Pipeline first, and “2008 marks the start of a multi-year period of increased productivity,” said Martin Mackay, president of Pfizer Global R&D, who noted that the firm plans to grow the number of Phase III programmes by 50%-75%, to 24–28 projects by December 2009. With any luck, Pfizer expects to make 15-20 regulatory submissions between 2010 and 2012.

Pfizer highlighted three key compounds expected to move into Phase III – CP-751871, for the treatment of gastrointestinal, genitourinary, lung and breast cancer; CP-690550, for rheumatoid arthritis, transplant rejection, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and asthma and; PF-734200 for diabetes.

The company added that it will supplement its internal R&D efforts with “the best external science”, notably in biologics. The firm recently established its Biotherapeutics and Bioinnovation Centre based in California and it has 26 biologics in development spanning eight therapeutic areas. Pfizer also said that it sees an opportunity in investing in biogenerics, though gave no specific details.

Pfizer has also announced plans to buy two small biotechnology firms in the last two weeks – Encysive and Seretex – bringing in some more early and mid-stage projects but it looks as though a bigger purchase is not going to happen. Chief executive Jeffrey Kindler played down any mega-merger, citing Pfizer’s own acquisition of Warner-Lambert as an example of a deal that it is "extremely distracting" and "extremely disruptive" to productivity.

Over the next few years, it looks as though Pfizer may have a few blockbusters on its hands, notably the recently-launched HIV drug Celsentri/Selzentry (maraviroc), the smoking cessation drug Chantix (varenicline), and cancer drug Sutent (sunitinib). Nevertheless, the analysts at the meeting are still unsure whther the firm has the means to deal with the patent loss it will face on the cholesterol blockbuster Lipitor (atorvastatin) in 2010.

One way to bring more money in will be to expand overseas and Pfizer is particularly interested in the Chinese market. The company said it intends to spread its operations into 650 cities, nearly six times the current number.Pfizer concluded by reaffirming its 2008 guidance, with sales expected to reach $47-$49 billion and earnings of $1.78-$1.93 per share.