Pharma & Biotech Job Cuts Mount in 2012
Feb03

Pharma & Biotech Job Cuts Mount in 2012

For those keeping track, yesterday’s layoffs at AstraZeneca add to an already substantial list of cuts in the pharma and biotech industries since the beginning of the year. By our tally, nearly 13,000 job cuts, many in R&D, have been announced so far--and we're barely into February. Here’s where we’re at (and do let us know if we've missed any): --AstraZeneca is chopping 7,300 jobs, including 2,200 R&D positions, by 2014. Neuroscience research is being revamped and focused on external partnerships; the company’s Montreal R&D site will be shuttered, and research activities ended at its Södertälje site in Sweden. --Genzyme gave the pink slip to an unspecified number of R&D scientists this week. The layoffs come as Sanofi integrates its big biotech acquisition. --Alnylam is trimming 61 jobs, or 33% of its workforce, in order to save roughly $20 million this year. --BioSante Pharmaceuticals is shedding 25% of its staff, or 21 employees and contractors, after disappointing Phase III results for its female sexual dysfunction treatment LibiGel. --Takeda is axing 2,800 jobs, or 9% of its workforce, following its acquisition of Swiss drugmaker Nycomed. The bulk of the layoffs, which cut across R&D, commercial, operations, and administrative positions, will occur in Europe. --Novartis unveiled plans to shed some 1,960 positions in the U.S. as it braces for generic competition for Diovan, a blood pressure medicine that brought in more than $6 billion in 2010, and an expected drop in demand for its renin inhibitor Rasilez following questions about the drug’s safety. --Human Genome Sciences said it would cut 150 jobs, or about 14% of its workforce, in a move that affects manufacturing, R&D, and administrative activities. --Xoma is shedding 84 workers, or 34% of its staff, as it shifts to outsourcing late-stage and commercial manufacturing, as well as some research. --SkyePharma is cutting 20% of the 101 employees at its site in Muttenz, Switzerland. --Sanofi plans to layoff 100 workers at its Monteal site as part of an overhaul of its Canadian operations. --J&J will trim 126 workers as it closes its Monreal R&D...

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Roche Cuts Back RNAi Research
Nov17

Roche Cuts Back RNAi Research

As part of sweeping job cuts announced this morning, Roche said it would close down RNAi research at three sites: Kulmbach, Germany; Madison, Wis.; and Nutley, NJ. It seemed worth taking a look at how much money Roche has sunk into RNAi research so far, and where it means for the overall RNAi landscape. Let’s start with the Kulmbach site. Back in 2007, Roche paid Alnylam $331 million in cash and equity for the site, as part of a broad pact covering RNAi drugs for oncology, respiratory diseases, metabolic diseases, and certain liver diseases. The 40 Alnylam employees working at Kulmbach were transferred over to Roche as it made the site its “center of excellence” for RNAi. According to Alnylam’s financial statements, Roche was its largest research collaborator, contributing $14 million last quarter. In 2009, Alnylam recorded $57 million in research revenues from Roche. In a statement this morning, Alnylam said that Roche’s RNAi overhaul “does not fundamentally impact Alnylalm’s financial position nor current or future plans in building its pipeline and advancing RNAi therapeutics as a whole new class of medicines.” Now onto the Madison, Wis., site. In 2008, Roche agreed to pay $125 million for Mirus Bio, which brought the Madison site along with 20 employees. As we described in an earlier article, Mirus had devised an siRNA delivery system called dynamic polyconjugate technology. Which brings us to 2009, when Roche said it would fork over $18.4 million upfront to use Tekmira’s lipid nanoparticle deliver technology to put its RNAi products into the clinic. Mirus' technology was not quite ready for prime time, and Roche wanted to look at another delivery strategy to accelerate product development. When Roche signed that deal, it said the goal was to put its first RNAi-based product into human trials by the end of 2010. In a statement today, Tekmira noted that most of its revenues comes from a manufacturing deal with Alnylam, and it still has broad partnerships with Pfizer, Takeda, and Bristol-Myers. The tally? Upfront payments and the Mirus acquisition bring Roche's investment in RNAi to nearly half a billion dollars in the last three years. That's not taking into account whatever it was spending on development in Nutley, along with research support to Alnylam and, more modestly, to...

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This Week in Pharma Job Cuts…
Sep24

This Week in Pharma Job Cuts…

As we know, its tough out there for scientists working in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. This week brought yet another spate of drug industry cutbacks that seemed worth chronicling. For those keeping track: Abbott Laboratories is getting rid of 3% of its workforce, or about 3,000 jobs, as it folds Solvay’s pharmaceuticals business into its operations. Most of the cuts will come from Europe: 300 jobs will be trimmed in Hannover, Germany; 500 in Weesp, the Netherlands; and Solvay’s U.S. headquarters in Marietta, Ga., will be shuttered. According to SEC filings, certain R&D programs will be discontinued (perhaps they can be auctioned off?). Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, a leader in RNAi technology, is shedding 25-30% of its employees after Novartis decided not to opt-in to a technology licensing clause worth $100 million at the end of a five-year pact between the companies. The biotech raked in $125 million in funding during the lifetime of the pact, and had 25 full-time employees working on projects for Novartis. An interesting tidbit from a conference call held this morning from Alnylam: According to Alnylam’s CEO John Maraganore, Novartis now has 100 people working on RNAi technology at its site in Cambridge, Mass. Clearly they made a commitment to the field with their five-year pact with Alnylam, but somehow the sheer numbers were surprising. Alnylam expects to end the year with $320 million in cash on hand. Bristol-Myers Squibb is cutting 3% of its workforce, estimated at around 800 jobs, as generic competition on its blood thinner Plavix looms. The company had already unveiled plans in 2008 to eliminate about 10% of its workforce, or about 3,700 jobs, by the end of this year. A 2007 cost-savings program had separately targeted 4,350 jobs. Genzyme said last week it would eliminate 1,000 jobs over the next 15 months as it tries to right its manufacturing operations and combat takeover attempts. Lundbeck is shedding 50 R&D jobs amid a reorganization of its R&D operations in Denmark and the U.S. The specialty pharma firm is shifting its focus to three main areas of biology-- neurodegeneration, neuroinflammation and synaptic transmission—related to brain diseases, and will rely more on external partnerships. Merck, meanwhile, appears to be having a tough time making cuts in the Netherlands, where it is essentially ridding itself of Organon’s R&D operations. According to Radio Netherlands, the big pharma firm is now negotiating with the Dutch government over the thousands of jobs slated to be lost in the...

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RNAi Roundup #4
Jul16

RNAi Roundup #4

While everyone was focused on Avandia & Qnexa, a spate of RNAi-related news slipped past us: --Tekmira Pharmaceuticals scored a major contract through the U.S. Department of Defense’s Transformational Medical Technologies program. The biotech will use its lipid nanoparticle technology to deliver siRNA tailored to treat the Ebola virua. Tekmira could snag up to $34.7 million over the next three years to help bring the Ebola virus candidate through an investigational new drug filing and a Phase I clinical trial. If the government decides to extend the contract beyond Phase I, Tekmira is eligible for up to $140 million in funding. The contract comes a few months after Tekmira and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases published an article in The Lancet showing its lipid nanoparticle could protect non-human primates against the Ebola virus. --Nitto Denko of Japan and Fremont, Calif.-based Quark Pharmaceuticals will jointly develop RNAi-based drugs to treat fibrotic diseases. The companies will use Quark’s RNAi technology and patent fortress, and Nitto Denko’s drug delivery technology. Terms weren’t disclosed, but the companies say they “have an initial budget of double-digit million US dollars” with the goal of filing their first investigational new drug application with FDA by early 2012. Nitto, which has expertise in polymeric formulations, says it picked Quark because of the chemical modification it had made to the siRNA that have eliminated worries over an immune response from the therapeutic. --AstraZeneca has extended its siRNA research pact with Silence Therapeutics by one year. The companies have worked together since 2007 on finding five novel siRNA therapeutic molecules for oncology and respiratory diseases. The duo forged a separate pact around siRNA delivery in April. --The NIH has awarded RXi Pharmaceuticals a small business innovation research grant (SBIR) worth $600,000 to support the pre-clinical development of RNAi-based therapeutics. NIH has seen a surge in applications for SBIR grants amid a tougher financing climate for biotechs. RXi is eligible for an additional $1 million per year for up to three years during the second phase of the SBIR’s program. --Alnylam Pharmaceuticals has dosed its first patient in a Phase I clinical trial of ALN-TTR01, a systemically-delivered RNAi therapeutic for the treatment of transthyretin (TTR)-mediated amyloidosis, a rare, inherited disease in which a mutation in the TTR gene causes the build up of the toxic protein in the several tissues in the body. This study is designed to test the safety of the drug and show whether the drug is impacting TTR levels in the...

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RNAi Roundup #3
Jun25

RNAi Roundup #3

It’s time for another RNAi Roundup, this one featuring a few new faces and some oldies but goodies: --Regulus Therapeutics, the microRNA company backed by Isis Pharmaceuticals and Alnylam, has signed a major partnership with Sanofi-Aventis. The French pharma firm will pay $25 million upfront, make a $10 million equity investment down the road, and provide three years of research support to gain access to Regulus’ fibrosis research program. The companies will collaborate on up to four microRNA targets, including Regulus’ most advanced efforts around microRNA-21. Regulus could score more than $750 million throughout the lifetime of the pact. The deal marks Sanofi’s second move in the RNAi space this year. In March, Sanofi signed up to use San Diego-based Traversa’s siRNA delivery technology. --Santaris Pharma of Denmark and miRagen will jointly develop microRNA-targeted therapeutics for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. Boulder, Colo.-based miRagen will use Santaris’ locked nucleic acid drug platform to develop single-stranded LNA-based drug candidates. Santaris gets a minority stake in miRagen in exchange for use of its technology, and could see milestones and other payments as part of the pact. --Cequent Pharmaceuticals has been granted patent protection in Europe for its TransKingdom RNAi technology, which uses non-pathogenic bacteria, such as modified E. coli, to deliver siRNA against certain genes. In April, Cequent was bought by Bothell, Wash.-based MDRNA in an all-stock deal worth $46 million. The purchase gives MDRNA two distinct siRNA delivery platforms. --Mirna Therapeutics has won a $10.3 million “commercialization” award through the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, a state-run investment program meant to spur innovation in cancer research. The money will be used to advance Austin, Tex.-based Mirna’s microRNA mimic discovery platform. --Arrowhead Research, the parent corporation of Calando Pharmaceuticals, has raised $8.65 million in a direct stock offering. The money will be used to support Calando and Arrowhead’s other subsidiary, Unidym, a carbon nanotube technology firm. Calando recently showed in a Phase I study that its targeted nanoparticle technology could be used to deliver siRNA into cells. --Alnylam came out with more data on the use of novel delivery lipids that carry siRNA into cell lines to improve the yield of biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Many biologics are produced by Chinese hamster ovary cells, but scientists have historically had few ways to control the output of those tiny drug factories. Alnylam’s goal is to turn off the activity of proteins that contribute to cell death, hopefully upping the yields of an otherwise expensive manufacturing...

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