Pfizer delivered a low-key analyst day, offering no surprises as it advances toward a “cliff” of patent expirations on major products.

“For those that were hoping that Pfizer would do something more aggressive than its slow ‘brick by brick’ approach to rebuilding the company and repositioning it for the future, the meeting may have been viewed as a disappointment,” said Bernstein lead analyst Tim Anderson in a research note, adding that his firm had no such expectations.

The company reaffirmed its plan to invest heavily in R&D and again pooh-poohed any talk of a major acquisition in favor of more targeted picks, vowing to do more in emerging markets and maximize products with many years of patent life left in them, including Geodon, Xalatan, Zyvox, Vfend, Chantix, Lyrica and Sutent.

“We are delivering and accelerating our pipeline, and we will seize promising growth opportunities spanning geographies, therapeutic areas and products,” said Pfizer chairman and CEO Jeff Kindler in a statement.

The company expects to amp up Phase III programs from 16 to at least 24 by the end of next year, and anticipates 15-20 regulatory submissions between 2010 and 2012. R&D head Dr. Martin Mackay highlighted three key compounds expected to move to Phase III: cancer drug CP-751871, an IGF-1R inhibitor for gastrointestinal, genitourinary, lung and breast cancer; CP-690550, a JAK-3 inhibitor for RA, psoriasis, Chron’s disease, asthma and transplant rejection; and PF-734200, a DPP-IV inhibitor for diabetes that could compete with Merck’s Januvia. The company also talked up PF-4383119, an innovative antibody for pain.

Pfizer has established dedicated business units for oncology drug development and maximizing revenues from established products worldwide.

Bestowing a “market-perform” rating on the company, Anderson hailed Pfizer’s “candid and realistic” outlook, but said that, with Lipitor’s 2011 patent expiry looming, it “is probably not even a third of the way toward reaching its steady-state cost base.” Pfizer’s approach, he said, “is to continue to pour money into R&D and hope for the best.”