Restructuring, Workforce

Novartis is uprooting another research group in ongoing global reorganization


The globe trotting chief of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research turned up in Singapore this week with some bad news for the 85 staffers at the multinational’s tropical diseases research group.

The pharma giant, which has been making some big moves on the research side of the multinational player, is transferring the operation to California, according to The Straits Times. And it’s part of a “broader global strategic plan” that Jay Bradner’s begun to roll out.

NIBR has an office in Emeryville, just north of Oakland in the Bay Area. And a whole group of Big Pharmas have been concentrating their forces in the big research hubs like the San Francisco area, including Merck and AstraZeneca.

Novartis shocked the 400 staffers at its cell and gene therapy group recently when it unexpectedly announced plans to lay off 120 and integrate the remaining players in the cancer research operations. The company is known for one of the biggest research budgets in biopharma, spending $9 billion last year on R&D. But it’s also well known for looking for greater efficiencies wherever they can be found.

That can make job security a risky prospect at Novartis.

“Moving the (Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases) is really intended to empower the research through the strength of collaborative proximity,” Bradner told the local Singapore press. Novartis doesn’t like to simply fire workers, offering some the chance to relocate or apply for other positions.

But any chance of moving from Singapore to California could prove quite a hurdle for many of the scientists and staffers for a group that dates back 14 years to 2002.

We asked for clarification on the broader strategic plan, but a spokesperson for Novartis did not respond immediately.

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