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.

In­side Track: Be­hind the Scenes of a Ma­jor Biotech SPAC

Dr. David Hung and Michelle Doig are no strangers to the SPAC phenomenon. As Founder and CEO of Nuvation Bio, a biotech company tackling some of the greatest unmet needs in oncology, Dr. Hung recently took the company public in one of this year’s biggest SPAC related deals. And as Partner at Omega Funds, Doig not only led and syndicated Nuvation Bio’s Series A, but is now also President of the newly formed, Omega-sponsored, Omega Alpha SPAC (Nasdaq: OMEG; oversubscribed $138m IPO priced January 6, 2021).

Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

New Alzheimer's drug ap­proval fall­out: Pub­lic Cit­i­zen seeks re­moval of FDA's Wood­cock, Cavaz­zoni and Dunn

As Capitol Hill begins to wake up to the financial and scientific mess behind the FDA’s approval of Biogen’s new controversial Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm, nonprofit watchdog Public Citizen is now calling for the top three FDA officials who are responsible to be removed from their positions.

In a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on Wednesday, the group highlighted the “litany of flaws” in the FDA’s approval of the new drug, including the “unprecedented, inappropriately close” collaboration between the FDA and Biogen in the analysis of key trial data, basing approval on an unvalidated surrogate endpoint, not following the advice of its expert advisory committee (3 members of which have since resigned), and the wide label that the agency granted.

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Aus­tralian spin­out eyes the clin­ic with a pro­phy­lac­tic nasal spray for Covid-19

Whether patients are immunocompromised or just don’t like needles, one fledgling Australian biotech says it has an alternative to Covid-19 vaccines that doesn’t involve a jab in the arm — and on Tuesday, it pulled in a fresh round of funding to take it into the clinic.

ENA Respiratory, which spun out of ENA Therapeutics last year, has pulled in nearly $24.7 million (AU $30 million) to advance its nasal spray for respiratory viral infections, the company said Tuesday.

Someit Sidhu, JATT

An­oth­er life sci­ences SPAC has popped up from a small biotech CEO with the help of Take­da, No­var­tis vet­er­ans

Editor’s note: Interested in following biopharma’s fast-paced IPO market? You can bookmark our IPO Tracker here.

The SPAC train has slowed down since the extraordinarily high levels from late 2020 into early this year, but Tuesday saw the filing of a new blank-check company targeting the life sciences industry.

Jatt Acquisition submitted its SEC paperwork Tuesday, penciling in an estimated raise of $120 million as it sets its sights on a reverse merger partner. The SPAC is run by Someit Sidhu, a co-founder of Pathios Therapeutics, as well as CEO of Akaza Bioscience and Izana Bioscience. Sidhu will control about 97% of the blank-check company’s shares, per the S-1.

In a first, Re­gen­eron's an­ti­body cock­tail re­duces deaths for a sub­group of hos­pi­tal­ized Covid-19 pa­tients

Scientists have come up with the first evidence that Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, which has so far only been authorized for the outpatient setting, may reduce deaths of hospitalized Covid-19 patients — albeit only a subset.

The combination of casirivimab and imdevimab is the subject of the latest data cut from RECOVERY, the large-scale UK-based trial testing a variety of potential treatments. In total, 9,785 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 were enrolled in this arm of the study and were randomly assigned to receive either usual care plus the intravenous combo or usual care alone.

Barry Greene, Sage CEO

UP­DAT­ED: Sage's sec­ond chance at de­pres­sion hits the PhI­II pri­ma­ry, but ques­tions re­main over dura­bil­i­ty, side ef­fects

Looking to make a comeback after a big Phase III flop, Sage Therapeutics revealed data they believe could change the entire depression treatment landscape, given the vast array of failures in the field. But some results are spooking investors, sending Sage $SAGE shares down early Tuesday.

First, the primary: Sage and Biogen reported Phase III data for once-daily zuranolone Tuesday morning, saying the experimental drug hit its primary endpoint by spurring a statistically significant change from baseline in the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression total score. After 15 days, patients in the drug arm saw an average change of -14.1 points, compared to -12.3 on placebo.

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Bio­gen sig­nals a big PhI­II fail­ure as the lead gene ther­a­py in their $800M Night­star buy­out goes down in flames

That $800 million buyout of Nightstar has turned into a bust for Biogen as the lead therapy in the deal failed a pivotal study, signaling a severe setback for the biotech’s ambitions in gene therapies.

The big biotech put out the word after the market closed on Monday that the gene therapy they picked up in the deal for a degenerative blindness called choroideremia failed the Phase III study, just a month after their #2 drug in the deal also flopped in a mid-stage study.

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Lynn Fitch, Mississippi Attorney General (Rogelio V. Solis/AP Images)

Mis­sis­sip­pi sues Eli Lil­ly, Sanofi and No­vo over in­sulin prices as in­ter­change­able biosim­i­lars may ar­rive soon

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch last week sued the top three insulin manufacturers, which collectively cover almost the entire US insulin market, alleging that they’ve colluded to raise their prices in lockstep, and in some cases by more than 1,000% for drugs that are decades old.

“Because of Manufacturer Defendants’ collusive price increases, nearly a century after the discovery of insulin, diabetes medications have become unaffordable for many diabetics,” the lawsuit says.

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CEO Harith Rajagopalan (Fractyl)

Af­ter a decade in the type 2 di­a­betes game, Fractyl Lab­o­ra­to­ries recharges with a fresh $100M and a new name

Harith Rajagopalan compared the way type 2 diabetes is managed to sticking your fingers in a dam that’s leaking from a number of places.

You can take drugs to lower your blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure, but you’re not addressing what he says is the core issue — the metabolic abnormality that causes the disease.

“We’re so busy plugging the holes in the dam, we don’t have time to see that the whole infrastructure is at risk,” he said. “That infrastructure is a full-body systemic metabolic abnormality called metabolic syndrome, that we’re ignoring while we’re so busy trying to treat all of the individual symptoms of the condition.”