Real estate, Restructuring

Shire’s Ornskov dictates another big revamp, with R&D/HQ moving into Cambridge

Shire CEO Flemming Ornskov is once again reorganizing the company, consolidating a large portion of the company’s R&D operations in the heart of the big Cambridge, MA hub.

Flemming Ornskov

In a story broken by the Boston Globe’s longtime biotech scribe Rob Weisman, Ornskov says he plans to move hundreds of researchers into the company’s new campus in Kendall Square, which combines a newly acquired building from Sanofi Genzyme with the R&D center picked up in its acquisition of Baxalta.

Shire sent me an outline of their plan to make Cambridge and Lexington into two central hubs for the more than 3,000 staffers that work at the company in Massachusetts. And it is moving 100 R&D staffers from Austria to Cambridge in the near term.

“Given Baxalta’s footprint in Cambridge, along with the academic and biotech ecosystem, it made sense to locate much of R&D in an Innovation Hub there,” says a spokesperson for the company about its redeployment plan. “In Lexington, we decided to create a Technology Center of Excellence where we knew we could accommodate biologics development and manufacturing, device development, launch, etc. in terms of space.”

At one point after the Baxalta buyout, the big question was whether Shire planned to keep it. But last fall Shire laid out plans to make it the company’s R&D center for rare diseases. Now Ornskov says the site will become the new US HQ for Shire, which has been transformed recently with a bigger pipeline on rare disease drugs. Shire is based in Ireland, and that isn’t changing in the reorganization. Ornskov is also taking the reins on R&D, at least during an interim period, as Phil Vickers exits the top research job.

The move follows a similar path taken at Biogen, which saw George Scangos move the HQ into Cambridge in 2011, shortly after he took over, so he could be closer to R&D. Like Scangos, who has since left to run a startup on the West Coast, Ornskov is determined to play a big role in what us arguably the world’s largest biotech hub, near MIT and Harvard. And he’ll be taking residence in a hub that has attracted a wide variety of companies, from biotech startups to Big Pharma ops.

The consolidation of Shire involves bringing in staffers from a variety of sites scattered in the region.

“One of the issues we have now is that everyone is spread out in many locations,” Ornskov told Weisman. “We want to consolidate.”

The move, which will take several years to complete, already has generated some internal complaints among staffers who aren’t keen to commute to Cambridge in a metro area that suffers from a multitude of headaches brought on by intense congestion.

Ornskov, though, has made concentrating the company in the area a key feature ever since taking over as CEO. He quickly shuttered outlying sites in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in 2015, either relocating or replacing staffers who wouldn’t make the move.


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