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Biogen Layoffs

Unfortunately, I have it from people who are definitely in a position to know that Biogen is laying off scientists this afternoon. A number of experienced chemists have been let go so far, and I’ll put up more details as I learn them. This is particularly unexpected, considering that the company appears to be in terrific financial shape. . .
Update: the company says that this is a small layoff in chemistry and neurology, and that head count is not being reduced. From what little I’ve seen of the situation, though, it almost looks as if they’re clearing out a lot of longtime employees and will then be replacing them with new ones, who are (presumably) cheaper. It’s true that you have to check to make sure that you have the right people for your needs – and let people go if you don’t – but there are a number of fine lines in this area.

31 comments on “Biogen Layoffs”

  1. Anonymous says:

    “This is particularly unexpected, considering that the company appears to be in terrific financial shape. . .”
    That’s a joke, Derek, right?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Are they doing well because of their internal chemistry??

  3. Anonymous says:

    WTF? They just posted positions last month that I applied for.

  4. anonymous says:

    Don’t need many chemists to synthesize dimethyl fumarate…

  5. annon 2 says:

    May not be as healthy as you want to think… reimbursements may be going south.

  6. matt says:

    Maybe Biogen saw the Holtz paper…

  7. Matt says:

    Sorry in @5 i meant Burke paper

  8. AB says:

    Whats that paper about? DMF? Honestly, idont know, but am interest in Biogen/dimetylfumarate

  9. bhip says:

    From FierceBiotech “Biogen Idec trims R&D staff, looks for new talent in chemistry, neurology”…sounds like 20ish people

  10. Anonymous says:

    @9: If true, sounds like lawsuit territory

  11. ty says:

    New regime at Biogen. Out with the old, in with the cronies. Lots of positions available if you have connections.

  12. Anonymous says:

    @9: If true, sounds like lawsuit territory

  13. an old chemist says:

    Biospace report of today afternoon says that only 20 employees are leaving following the annual review. Is that also a lie told to press:

  14. annonymous says:

    Alkermes recently reported data on monomethyl fumarate as more safer than dimethyl fumarate. Chemists at biogen didn’t get it.May this is the consequence.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Derek, it seems like an opportunity for you to move to Biogen. You have been at Vertex now long enough to deserve a really big title at another company.

  16. Anonymous says:

    From the FierceBiotech article:
    “Word of the layoffs first circulated on Derek Lowe’s influential blog, In the Pipeline, on Thursday afternoon.”

  17. gippgig says:

    Totally off topic but this is extremely interesting research:
    Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome, Nature Vol. 519 issue 7541 p. 92 doi: 10.1038/nature14232
    This needs to be confirmed before right away and tested in humans but it sure makes a lot of sense.

  18. 3Anon says:

    Wait, Biogen is at 8x of its 2010 valuation.
    That is INSANE for a company that is publicly traded and of such high market cap. It really is messed up that they are spitting on R&D like this. I thought I’ve seen it all.
    I really feel for you guys getting layed-off. This is disgusting.

  19. Lyle Langley says:

    @18, 3Anon…
    If you believe the statements from Biogen, they are not “splitting on R&D”. They are letting go 20 people whose “skill sets did not align with the company”. But are looking to replace them right away. I do wish the best for those people, but it’s not like (on face value) that Biogen is letting all R&D go.

  20. anonymous says:

    Lyle, I think you misread anon 18. “Spitting” on R&D (i.e. insulting them), not “splitting” on R&D (eliminating them completely).

  21. The Aqueous Layer says:

    Given the circumstances, I’m quite sure Biogen dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s with regards to documenting being able to simply terminate 20 people with plans on replacing them immediately. Below average performance two years in a row is usually a way for a company to justify putting you on a Performance Plan prior to letting you go.
    They aren’t going to risk getting sued, I’m sure their severance packages also stipulate that they will not sue Biogen if they take the package.
    Unseemly, but I’m sure done with plenty of legal advice on how to do it. If the state is an At-Will Employment state, they can fire them without giving a reason as well, if they wanted. Leaves you open to lawsuits if done with the notion of axing the ‘old folks’, however…

  22. Frank Adrian says:

    What fine line? The only fine line in this situation is how close Amgen wants to get to minimal salaries for its employees.

  23. a. nonymaus says:

    Re: 21
    And this is why the white-collar working class needs to unionize.

  24. Lyle Langley says:

    @20, Anonymous…
    Sorry for my typo, I meant to put “spitting” and not “splitting”. I don’t think letting 20 people go is “spitting” on R&D. Maybe spitting on those 20, but not R&D as a whole as other companies have done.

  25. bluefoot says:

    @11 Yeah, you basically nailed it. From what I hear, there are already candidates being lined up for the open/soon to be open positions.

  26. NH_Chem says:

    @4 Hilarious!!
    @11 very true! It’s not what you know but who you know!
    Chemistry will always be the ugly stepchild at Biogen. The chemists will always be looked down upon just like at Amgen.
    Perhaps they finally decided to get rid of some people who became unmotivated by the rise of Biogen stock and were just marking time. Nonetheless, it is never fun to hear of these things even for only 20 people.

  27. anon says:

    Biogen has been cleaning out almost all of the old guard for some time now. I have watched most of the people who established the company and bring it to its present state being kicked to the curb. Young R&D employees complain they can’t move up since those folks have all the important positions of director etc. Experience means nothing to them anymore.

  28. Anonymous says:

    As scientists, we probably vastly overestimate our value in pharma and then underestimate the value of what business people do. Even with the tons of R and D layoffs over the past 20 years pharma still exists. There is a never ending supply of scientific labor that will work and keep training in science even with the never ending stories of layoffs and employment problems in the bio and chemical related science fields. Hey if we don’t like it then maybe we should be starting our own companies that are run by scientists. People say this all of the time but almost never come through because the one thing they probably lack for starting a new successful company is a good business acumen.

  29. Useless Molecule says:

    @ 28
    This is the most lucid comment I ever read on this blog, ever.
    I agree 100%.

  30. NMH says:

    Just remember this…if Medicare could negotiate drug prices and if everybody went vegan there would not be ANY Pharma to speak of, and then where would the newly minted MS and PhD scientists go?
    Thank god for scientists we eat like the whales we have become. Obesity, chronic bad health, and politicians on the take in this country is great for scientist employment.

  31. ggg says:

    At 28 / dead on / some of these biz guys are pretty good value (balls like king kong)

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