No­var­tis joins the Big Phar­ma ex­o­dus out of an­tibi­otics, dump­ing re­search, cut­ting 140 and out-li­cens­ing pro­grams

An­oth­er Big Phar­ma is re­treat­ing from the an­tibi­otics field.

No­var­tis to­day says its ear­ly-stage re­search group at NI­BR is drop­ping an­tibac­te­r­i­al and an­tivi­ral re­search pro­grams based in Emeryville, CA. And they’re do­ing it at a time that drug-re­sis­tant strains of bac­te­ria are spread­ing around the world — an is­sue that once com­mand­ed con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion at No­var­tis.

The re­or­ga­ni­za­tion will trig­ger the lay­off of about 140 staffers. No­var­tis not­ed:

The groups that are im­pact­ed in their en­tire­ty are an­tibac­te­r­i­al and an­tivi­ral re­search. As a re­sult, oth­er groups are al­so af­fect­ed in­clud­ing, Phar­ma­col­o­gy, Pro­tein Sci­ences, Pro­ject Man­age­ment and glob­al sup­port func­tions in Glob­al Dis­cov­ery Chem­istry, NI­BR In­for­mat­ics, Sci­en­tif­ic Op­er­tions and Trans­la­tion­al Med­i­cine. About 150 em­ploy­ees will re­main in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area in sup­port of NITD and our drug dis­cov­ery ef­forts.

On the chop­ping block are a group of pre­clin­i­cal pro­grams as well as LYS228, their clin­i­cal-stage ef­fort in the field. Most of the af­fect­ed staffers will have a 60-day pe­ri­od to work out their de­par­ture, with sev­er­ance, while a small group will stay on to han­dle the shut­down.

No­var­tis added:

While the sci­ence for these pro­grams is com­pelling, we have de­cid­ed to pri­or­i­tize our re­sources in oth­er ar­eas where we be­lieve we are bet­ter po­si­tioned to de­vel­op in­no­v­a­tive med­i­cines that will have a pos­i­tive im­pact for pa­tients. The need for these types of med­i­cines is clear and to max­i­mize the chances that these pro­grams will one day help pa­tients we are ac­tive­ly en­gaged in out-li­cens­ing dis­cus­sions with com­pa­nies fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing med­i­cines in these ar­eas.

This isn’t the first time NI­BR has re­or­ga­nized. There was a con­sid­er­able re­vamp short­ly af­ter Jay Brad­ner took the reins at the in­sti­tutes. And No­var­tis it­self is known for a rest­less search for cost cuts wher­ev­er it can find them — which trig­gered their de­ci­sion to scrap a spe­cial gene and cell ther­a­py unit and in­ter­grate the group in the main de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion. 

Phar­ma start­ed bail­ing on an­tibi­otics re­search years ago, dis­cour­aged by the no­table ab­sence of prof­its as gener­ics dom­i­nat­ed treat­ment. That left R&D to a small group of biotechs look­ing to come up with new ap­proach­es that could be used as drug-re­sis­tance be­come in­creas­ing­ly com­mon.

The sur­viv­ing play­ers will now get a chance to pick over what is be­ing scrapped now, just as As­traZeneca once tried to sell of their unit near Boston — un­til they were forced to fi­nal­ly spin it off as a new com­pa­ny.


Im­age: Jay Brad­ner, Pres­i­dent of the No­var­tis In­sti­tutes for Bio­Med­ical Re­search, speaks at an End­points News event in San Fran­cis­co, Jan­u­ary 2018 — Jeff Ru­mans End­points News

Scott Gottlieb, AP Images

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