Pharma, R&D

Astellas shedding 600-plus jobs as CEO shakes up R&D and sales ops in restructuring

Kenji Yasukawa

As Astellas president and CEO Kenji Yasukawa maps out a strategic plan for the company he’s just recently taken over, he’s also prescribed a round of restructuring with a goal to cut at least 600 employees through an early retirement scheme.

The Japanese company is looking at an overhaul in R&D and sales and marketing as well as restructuring its group companies in Japan. That means shutting down Astellas Research Technologies, Astellas Marketing and Sales Support, and Astellas Learning Institute. It’s also planning to divest Astellas Analytical Science Laboratories to Eurofins Pharma Services by the end of this fiscal year.

Astellas is offering an early retirement incentive program to the hundreds of employees affected by the change. When asked whether any more layoffs are in store, an Astellas spokesperson told me “there is no plans to add early retirement at this time. We will continue to maintain appropriate number of employees for pursuing operational excellence.

Anticipating a dip in profit in 2019, Yasukawa’s plan calls for investing in three strategic goals: maximizing value for marketed and late-stage products through new and expanded approvals; taking a focus area approach to early-stage R&D; and creating a new diagnostic and digital device business in a move termed Rx+.

Xtandi, the prostate cancer therapy Astellas shares rights on with Pfizer, will be a key revenue driver once it’s approved for earlier lines of treatment, says the CEO, expected to yield peak sales of ¥400-¥500 billion ($3.6-$4.5 billion) in 10 years’ time.

Astellas is also gearing up regulatory filings for a number of assets, including fezolinetant for menopause-related vasomotor symptoms as well as cancer drugs enfortumab vedotin and gilteritinib.

On a conference call Yasukawa spotlighted eight focus areas for early-stage research, according to BioCentury. Their slide presentation shows that ranges from cell therapies in ophthalmic diseases, antigen-specific immunotherapies aimed at curing allergic diseases and immuno-oncology therapies targeting tumors with inadequate response to PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors to mitochondria biology-inspired treatments for neuromuscular diseases.

The plans also feature a new emphasis in medical solutions tangential to therapeutics, such as new cancer diagnostics using Astellas’ antibody technology or digital software.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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