Af­ter promis­ing Trump new US jobs, Eli Lil­ly sets out to chop 200 R&D staffers

David Ricks, Lil­ly

Eli Lil­ly is bring­ing out the cor­po­rate ax and aim­ing it at its R&D op­er­a­tions.

Just weeks af­ter the com­pa­ny an­nounced plans to lay off 485 staffers that had been in­volved in the failed solanezum­ab pro­gram, the com­pa­ny spread word on Fri­day that it’s look­ing for 200 re­searchers to take a “vol­un­tary ex­it.”

A spokesper­son for Lil­ly tells me that this amount to about 3% of the com­pa­ny’s to­tal re­search staff. And the cuts aren’t be­ing aimed at any par­tic­u­lar unit.

“Lil­ly is fo­cus­ing its in­vest­ment in new R&D ca­pa­bil­i­ties to en­sure port­fo­lio sus­tain­abil­i­ty,” she added. “We plan to in­crease our in­vest­ment and hire in strate­gic ar­eas, in­clud­ing mol­e­cule-mak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, im­munol­o­gy and Alzheimer’s dis­ease, across our U.S. re­search sites lat­er this year.”

In re­sponse to a fol­lowup query, the spokesper­son said that this is not a buy­out and that it won’t tar­get ex­ec­u­tives, then said she had no oth­er in­for­ma­tion to of­fer in re­ply to my query whether any fur­ther lay­offs are be­ing planned.

The cuts were an­nounced in­ter­nal­ly two days af­ter Lil­ly CEO Dave Ricks as­sured Pres­i­dent Trump that Lil­ly is in a hir­ing mode on the man­u­fac­tur­ing front — a big is­sue for the new ad­min­is­tra­tion. “We’re hir­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs as I speak,” Ricks told Trump. “Some of the poli­cies you’ve sug­gest­ed — tax, dereg­u­la­tion — those are things that could re­al­ly al­low us to ex­pand op­er­a­tions.”

But Ricks and his Big Phar­ma brethren have be­come ex­perts at rein­ing in em­ploy­ment over the last five years, rather than adding head count. And there’s noth­ing un­usu­al about these kinds of R&D re­align­ments in Big Phar­ma. As­traZeneca, No­var­tis and Mer­ck, among oth­ers, have been do­ing the same thing over the past year. And Pfiz­er said years ago that it ex­pects to see a con­stant chang­ing line­up as it fo­cus­es on new pro­grams and drops its duds.

Lil­ly an­nounced dur­ing its Q4 call late last week that it is shut­ter­ing Ex­pe­di­tion Pro, its sole re­main­ing Phase III study for the one-time megablock­buster hope­ful solanezum­ab. Solanezum­ab failed Ex­pe­di­tion 3, mark­ing a painful­ly ex­pen­sive flop — the third straight clin­i­cal fail­ure. Ex­pe­di­tion Pro, said Ricks, was head­ed for yet an­oth­er fail­ure. The phar­ma gi­ant en­dured a se­ries of set­backs dur­ing a long and painful R&D drought, but it’s been re­ward­ed by some ma­jor ap­provals in the last cou­ple of years. And this year an­a­lysts have high hopes that baric­i­tinib will fol­low up with an ap­proval on its way to block­buster sta­tus.

At the end of 2015, Eli Lil­ly em­ployed 41,275 peo­ple, in­clud­ing ap­prox­i­mate­ly 23,425 em­ploy­ees out­side the US. But it’s al­so been ship­ping jobs over­seas. Five years ear­li­er Lil­ly em­ployed 40,360 peo­ple, in­clud­ing ap­prox­i­mate­ly 20,300 em­ploy­ees out­side the Unit­ed States.

UP­DAT­ED: Roche bags 'break­through' an­ti-fi­bro­sis drug in $1.4B biotech buy­out deal

Roche is snapping up a “breakthrough” anti-fibrotic drug in a $1.4 billion buyout.

The pharma giant announced Friday that it is acquiring Promedior, primarily to get its hands on PRM-151, a recombinant form of human pentraxin-2 (PTX-2) protein that has nailed down mid-stage clinical data on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and demonstrating its potential for a range of fibrotic conditions.

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Amarin emerges from an ex­pert pan­el re­view with a clear en­dorse­ment for Vas­cepa and high odds of suc­cess when the FDA weighs in for­mal­ly

Several FDA experts who gathered Thursday to consider the landmark approval of Vascepa to reduce cardio events in an at-risk population voiced their unease about various aspects of the efficacy and safety data, or ultimately the population it should be used to treat. But the overwhelming belief that the data pointed to the drug’s benefit and clearly outweighed risks carried the day for Amarin.

The panel voted unanimously (16 to 0) to support the company’s positive data presentation — backing an OK for expanding the label to include reducing cardio risk. The vote points Amarin $AMRN down a short path to a formal decision by the FDA, with the odds heavily in its favor. Chances are the rest of the questions about the future of this drug will be hashed out in the label’s small print.

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Federal Trade Commission commissioner Rohit Chopra testifies on Capitol Hill (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

FTC clears Bris­tol-My­ers’ $74B deal to buy Cel­gene — but Dems sig­nal a po­ten­tial hard shift against Big Phar­ma M&A

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s record $74 billion takeover of Celgene is a done deal. And it will all be over — except for the lingering complaints from die-hard Celgene investors — on Wednesday.

Like much else that’s going on in Washington these days, the vote among the 5 FTC commissioners split along party lines, with the 3 Republicans voting to clear the way and the 2 Democrats steamed over what they see as a major M&A move that will lessen competition and innovation. And that split has big implications for the M&A side of the business if the Dems take the White House in 2020.

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No­var­tis scores its lat­est FDA OK — this time for a new sick­le cell dis­ease drug picked up in a $665M deal

Novartis’ decision to buy Oklahoma-based biotech Selexys 3 years ago for up to $665 million has paid off with an FDA approval today.

Blessed with the FDA’s breakthrough drug designation for a speedy review, the pharma giant has pinned down an approval for crizanlizumab, a new therapy designed to reduce the frequency of painful incidents of vaso-occlusive crises among sickle cell disease patients 16 or older.

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No­var­tis spin­out’s first an­ti-ag­ing PhI­II is a flop, so now they’ll turn to Parkin­son’s chal­lenge as shares wilt

Novartis spinout resTORbio is grappling with the collapse of its lead clinical program this morning — an anti-aging R&D failure that will badly damage their rep in the field.

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BeiGene CEO John Oyler at an Endpoints event in Shanghai, October 2018 (Credit: Endpoints News/PharmCube)

UP­DAT­ED: In a first, FDA green-lights use of a Chi­nese built can­cer ther­a­py — and more are com­ing

Weeks after Amgen took a $2.7 billion stake in BeiGene, the Beijing-based biotech has secured its first-ever FDA approval for zanubrutinib, a BTK inhibitor, months ahead of schedule.

BeiGene’s drug, branded as Brukinsa, has secured accelerated approval for adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) — a typically aggressive, rare, form of blood cancer — who have received at least one prior therapy.

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What does $62B buy you these days? A lot, says Take­da ex­ecs as the phar­ma play­er promis­es a block­buster R&D fu­ture

First comes the $62 billion buyout. Then comes the asset auction and reorganization to pay down debt. Now comes the detailed pledge of a bigger, brighter future in drug development.

That’s where Takeda finds itself on R&D day today, about 11 months after closing on their Shire acquisition. R&D chief Andy Plump is joining CEO Christophe Weber and other top members of the team to outline a new set of priorities in the greatly expanded pipeline at Takeda, which has jumped into the top ranks of the world’s pharma giants in the wake of the Shire deal.

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GSK's asth­ma bi­o­log­ic Nu­cala scores in rare blood dis­or­der study

GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug Nucala, which received a resounding FDA rejection for use in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) last year, has shown promise in a rare blood disorder.

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Mer­ck buys a fledg­ling neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive biotech spawned by an old GSK dis­cov­ery al­liance. What’s up with that?

Avalon Ventures chief Jay Lichter has a well-known yen for drug development programs picked up in academia. And what he found in Haoxing Xu’s lab at the University of Michigan pricked his interest enough to launch one of his umbrella biotechs in San Diego.

Xu’s work laid the foundation for Avalon to launch Calporta, which has been working on finding small molecule agonists of TRPML1 (transient receptor potential cation channel, mucolipin subfamily, member 1) for lysosomal storage disorders. And that pathway, they believe, points to new approaches on major market neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.

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