GSK’s new R&D chief Hal Barron has made no secret of the fact that he has a keen interest in refocusing the R&D group at the pharma giant. And that’s starting to play out with some layoffs in its big R&D center at GSK’s Stevenage campus as well as its second big hub near Philadelphia.
The pharma giant put out a statement earlier today noting that a “small number” of roles would be affected by the layoffs in Stevenage. Their statement:
“We have identified where changes are necessary to ensure we can fully support our evolving pipeline priorities. We anticipate a small number of roles will be directly impacted by these changes but continue to expect GSK’s R&D operations to grow overall with increased investment.”
In a followup exchange, the media team at GlaxoSmithKline confirmed to me that the layoffs extend to Upper Providence in Pennsylvania, where GSK concentrated its second big campus after a restructuring hit operations in North Carolina several years ago.
GSK is abuzz about the cuts. According to some individuals familiar with the cutbacks, Barron is axing some 240 to 250 staffers in Upper Providence and Stevenage. That includes a heavy concentration on chemists, including a few senior chemists in the group. Some administrative staffers are also getting hit.
The R&D group is hiring, though, as the group continues to shift focus, and the company will likely end up at about the same head count in R&D as it had going into the restructuring.
Barron’s key interest right now is oncology, a field where he built his international rep at Genentech. Under his guidance, GSK bought out Tesaro — focused on PARP — and started doing deals in the field, beefing up the early-stage work that was left at the company after its big swap with Novartis a few years ago.
Insiders will be looking to see if any of the layoffs involve the respiratory research field, where GSK has been visibly backing away from.
GSK is a top-15 R&D group in the global industry, but it’s always performed with a careful eye on the bottom line and the part the R&D budget plays in that. As a result, when the company expands in one direction, it contracts in another.
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