Big Phar­ma promised Trump new Amer­i­can jobs for tax cuts and dereg­u­la­tion. But the vow comes af­ter a 5-year purge

Am­gen CEO Bob Brad­way has nev­er been re­luc­tant to bring out the ax and chop staff.

Late in 2014, the com­pa­ny an­nounced their orig­i­nal re­struc­tur­ing plans to re­duce pay­roll was too mod­est, up­ping its goal on job cuts to 4,000. And the phar­ma gi­ant fol­lowed up in the spring of 2015 by ax­ing about 300 staffers af­ter Brad­way de­cid­ed to shut­ter the Onyx cam­pus ob­tained with its ac­qui­si­tion of Kypro­lis.

On Tues­day, though, Brad­way be­came a job cre­ator.

“We’ll be adding 1600 jobs at Am­gen this year,” he told Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, min­utes af­ter the pres­i­dent had fin­ished a ha­rangue about the new Amer­i­can jobs he ex­pect­ed in ex­change for re­duced reg­u­la­tions.

But “adding” may not be en­tire­ly ac­cu­rate.

“This in­cludes both work­ers who will bring new skills to Am­gen, as well as those re­quired to ad­dress at­tri­tion and oth­er needs,” spokesper­son Kris­ten Davis told the Los An­ge­les Times. “We look for­ward to work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly with the new ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Sev­er­al Big Phar­ma chiefs joined Brad­way for the ses­sion with Trump. And in most cas­es, they rep­re­sent glob­al com­pa­nies that have been bend­ing over back­wards to rein in R&D costs and hold the line on spend­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the US. In a cou­ple of cas­es, you’ll find some heavy job loss­es glob­al­ly, with ma­jor cuts di­rect­ed at US work­forces.

 

Brad­way’s com­pa­ny em­ployed 17,900 staff mem­bers at the end of 2015. Five years ear­li­er the to­tal was 17,400. And that slight gain is a big im­prove­ment over his peers, if you judge them on their abil­i­ty to add em­ploy­ees.

Ken Fra­zier, CEO of Mer­ck was al­so en­thu­si­as­tic about hir­ing in his sit-down with Trump, some­thing that hasn’t been the case for the past five years, as the com­pa­ny re­struc­tured and axed thou­sands of staffers, in­clud­ing job cuts for a top-to-bot­tom R&D over­haul.

“We’re bring­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing back for our can­cer drug,” he told Trump. “We’re bring­ing those jobs here.”

At the end of 2015, Mer­ck em­ployed 68,000 em­ploy­ees world­wide, with ap­prox­i­mate­ly 26,200 em­ployed in the Unit­ed States.

At the end of 2010, the com­pa­ny re­port­ed that it had ap­prox­i­mate­ly 94,000 em­ploy­ees world­wide, with ap­prox­i­mate­ly 37,600 em­ployed in the Unit­ed States. To be fair to Mer­ck, the com­par­i­son caught the com­pa­ny as it was still shed­ding staffers from the big Scher­ing-Plough buy­out. That re­struc­tur­ing was slat­ed to wrap up at the end of 2012, when Mer­ck had 83,000 em­ploy­ees world­wide, with ap­prox­i­mate­ly 32,500 em­ployed in the Unit­ed States.

Bot­tom line: Mer­ck shed 15,000 more jobs af­ter the Scher­ing-Plough re­org was sched­uled to end, US em­ploy­ment dropped by 6,300.

“We’re look­ing at ways to ex­pand,” Joe Jimenez, CEO of No­var­tis, told Trump. “One of the things that can help us is a low­er tax rate.”

No­var­tis is well known as a glob­al play­er that doesn’t leave a stone un­turned when it comes to find­ing new ef­fi­cien­cies. That cost-cut­ting spir­it drove an R&D over­haul last year, and new pro­grams aimed at do­ing every­thing the Swiss com­pa­ny can do to hold the line on costs. That ap­proach has had a big im­pact on em­ploy­ment.

No­var­tis counts FTEs. At the end of 2016 they em­ployed 118,393, 23,037 in the US and 55,205 in Eu­rope. Five years ear­li­er, the score was 123,686 to­tal and 27,242 in the US. The cuts were clear­ly aimed at its US staff.

“We’re hir­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs as I speak,” said Eli Lil­ly CEO Dave Ricks. “Some of the poli­cies you’ve sug­gest­ed — tax, dereg­u­la­tion — those are things that could re­al­ly al­low us to ex­pand op­er­a­tions.”

At the end of 2015, Eli Lil­ly em­ployed 41,275 peo­ple, in­clud­ing ap­prox­i­mate­ly 23,425 em­ploy­ees out­side the US. That is up slight­ly from 2010, but on­ly af­ter some se­ri­ous at­tri­tion in the US. Five years ear­li­er  Lil­ly em­ployed 40,360 peo­ple, in­clud­ing ap­prox­i­mate­ly 20,300 em­ploy­ees out­side the Unit­ed States.

Trump’s re­sponse to Ricks: “Yep, we’ll get it.”

None of this is new. The ba­sic trend over the past decade in Big Phar­ma has been to shrink the base or guard against any big run-up in em­ploy­ment. CEOs like Brad­way and Fra­zier en­joyed a pos­i­tive re­ac­tion on Wall Street as they cut costs. Now, the new po­lit­i­cal sea­son calls for talk­ing about cre­at­ing jobs and push­ing Con­gress for tax cuts — which they want bad­ly — and dereg­u­la­tion, which has not been a ma­jor is­sue at all.

None of the CEOs who turned up for Tues­day’s pow­wow with the pres­i­dent, though, was of any mind to re­mind the com­man­der in chief of any mar­ket re­al­i­ties.

Martin Shkreli [via Getty]

Pris­on­er #87850-053 does not get to add drug de­vel­op­er to his list of cred­its

Just days after Retrophin shed its last ties to founder Martin Shkreli, the biotech is reporting that the lead drug he co-invented flopped in a pivotal trial. Fosmetpantotenate flunked both the primary and key secondary endpoints in a placebo-controlled trial for a rare disease called pantothenate kinase-associated neurodegeneration, or PKAN.

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We­bi­nar: Re­al World End­points — the brave new world com­ing in build­ing fran­chise ther­a­pies

Several biopharma companies have been working on expanding drug labels through the use of real world endpoints, combing through the data to find evidence of a drug’s efficacy for particular indications. But we’ve just begun. Real World Evidence is becoming an important part of every clinical development plan, in the soup-through-nuts approach used in building franchises.

I’ve recruited a panel of 3 top experts in the field — the first in a series of premium webinars — to look at the practical realities governing what can be done today, and where this is headed over the next few years, at the prodding of the FDA.

ZHEN SU — Merck Serono’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of Oncology
ELLIOTT LEVY — Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Global Development
CHRIS BOSHOFF — Pfizer Oncology’s Chief Development Officer

A premium subscription to Endpoints News is required to attend this webinar. Please upgrade to either an Insider or Enterprise plan for access. Already have Endpoints Premium? Please sign-in below. You can contact our Subscriptions team at help@endpointsnews.com with any issues.

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Brian Kaspar. AveXis via Twitter

AveX­is sci­en­tif­ic founder fires back at No­var­tis CEO Vas Narasimhan, 'cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly de­nies any wrong­do­ing'

Brian Kaspar’s head was among the first to roll at Novartis after company execs became aware of the fact that manipulated data had been included in its application for Zolgensma, now the world’s most expensive therapy.

But in his first public response, the scientific founder at AveXis — acquired by Novartis for $8.7 billion — is firing back. And he says that not only was he not involved in any wrongdoing, he’s ready to defend his name as needed.

I reached out to Brian Kaspar after Novartis put out word that he and his brother Allen had been axed in mid-May, two months after the company became aware of the allegations related to manipulated data. His response came back through his attorneys.

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Hal Barron. GSK

GSK's Hal Bar­ron her­alds their sec­ond pos­i­tive piv­otal for cru­cial an­ti-BC­MA ther­a­py, point­ing to a push for quick OKs in a crowd­ed field

Hal Barron has his second positive round of Phase III data in hand for his anti-BCMA antibody drug conjugate belantamab mafodotin (GSK2857916). And GSK’s research chief says the data paves the way for their drive in search of an FDA approval for treating multiple myeloma.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this drug for GSK, a cornerstone of Barron’s campaign to make a dramatic impact on the oncology market and provide some long-lost excitement for the pharma giant’s pipeline. They’re putting this BCMA program at the front of that charge — looking to lead a host of rivals all aimed at the same target.

We don’t know what the data are yet, but DREAMM-2 falls on the heels of a promising set of data delivered 5 months ago for DREAMM-1. There investigators noted that complete responses among treatment-resistant patients rose to 15% in the extra year’s worth of data to look over, with a median progression-free survival rate of 12 months, up from 7.9 months reported earlier. The median duration of response was 14.3 months.

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UP­DAT­ED: An em­bold­ened As­traZeneca splurges $95M on a pri­or­i­ty re­view vouch­er. Where do they need the FDA to hus­tle up?

AstraZeneca is in a hurry.

We learned this morning that the pharma giant — not known as a big spender, until recently — forked over $95 million to get its hands on a priority review voucher from Sobi, otherwise known as Swedish Orphan Biovitrum.

That marks another step down on price for a PRV, which allows the holder to slash 4 months off of any FDA review time.

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Bob Smith, Pfizer

Pfiz­er is mak­ing a $500M state­ment to­day: Here’s how you be­come a lead play­er in the boom­ing gene ther­a­py sec­tor

Three years ago, Pfizer anted up $150 million in cash to buy Bamboo Therapeutics in Chapel Hill, NC as it cautiously stuck a toe in the small gene therapy pool of research and development.

Company execs followed up a year later with a $100 million expansion of the manufacturing operations they picked up in that deal for the UNC spinout, which came with $495 million in milestones.

And now they’re really going for it.

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Video: Putting the AI in R&D — with Badhri Srini­vasan, Tony Wood, Rosana Kapeller, Hugo Ceule­mans, Saurabh Sa­ha and Shoibal Dat­ta

During BIO this year, I had a chance to moderate a panel among some of the top tech experts in biopharma on their real-world use of artificial intelligence in R&D. There’s been a lot said about the potential of AI, but I wanted to explore more about what some of the larger players are actually doing with this technology today, and how they see it advancing in the future. It was a fascinating exchange, which you can see here. The transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity. — John Carroll

As­traZeneca’s Imfinzi/treme com­bo strikes out — again — in lung can­cer. Is it time for last rites?

AstraZeneca bet big on the future of their PD-L1 Imfinzi combined with the experimental CTLA-4 drug tremelimumab. But once again it’s gone down to defeat in a major Phase III study — while adding damage to the theory involving targeting cancer with a high tumor mutational burden.

Early Wednesday the pharma giant announced that their NEPTUNE study had failed, with the combination unable to beat standard chemo at overall survival in high TMB cases of advanced non-small cell lung cancer. We won’t get hard data until later in the year, but the drumbeat of failures will call into question what — if any — future this combination can have left.

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Why would Am­gen want to buy Alex­ion? An­a­lysts call hot­ly ru­mored takeover un­like­ly, but seize the mo­ment

A rumor that Amgen is closing in on buyout deal for Alexion has sparked a guessing game on just what kind of M&A strategy Amgen is pursuing and how much Alexion is worth.

Mizuho analyst Salim Syed first lent credence to the report out of the Spanish news outlet Intereconomía, which said Amgen is bidding as much as $200 per share. While the source may be questionable, “the concept of this happening doesn’t sound too crazy to me,” he wrote.