Pharmaceutical and Biotech Jobs Keep Disappearing

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies keep slashing their workforce.
Pharmaceutical and biotech companies keep slashing their workforce.

Just a day after the Federal Reserve announced a second round of bond buying to fight the high unemployment rate, the Labor Department says that initial jobless claims have jumped in the past week. The pharmaceutical and biotech industries certainly haven't helped: In the past few days, several companies have announced some 1,000 job cuts combined, and that's after Abbott Laboratories (ABT) in September announced it would cut 3,000 jobs over the next two years.

The biggest of the reductions this week came from Biogen Idec (BIIB), a Weston, Mass.-based biotech company that makes multiple-sclerosis treatments Tysabri and Avonex. The company on Wednesday released a restructuring plan that will slash 13% of its workforce, or nearly 650 employees, in an effort to save $300 million annually. The company intends to focus on developing neurology treatments, based on its expertise in this area from its multiple-sclerosis work, and to end its research in cardiovascular medicine.

Biogen will close its facilities in San Diego, Waltham, Mass., and Wellesley, Mass., relocating some of its personnel to other offices in Weston, Mass., Cambridge, Mass., and Research Triangle Park, N.C. Biogen also plans to get rid of its oncology and rheumatology sales force for Rituxan, a drug prescribed for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and rheumatoid arthritis, and transfer the selling rights to its partner, Roche's Genentech.

More Cuts Coming

Also on Wednesday, clinical research company Charles River Laboratories (CRL) said it would cut 4% of its staff, or about 300 positions, after reporting disappointing third-quarter earnings on lower sales. Charles River already cut 300 jobs earlier this year. It will now close a leased office, where it performed preclinical services, in Laval, Quebec, and will consolidate its discovery and imaging services division in Michigan with a larger facility in North Carolina.

And small French biotech company NicOx (NICXF) warned in its earnings announcement Wednesday that it will halve its workforce at its headquarters, indicating that at least 30 jobs will be lost. The company said it would close its U.S. headquarters shortly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rejected NicOx's anti-inflammatory drug, naproxcinod, in July. The job loss isn't restricted to the U.S., either. NicOx also said it is considering restructuring its research center in Italy.

Meanwhile, Acceleron Pharma, a privately held Cambridge biotech company developing new therapies to treat musculoskeletal, metabolic, and cancer-related diseases, cut 57 employees, or roughly 40% of its workforce, late last month, The Boston Globe reported.