As­traZeneca says it is prun­ing staff at Med­Im­mune, its bi­o­log­ics R&D cen­ter


As­traZeneca’s big U.S. sub­sidiary Med­Im­mune, with 2200 em­ploy­ees, is prun­ing its work­force as it adds a greater em­pha­sis on its on­col­o­gy R&D work–but it’s not spec­i­fy­ing just many staffers are in­volved.

Here’s the state­ment:

In April, As­traZeneca an­nounced the sharp­en­ing of our fo­cus on our main ther­a­py ar­eas to pri­or­i­tize our pipeline and im­prove ef­fi­cien­cy and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty across the or­ga­ni­za­tion.  This will see the com­pa­ny al­lo­cate ad­di­tion­al in­vest­ment to core ar­eas, par­tic­u­lar­ly on­col­o­gy. This is a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion of our strat­e­gy and re­flects in­creased pipeline pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, as well as the evolv­ing shape of the over­all com­pa­ny port­fo­lio with a grow­ing pro­por­tion of spe­cial­ty-care med­i­cines.

Our pipeline has be­come ar­guably one of the best in the in­dus­try—Med­Im­mune’s Phase II pipeline suc­cess rate is al­most dou­ble the in­dus­try av­er­age. Bi­o­log­ics rep­re­sent 50 per­cent of the over­all As­traZeneca pipeline and in­cludes 17 Phase III bi­o­log­ics tri­als cur­rent­ly un­der­way and 19 Phase II tri­als.

Giv­en this back­drop, we’re sharp­en­ing the fo­cus on the main ther­a­py ar­eas, pri­or­i­tiz­ing the pipeline, and dri­ving greater pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and ef­fi­cien­cy across the or­ga­ni­za­tion. As a nor­mal course of busi­ness, we have shift­ed some re­sources and have had min­i­mal staffing re­duc­tions, while hir­ing for crit­i­cal roles in key ar­eas such as on­col­o­gy.

Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline – a reg­u­lar source of in­for­ma­tion about pend­ing lay­offs — re­port­ed ear­li­er to­day about hear­ing chat­ter about the cuts.

These on­go­ing R&D cuts have be­come a stan­dard fea­ture in Big Phar­ma R&D cir­cles, as Mer­ck demon­strat­ed just a few days ago. Even af­ter top-to-bot­tom over­hauls, which As­traZeneca ini­ti­at­ed sev­er­al years ago dur­ing a seem­ing­ly un­end­ing re­or­ga­ni­za­tion ef­fort, the big out­fits of­ten go back to tai­lor staff and fa­cil­i­ties to fit a new fo­cus or con­cen­trate re­searchers in the biggest hubs. Or they have to cut back in the wake of poor pro­duc­tiv­i­ty or de­clin­ing rev­enue, which drove big changes at GSK and Bio­gen re­cent­ly.

The lat­est move comes as As­traZeneca fights a last-ditch bat­tle against gener­ic com­pe­ti­tion in the U.S. mar­ket to Crestor, which pro­vid­ed $5 bil­lion of its $23 bil­lion in 2015 rev­enue.

As­traZeneca bought Med­Im­mune 9 years ago for $15.6 bil­lion. Ini­tial­ly, the ac­qui­si­tion proved to be a dis­ap­point­ment, spurring con­sid­er­able com­plaints that the phar­ma gi­ant had paid too much. But in re­cent years, since Pas­cal So­ri­ot took over as CEO of As­traZeneca, the group has made some big strides in on­col­o­gy R&D un­der Bahi­ja Jal­lal, who runs Med­Im­mune.

So­ri­ot des­ig­nat­ed Med­Im­mune as the com­pa­ny’s cen­ter for bi­o­log­ics re­search in the re­or­ga­ni­za­tion that fol­lowed his ar­rival at the helm.

As­traZeneca scored a big ap­proval for Tagris­so (AZD-9291) re­cent­ly and is hope­ful that its check­point in­hibitor can carve out a sig­nif­i­cant piece of a fast-grow­ing mar­ket. But it’s al­so ex­pe­ri­enced set­backs along the way, like its de­ci­sion to of­fload bro­dalum­ab at a dis­count price and the re­cent re­jec­tion of ZS-9, a drug it bought for $2.7 bil­lion af­ter Phase III.


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