Tis the Season…to Lose Your Job

Posted in BioJobBuzz

It is that time of year again….the layoff season.  Coincidentally, the end of the fiscal year frequently overlaps with the beginning of the holiday season.  This means that profits and losses for the past year have already been tabulated and new budgets have been crafted for the new fiscal year.  Not surprisingly, this is when management has the numbers and metrics it needs to determine upcoming staffing levels and whether or not layoffs are necessary.

To wit, yesterday Bristol Myers Squibb announced that it was laying off 75 workers in its R&D division to realign research priorities and cut costs. Also, Ariad said yesterday that it was reducing its US workforce  following its decision to temporarily suspend the marketing and commercial distribution of Iclusig® (ponatinib) in the U.S. Earlier this week, Novartis indicated that it would slash 500 jobs as it realigns its research efforts and attempts to control costs in both Europe and the US. And Shire announced that is was cutting 180 jobs in a UK facility. Finally, a little over a month ago, Merck announced that it would slash 8,500 R&D and marketing/sales positions worldwide.

Admittedly, getting laid off at the beginning or during the holiday season is a horrible thing. That said, since things are slowing down anyway, it gives persons who received pink slips sufficient time to beef up their resumes/CV and stash their year end bonuses into their IRA or checking account.

Tis the season….

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!

The Other Shoe Has Finally Dropped: Merck to Eliminate 8,500 Jobs

Posted in BioBusiness, BioJobBuzz

After Merck rehired Roger Perlmutter to replace Peter Kim as head of R&D (he left Merck about 10 years ago to lead Amgen R&D), it was pretty obvious that reorganization and job cuts were likely. However, it was not clear, until today, how extensive the cuts would be and what exactly what would be changing at Merck.

Today, Merck revealed plans to eliminate about 8,500 jobs–mainly in R&D, marketing and sales–in an attempt to save $2.5 billion by the end of 2015. In addition to the job cuts, R&D focus will be shifting and Merck’s headquarters will be relocated again (it was moved from Whitehouse Station to Summit several years ago) to Kenilworth, NJ (the former headquarters of Schering Plough which Merck purchased for roughly $41 billion in 2009)

According to a post at the Pharmalot Blog, while it is not exactly clear where the job cuts will take place, most industry insiders expect that the majority of them will likely take place in NJ.  The shift in R&D focus is intended to emphasize oncology, diabetes, acute hospital care, vaccines, oncology and a greater effort in biologics. Further the company intends to either license or discontinue research on “selected late-stage compounds” and reduce its investment in “platform technologies.”

Once one of America’s preeminent pharmaceutical companies, Merck has stumbled over the past decade (with the Vioxx scandal and the Vytorin and Zetia controversies) and it continues to struggle with regulatory approval of some of its new medicines. Perlmutter was hired to transform R&D and bring his expertise in oncology to bear at Merck.

Time will tell.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!

GlaxoSmithKline Will Reorganize Its R&D Operations To Cut Costs

Posted in BioEducation

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) today announced that it will reconfigure its R&D operations to cut operating costs. Interestingly, the company hopes to reorganize and not lay off any of its employees—yeah right!

According to a press release, a small number of employees will be affected at Research Triangle Park, NC GSK’s US base of operations, although a spokesperson refused to be more specific. Further, those affected workers are expected to remain in R&D but in different capacities.

For all of 2011, GSK generated $44.09 billion in sales and net income of $8.14 billion. However, fourth quarter revenues dropped 2 percent to $11.24 billion.

It seems like there is announcement like this every day from a big pharmaceutical company. It is no longer a secret that investing in R&D has not provided many big pharma companies with their expected return on investment. Consequently, there have been massive layoffs in R&D at every major pharmaceutical company over the past five years. This strategy is seemingly paradoxical; to wit, how can companies that have to regularly discover and commercialize new molecular entities remain in business if they continue to shed the employees who are responsible for making the discoveries? Sadly, big pharma’s strategy to remedy the paradox is to outsource R&D, establish R&D centers in emerging markets where wages and operational costs are much lower than in the US and other part of the developed world and to look at purchasing companies that have new drugs in late stage preclinical or clinical development.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Oops…Novartis Does It Again!

Posted in BioEducation

Earlier this week, I suggested in a post that pharma layoffs were beginning to decline whereas biotech layoffs were rising. And wouldn’t you know it, just when big pharma employees thought that their jobs were safe, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis today announced that it was laying off 2,000 US employees. According to a post on the Pharmalot blog, 1,630 sales reps and an additional 300 positions will be eliminated at Novartis’ Hanover, NJ US headquarters. Last fall, Novartis eliminated 1,100 jobs in Switzerland, 900 R&D and 1,400 sales reps in The US and another 550 jobs at a manufacturing site in the UK 

While the announced layoffs may be part of a global downsizing effort that began last year, many analysts believe Novartis decided to reorganize because its new hypertension drug, Tekturna, performed poorly in clinical trials (increased incidence of non-fatal stroke, renal complications, hyperkalemia and hypotension) to garner approval of the drug to treat patients with Type II diabetes who are a greater risk of cardiovascular and renal events. The company’s best-selling hypertension medicine Diovan lost patent protection in Europe earlier this year and it due to expire in the US next September.

Company executives were betting on Tekturna to replace hypertension sales lost to generic competition for Diovan. Tekturna, approved in Europe as Rasilez, generated sales of $449 million during the first nine months of the past fiscal year but the poor clinical trials results suggest that it may be difficult for the drug to generate the $1.4 billion in annual sales (by 2016) forecasted by many financial analysts.

Stay tuned for more big pharma layoff updates!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!


Canada Continues to Shed Biotech Jobs

Posted in BioEducation

Yesterday I reported that Cangene, one of Canada’s oldest and largest biotechnology companies was reorganizing and laying off 120 employees. Today, the French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis announced that it would eliminate 100 jobs at its Montreal area (Laval) facility to allow for better integration of Genzyme, the Massachusetts-based biotechnology company that was acquired last year for more than $20 billion. About 1,700 employees work for Sanofi’s Canadian division.

Today’s layoff news comes only day after Johnson & Johnson announced that it would close its Montreal research center and layoff 126 employees. This is bad news for Montreal which emerged as one of Canada’s hot pharmaceutical and biotechnology zone in the early 2000s. 

The Canadian biotechnology sector is much smaller than its US counterpart but there are several high profile companies that have been able to establish themselves as players in the global biotechnology industry. Hopefully, these companies will be able to weather to the economically-challenging times that are currently plaguing the Canadian biotechnology industry.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!


Pharma Layoffs Decline As Biotech Layoffs Rise

Posted in BioEducation

This past holiday season, as usual, was rife with massive layoffs and downsizing at various big pharma companies. Interestingly, in 2011, most biotechnology companies were able to weather the economic downturn and layoffs were not typical. Sadly, 2012 looks to be a more challenging year for many biotechnology company employees.

In the past week or so, several relatively high profile public biotechnology companies announced layoffs. First, on January 5, XOMA, the long- struggling California-based biotechnology company issued a press release indicating its intention to reorganize to focus it financial resources on its lead product gevokizumab and the company’s unique antibody discovery and development capabilities. The reorganization will result in elimination of 84 positions (34% of its workforce) with 50 jobs being lost immediately and the remainder by the end of the first quarter of this year. The layoffs will save the company $14 million. The same day, Winnipeg-based Cangene Corp, one of Canada’s oldest and largest biotechnology company announced that it would eliminate 120 jobs or 17% of its current workforce.  Finally, today, Human Genome Sciences (HGS) announced at the annual JP Morgan conference in San Francisco announced plans to eliminate 150 jobs across multiple departments.

The HGS announcement was somewhat surprising because the company recently received approval for a pioneering systemic lupus erythematous drug called Benlysta. Apparently, poor Benlysta sales have battered the company’s stock price which resulted in the announced layoffs. HGS reported Benlysta sales of a slightly more than $25 million in the fourth quarter which were must less than analysts had originally predicted.

Although these layoffs may be troubling to some, it is important to note that each of  the three companies have been in existence for 20 years or more and are transitioning from research organizations into companies that are finally commercializing their products. Like it or not, companies with commercial products are held to higher standards and receive much greater scrutiny than start ups and early stage companies. That said, while there may be additional layoffs at some older more established biotechnology companies, it may be a good time to start a company. Word on the street suggests that there is a lot of investment capital out there for new start ups!

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!


The Impact of Pharma Downsizing on Manufacturing Plant Closures

Posted in BioBusiness

The Pharmalot blog today reported that pharma and biotech downsizing, restructuring and outsourcing have resulted in 38 manufacturing facilities in 2011. While this may not sound like a lot given the ongoing tough economy, the post reports that 65 facilities were closed in 2010. According to some estimates, these closures have resulted in the loss of roughly 18,000 life sciences manufacturing jobs in the past two years. Sadly, pharmaceutical manufacturing, like almost all other manufacturing jobs in the US are being lost at an unprecedented rate. Further, many of these manufacturing jobs are being outsourced to multinational CMOs or to manufacturing facilities being built by pharma companies in emerging markets like Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia.

Not surprisingly, most of the 2011 closures were in the Northeast (8) resulting in the loss of roughly 1,400 jobs. And, not surprisingly again, one of the hardest hit states was New Jersey; home to almost all of the major pharmaceutical companies in the world. The next region that was hit hard is the Mid-Atlantic (7) with notable closures in Maryland (Shire Pharmaceuticals) and North Carolina (DSM Pharmaceutical Products).

Interestingly, while plant closures are on the rise, there is new manufacturing facility construction that may help to offset the losses. However, unlike the past, many of the new facilities are being financed by academic institutions and not-for-profits rather than life sciences companies. According to the post, roughly 106 new North American (not only the US) are underway and represent an investment value of $4.3 billion. The new Shire facility being constructed in Lexington, MA and the International Vaccine Center (InterVac) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan were cited as examples.

Despite the constructions of several new manufacturing facilities in North America, it is obvious that most major life sciences companies are looking South and East for future pharmaceutical and biomanufacturing capabilities. The bottom line is that labor and the cost of goods are cheaper in these markets and in contrast with the past, there are skilled workforces in place to manufacture life sciences products according to American, European and Japanese Current Good Manufacturing Practices. 

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!


Generic Drug Manufacturer Teva Will Eliminate 1,500 US Jobs

Posted in BioJobBuzz

After completing the $6.8 billion purchase of Pennsylvania-based Cephalon, Teva, the world’s largest generic drug manufacturer announced plans to eliminate about 1,500 US jobs, most of them at Cephalon. Cephalon, which has several marketed products, currently employees about 3,700 US-based persons. This means that Teva will cut Cephalon’s workforce by about 40 percent.

According to a post on today’s Pharmalot blog, a company spokesperson said that the jobs that will be eliminated will be those that overlap with those functions already being performed by Teva. Layoffs at Cephalon were not unexpected as the company had previously identified approximately $500 million in possible savings that it would implement after the deal closed.

If layoffs at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies continue at their current pace, I am not sure that there will be a US life sciences industry in the future.

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!


Sanofi Aventis Announces New Layoffs

Posted in BioJobBuzz

Despite a lull in layoffs over the past summer, this fall is shaping up to another bad one for pharmaceutical employees. Late last week Novartis announced that it was laying off about 2,000 employees. Prior to the Novartis announcement, Amgen, AstraZeneca, and Merck have all disclosed plans to eliminate thousands of jobs on a worldwide basis.  To add insult to injury, Sanofi Aventis told its employees today that the company would be shifting operations from New Jersey to Massachusetts and that hundred of employees would be losing their jobs. While a Sanofi spokesperson refused to specify the exact number of employees who may lose their jobs, estimates are in the hundreds, mainly in R&D and sales in the oncology and cardiovascular areas.

The announcement was not unexpected because several weeks ago the company announced that it would cut another $2.9 billion in costs to offset pending generic encroachment on its top selling medications Plavix and Avapro. Further, consolidation of Sanofi’s R&D operations and its early development work to the Boston area is mainly a result of its acquisition of Genzyme earlier this year. To that end, later-stage development work will remain at Sanofi’s headquarters in Bridgewater, NJ while pharmaceutical R&D, Sanofi Pasteur biologics and global oncology has already been moved to Massachusetts. At present, Sanofi employs about 3,000 people in New Jersey and 5,000 in Massachusetts (including Genzyme employees).

Interestingly, while job cuts are taking place in western markets, hiring is brisk in emerging like China and India. For example, several months ago Pfizer announced that it was closing down its antibiotic discovery program in the US and moving it to China. Likewise, Novartis plans on sending some medicinal chemistry and regulatory work overseas to India. If the downsizing and outsourcing trends continue at their current pace, it will become increasingly difficult for most Americans to find pharmaceutical R&D jobs in the US. Can anybody still wonder why we may be losing ground to countries like India and China?

Until next time…

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!


Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Abbott Labs Announces Plans to Split into Two Separate Companies

Posted in BioBusiness

Abbott Laboratories today announced that it will split itself into two companies by spinning off its branded prescription drug business and creating a second company responsible for its medical implants, diagnostic tests and baby formula businesses.

The pharmaceutical company will exclusively sell its branded prescription drugs (including its blockbuster biologic Humira) and will be lead by Abbott’s Richard Gonzalez who currently head the company’s pharmaceutical business. Current Abbott CEO Miles White will lead the diversified medical products company. 

The reason for the split is to allow investors to value each of the companies on their distinct characteristic. Abbott’s decision to split the company is consistent with the prevailing notion that companies that sell both prescription drugs and consumer products don’t perform well. This led Bristol Myers Squibb to sell off its medical devices and consumer products divisions several years ago. Interestingly, prescription pharmaceuticals/consumer products/medical devices were de rigueur in the 1990s and early 2000s. Abbott’s decision leaves companies like Pfizer, Novartis and Johnson & Johnson as examples of the few remaining companies that still house pharmaceuticals, devices and consumer goods under one roof. Don’t be surprised if in the future these companies also decide to spin off or divest themselves of their consumer goods/medical devices divisions.

Finally, while the split may be good for investors, it may not be that great for Abbott employees. Usually, spin offs or divestitures

Until next time..

Good Luck and Good Job Hunting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!