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.

Biotech and Big Phar­ma: A blue­print for a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship

Strategic partnerships have long been an important contributor to how drugs are discovered and developed. For decades, big pharma companies have been forming alliances with biotech innovators to increase R&D productivity, expand geographical reach and better manage late-stage commercialization costs.

Noël Brown, Managing Director and Head of Biotechnology Investment Banking, and Greg Wiederrecht, Ph.D., Managing Director in the Global Healthcare Investment Banking Group at RBC Capital Markets, are no strangers to the importance of these tie-ups. Noël has over 20 years of investment banking experience in the industry. Before moving to the banking world in 2015, Greg was the Vice President and Head of External Scientific Affairs (ESA) at Merck, where he was responsible for the scientific assessment of strategic partnership opportunities worldwide.

No­var­tis' sec­ond at­tempt to repli­cate a stun­ning can­cer re­sult falls flat

Novartis’ hopes of turning one of the most surprising trial data points of the last decade into a lung cancer drug has taken another setback.

The Swiss pharma announced Monday that its IL-1 inhibitor canakinumab did not significantly extend the lives or slow the disease progression of patients with previously untreated locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer when compared to standard of-care alone.

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How Chi­na turned the ta­bles on bio­phar­ma's glob­al deal­mak­ing

Fenlai Tan still gets chills thinking about the darkest day of his life.

Three out of eight lung cancer patients who received a tyrosine kinase inhibitor developed by his company, Betta Pharma, died in the span of a month. Tan, the chief medical officer, was summoned to Peking Union Medical College Hospital, where the head of the clinical trial department told him that the trial investigators would be conducting an autopsy to see if the patients had died of the disease — they were all very sick by the time they enrolled — or of interstitial lung disease, a deadly side effect tied to the TKI class that’s been reported in Japan.

No­var­tis dumps AveX­is pro­gram for Rett syn­drome af­ter fail­ing re­peat round of pre­clin­i­cal test­ing

Say goodbye to AVXS-201.

The Rett syndrome gene therapy drug made by AveXis — the biotech that was bought, kept separate, then renamed and finally absorbed by Novartis into its R&D division — has been dropped by the biopharma.

In Novartis’ third quarter financial report, the pharma had found that preclinical data did not support development of the gene therapy into IND-enabling trials and beyond. The announcement comes a year after Novartis told the Rett Society how excited it was by the drug — and its potential benefits and uses.

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Ugur Sahin, AP Images

As pres­sure to share tech­nol­o­gy mounts, BioN­Tech se­lects Rwan­da for lat­est vac­cine site

BioNTech’s first mRNA-based vaccine site in Africa will call Rwanda home, and construction is set to start in mid-2022, the company announced Tuesday at a public health forum.

The German company signed a memorandum of understanding, after a meeting between Rwanda’s Minister of Health, Daniel Ngamije, Senegal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Aïssata Tall Sall, and senior BioNTech officials. Construction plans have been finalized, and assets have been ordered. The agreement will help bring end-to-end manufacturing to Africa, and as many as several hundred million doses of vaccines per year, though initial production will be more modest.

Robert Spurr, President Salix Pharmaceuticals

Bausch Health’s Sal­ix pi­lots study to shine light on chron­ic liv­er dis­ease and push back on stereo­types

October is both breast cancer awareness and liver disease awareness month. While there’s no doubt which condition draws more attention during the month, Salix wants to change that.

Salix, Bausch Health’s gastroenterology arm, piloted its first chronic liver disease report and physician survey with results out this week aimed at raising awareness and dispelling stereotypes.

While 4.5 million people have chronic liver disease or cirrhosis – which is even more than 3.8 million women diagnosed with breast cancer – the research found chronic liver disease “has not received the attention or level of effort needed for adequate prevention, diagnosis, and standardization of its management.”

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Katie Fanning, Mozart Therapeutics CEO

Mozart Ther­a­peu­tics makes its of­fi­cial de­but, jump­ing in­to the hot Treg R&D field with some big-name in­vestors back­ing it

Treg cells have been getting more and more attention recently among autoimmune specialists. There’s been Jeff Bluestone’s Sonoma, the $157 million launch of GentiBio this summer and Egle Therapeutics — which launched just last week — to name a few.

Now, there’s a new Treg player jumping in that wants to distinguish itself in the market: Mozart Therapeutics. Today, the biotech is emerging from stealth in its official debut with a $55 million Series A — with a bunch of A-list Big Pharma names on board a syndicate led by ARCH.

Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

With San­doz con­tin­u­ing to drag on No­var­tis, Vas Narasimhan says he may fi­nal­ly be ready for a sale or spin­off

After years of rehab work aimed at getting Sandoz in fighting trim to compete in a market overshadowed by declining prices, CEO Vas Narasimhan took a big step toward possibly selling or spinning off the giant generic drug player.

The pharma giant flagged plans to launch a strategic review of the business in its Q3 update, noting that “options range from retaining the business to separation.”

Analysts have been poking and prodding Novartis execs for years now as Narasimhan attempted to remodel a business that has been a drag on its performance during most of his reign in the CEO suite. The former R&D chief has made it well known that he’s devoted to the innovative meds side of the business, where they see the greatest potential for growth.

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FDA is much worse than its reg­u­la­to­ry peers at proac­tive­ly dis­clos­ing da­ta, re­searchers find

The European Medicines Agency and Health Canada continue to outpace the FDA when it comes to proactively releasing data on drugs and biologics the agency has reviewed, leading to further questions of why the American agency can’t be more transparent.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Law, Medicine, & Ethics, Yale and other academic lawyers and researchers found that between 2016 and April 2021, the EMA proactively released data for 123 unique medical products, while Health Canada proactively released data for 73 unique medical products between 2019 and April 2021. What’s more, the EMA and Health Canada didn’t proactively release the same data on the same drugs. In stark contrast, the FDA in 2018 only proactively disclosed data supporting one drug that was approved that year.

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