Restructuring, Workforce

Novo Nordisk is whacking 400 R&D jobs, reorganizing global R&D ops around 4 “transformational” units

Novo Nordisk rolled out a new plan to revamp its global R&D operations, slashing hundreds of jobs as it sets up new “biotech-like” research units in key hubs aimed at helping them line up new collaborations in key disease fields.

Out: About 400 R&D jobs in established centers in Denmark and China, axing out a significant number of staffers to make way for what Novo is heralding as a drive to heightened innovation.

In: Four new biotech groups of an uncertain size — dubbed “Transformational Research Units” — that will take root in Oxford in the UK and Indianapolis, with 2 in their home base in Copenhagen “focusing on stem cell research and biopharm (haematology and endocrinology disorders) projects,” according to a spokesperson. The unit in Indianapolis, home town to rival Eli Lilly, will focus on diabetes and obesity, a major theme at Novo while the Oxford team concentrates on cardio-metabolic research.

Novo is also adding a 20-person business unit in Cambridge, MA, on site in one of the world’s busiest R&D hubs working new deals. Novo execs want to build on deals like its buyout of Ziylo and recent academic alliances to dig deeper into new fields, like translational cardio-metabolics and stem cell research. And they want them up and running this year.

At the same time the company is amping up their investment in artificial intelligence and machine learning — a popular topic among the major players looking for new tools to increase their odds of success while improving efficiency in expensive research groups. Novo is also spending more money on the IT systems it uses in the lab with the same goal in mind.

Just last week Novo’s chief scientist Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen was in the UK to celebrate their new opening of a research center in Oxford in the heart of the Golden Triangle devoted to cutting-edge diabetes work — the centerpiece of its R&D work. Novo is investing about $150 million in the center over 10 years with plans to hire up to 100 people for the center.

In a followup response to a query, Novo spelled out how it plans to proceed.

These kinds of restructuring operations aren’t unusual in biopharma, especially for the bigger players. Pfizer’s retreat out of neurosciences recently came at the cost of 300 jobs. As companies shift research focus, jobs are added and subtracted. Even Roche just whacked more than 200 jobs at Genentech, after making a point of largely leaving South San Francisco giant unmolested for years.

“Delivering on our ambition of achieving even higher levels of innovation across a broader and more diverse range of chronic diseases requires that we have the optimal future skill base and allocate resources to our priority areas,” said Thomsen. “Unfortunately, this implies that a number of valued colleagues will lose their jobs in order to ensure that we have sufficient new research capabilities needed to support our long-term growth ambitions.”

Image: Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen Novo Nordisk

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