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.

Donald and Melania Trump watch the smoke of fireworks from the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2020 (via Getty)

Which drug de­vel­op­ers of­fer Trump a quick, game-chang­ing ‘so­lu­tion’ as the pan­dem­ic roars back? Eli Lil­ly and Ab­Cellera look to break out of the pack

We are unleashing our nation’s scientific brilliance and will likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year.

— Donald Trump, July 4

Next week administration officials plan to promote a new study they say shows promising results on therapeutics, the officials said. They wouldn’t describe the study in any further detail because, they said, its disclosure would be “market-moving.”

— NBC News, July 3

Something’s cooking. And it’s not just July 4 leftovers involving stale buns and uneaten hot dogs.

Over the long weekend observers picked up signs that the focus in the Trump administration may swiftly shift from the bright spotlight on vaccines being promised this fall, around the time of the election, to include drugs that could possibly keep patients out of the hospital and take the political sting out of the soaring Covid-19 numbers causing embarrassment in states that swiftly reopened — as Trump cheered along.

So far, Gilead has been the chief beneficiary of the drive on drugs, swiftly offering enough early data to get remdesivir an emergency authorization and into the hands of the US government. But their drug, while helpful in cutting stays, is known for a limited, modest effect. And that won’t tamp down on the hurricane of criticism that’s been tearing at the White House, and buffeting the president’s most stalwart core defenders as the economy suffers.

We’ve had positive early-stage vaccine data, most recently from Pfizer and BioNTech, playing catchup on an mRNA race led by Moderna — where every little sign of potential trouble is magnified into a lethal threat, just as every advance excites a frenzy of support. But that race still has months to play out, with more Phase I data due ahead of the mid-stage numbers looming ahead. A vaccine may not be available in large enough quantities until well into 2021, which is still wildly ambitious.

So what about a drug solution?

Trump’s initial support for a panacea focused on hydroxychloroquine. But that fizzled in the face of data underscoring its ineffectiveness — killing trials that aren’t likely to be restarted because of a recent population-based study offering some support. And there are a number of existing drugs being repurposed to see how they help hospitalized patients.

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Shoshanna Shendelman, Applied Therapeutics CEO (Applied Therapeutics)

A lit­tle biotech slaps back at a 'crim­i­nal' short at­tack, vow­ing to pur­sue a pros­e­cu­tion of their case

As short attacks go, Biotech Research Partners’ assault on Applied Therapeutics’ “cherry picked” data and a variety of so-called red flags didn’t cause a whole lot of damage. Ahead of the July 4 holiday, its shares $APLT were dinged and showed signs of quick recovery.

But that didn’t stop an incendiary response, as the biotech swung into action bright and early Monday morning.

Applied Therapeutics accused the authors of the short report of manipulating graphs and figures, misrepresenting data and included factual misrepresentations — all of which added up, in their view, to fraud.

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Cel­lec­tis slammed af­ter pa­tient dies and FDA slaps a hold on their tri­al for an off-the-shelf CAR-T for mul­ti­ple myelo­ma

Cellectis was slammed after the market close on Monday as the biotech reported that the FDA demanded it hit the brakes on their MELANI-01 trial for their off-the-shelf cell therapy UCARTCS1A after one of the patients in the study died of treatment-related cardiac arrest.

The multiple myeloma patient had previously been treated unsuccessfully with various therapies, noted the biotech, and had been given dose level two (DL2) of their allogeneic CAR-T.

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UP­DAT­ED: Im­munomedics spells out PFS ben­e­fit of Trodelvy in mTNBC, hunt­ing a full OK just weeks af­ter ac­cel­er­at­ed ap­proval

By the time the FDA finally granted an accelerated OK for Immunomedics’ Trodelvy, we already got a very strong hint that their confirmatory Phase III study in metastatic triple-negative breast cancer was a success.

That’s because the independent data safety monitoring committee recommended that the trial be stopped early. But just what pointed them to the conclusion was still unclear.

“We do not know the totality of their decision other than it’s pretty evident that the primary endpoint was met; otherwise they could not request to halt the study,” Behzad Aghazadeh, the executive chairman, told Endpoints News at the time.

Bill Haney, Dragonfly CEO (Dave Pedley/Getty Images for SXSW)

A boom­ing Drag­on­fly is tak­ing its TriN­KETs to Copen­hagen as the lat­est Bris­tol My­ers pact spurs ex­pan­sion plans — out­side the US

Bristol Myers Squibb is making a habit out of collaborating with the crew at Dragonfly, adding their 3rd deal in a series that now will take them into newly charted R&D territory. And the fast-growing team at the Cambridge-based biotech is adding a facility in Copenhagen for its next growth spurt, where the government is making it easy to recruit scientists internationally as the U.S. throttles back.

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Covid-19 roundup: Teamed up with NIH, Re­gen­eron launch­es PhI­II pre­ven­tion tri­al for an­ti­body cock­tail

As Regeneron moves its antibody cocktail into Phase II/III trials testing REGN-COV2 as a treatment for both hospitalized and non-hospitalized patients with Covid-19, the biotech is also starting a Phase III in the prevention setting.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — which orchestrated the large, randomized study for remdesivir that produced positive results — will jointly run the study.

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Douglas Love, Annexon CEO (Annexon)

IPO bound? Ac­tu­al­ly, An­nex­on was al­ready prepped and primed to toss its S-1 to Wall Street as in­vestors ral­lied

The Wall Street IPO shuffle generally calls for a little distance between the crossover ante and the Wall Street double, but with the window on the street wide open and biotech sizzling hot, who’s waiting?

The crew at Annexon didn’t leave anyone in suspense for long about their IPO plans. A day after the Bay Area biotech with clinical plans to target neurodegeneration quietly unveiled a $100 million raise, they were back with an S-1 outlining a pitch to double that — or more.

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Jean-Paul Clozel, Idorsia CEO (Patrick Straub/Keystone via AP Images)

Sec­ond PhI­II study for Idor­si­a's sleep drug re­turns pos­i­tive re­sults, but al­so rais­es new ques­tions

Following a successful Phase III study in April showcasing the safety and potential of its new sleep drug, Idorsia posted some mixed news in the second Phase III study, but that won’t stop a planned filing aimed at regulatory approval.

The drug, a dual orexin receptor antagonist (DORA) called daridorexant, was found to significantly improve sleep maintenance and subjective total sleep time in 25 mg doses, replicating results from the first Phase III study. However, improvements in sleep onset and daytime functioning narrowly missed statistical significance, despite numerical consistency with the April study.

Pfiz­er re-ups on Mis­sion Ther­a­peu­tics col­lab­o­ra­tion, lead­ing a $15M round and grab­bing first dibs on DUBs

Seven years after Pfizer first invested in Mission Therapeutics, a biotech that researches selectively inhibiting deubiquitylating enzymes (DUBs), the pharma giant is re-upping its commitment to the company in another sign of confidence in the field of protein degradation.

Pfizer’s VC arm is heading up a $15 million round, announced Monday morning, and increasing its overall stake in Mission. Pfizer is also entering into a licensing agreement that would give it first dibs at negotiating exclusivity after accessing certain DUB inhibitors and screening them for their potential as drugs.