John Caroll at FierceBiotech has more on those Biogen Idec cuts last week. It was only about 20 people in chemistry and neurology – although if you were one of the ones affected, you may well ask (to quote Austrian writer Peter Altenberg) “What’s so only?” There were also cuts of about the same size last fall in departments like clinical operations and QC, and Carroll is hearing that there may be some more:
Another person close to the move last fall tells me that Chief Medical Officer Al Sandrock outlined plans to create a “Biogen Idec Version 4.0” at an offsite company meeting last spring. “They want a leaner team,” says one source, looking to outsource more jobs. And staffers are wary that the efficiency focus will spur upcoming cuts, fearing more workers will face the ax later in the year.
What has people paying attention to these moves, which are certainly not on the scale of what’s been happening at GSK, AstraZeneca, and other companies over the last two or three years, is that Biogen is in great shape right now. They have big-selling drugs early in their patent cycles in MS and hemophilia, and they’re banging away on some other high-profile projects as we speak. Data are expected on Friday on their Alzheimer’s antibody program, which looked pretty impressive last time anyone saw any data, in December – and that’s impressive on the absolute scale, not on the relative scale of other Alzheimer’s antibody programs.
So if a company like Biogen, with big sales and big prospects, whose stock continues to rollick along to all-time highs, can be tweaking their head count, shuffling responsibilities, adjusting their outsourcing and all the rest of it – well, that tells you what things are like on the business end of this industry. Plenty of other drug companies can only dream about being in Biogen’s situation, but there they are, with both hands gripping the wheel, watching every dial and listening to every stray sound from the engine.