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Layoffs at Medimmune

I’m told by people who are (unfortunately) in a position to know that AstraZeneca has announced cutbacks at their Medimmune division. AZ bought them in 2007, amid worries by some observers that they’d overpaid, and their site in Gaithersburg, MD has become a center of research for the larger company, particularly after a 2013 reorganization.

I don’t have the figures yet, but I’m told that the Oncology division was largely untouched. The rest of the Gaithersburg research structure, though, seems to have been cut back pretty hard, with entire groups being let go along with many longtime employees. As with the Merck layoffs earlier this week, AstraZeneca doesn’t seem to have told anyone else about this, so more details as they become available. Does this concentrate the company’s research even more in their new Cambridge (UK) site?

Update: confirmation from the company.

22 comments on “Layoffs at Medimmune”

  1. Bagnar says:

    From someone (and a really brilliant chemist) recently hired as AZN, in Cambridge (UK), I will answer your question Derek.
    More and more research is concentrate in Cambridge. I (and this person) don’t have much more details, but it appears to be the ultimate goal of the company.
    A question remains. If they concentrate there a research department previously located in the US, will this result in a loss of knowledge ? Scientists will cross the ocean ? 🙂

  2. steve says:

    The work at Medi and at AZ Cambridge is very different. Medi concentrates on biologics (primarily antibodies and proteins) whereas AZ is more small molecules. What this says to me is that AZ is downplaying the potential of antibodies for non-oncology indications.

    1. anon says:

      There is a MedImmune site in Cambridge (UK) as well…

  3. SedatedFMS says:

    The Cambridge site that is not quite up and running yet?

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      That’s the one – is that the future of AZ?

      1. Anon says:

        The medimmune site is different from the (as yet unfinished) main AZ at Addenbrooke’s I think they’ll move in when it’s done though. That will be a while however, I walk past it most days and it’s still basically a hole in the ground!

  4. steve says:

    So let me get this straight. Cambridge Antibody Technologies was acquired by AZ, which then merged it with Medi when they acquired them. Now they’re moving Medi non-oncology antibodies back to Cambridge. Are they simply keeping oncology biologics in Gaithersburg and moving non-oncology biologics to the former CAT?

  5. grapevine says:

    I learned form an AZ Boston manager that some operations are also being moved to AZ Cambridge and -as expected- people are being let go.

  6. Dr. Manhatten says:

    “That’s the one – is that the future of AZ?”
    The Future of AZ is circling the drain. Very poor management and management choices at the top. They stocked up on ex-Pfizer managers and then brought in Pascal Soriot. He made a huge number of promises to the stockholders at the time of the Pfizer offer to acquire AZ. Prime among them was a goal of $45 billion in yearly revenue in 2023. This year sales look to be roughly $24 billion, and then there is the Crestor patent expiration coming up (~ $5 billion annual sales). But all he needs are $21 billion worth of blockbusters in the next 7 years and he is good to go. Oh wait, need to replace Crestor revenue, so make that $26 billion. Better get to work in Cambridge (UK)!!

    1. Last of the Zenecans says:

      Ah yes, on the CEO’s last appearance at the site sentenced to death earlier in the year I well remember the classic CEO graph with the incompletely annotated axes, implying sales bottoming out around now then heading inexorably for the sunlit uplands…

  7. Anon says:

    Why is AZ recruiting only for data and IT roles recently? Have they forgotten that some people have to do actual experiments, or don’t they bother with such details anymore? Who needs real data when you can just fuck about with imaginary data and theoretical models, right? Like that’s going to end well for them!

  8. Dr. Manhatten says:

    Why is AZ recruiting only for data and IT roles recently?

    They are going to go back and mine the notebooks of the scientists they laid off and the programs that were prematurely terminated due to cost savings (“Got to keep the financials up, my bonus depends on it!). Maybe there is gold in them that hills!

    Think I’m kidding? From Bloomberg Reports (April 21, 2016):
    Astra CEO Pascal Soriot’s bonus and long-term incentives amounted to 580 percent of his salary, and his bonus targets weren’t disclosed, according to a report issued Thursday by Pensions & Investment Research Consultants Ltd. Soriot’s pay was 64 times that of the average employee at London-based Astra.

    The U.K.’s second-biggest drugmaker said in March it was looking at ways to more clearly link executive compensation to its 2023 revenue target of $45 billion. Soriot set out the revenue goal in 2014 as he rejected a takeover offer from Pfizer Inc.

    Desperate goals and desperate times call for desperate IT attempts!

    1. Anon says:

      Merck Serono had a similar revenue target for 2017 a few years back (since 2009) that all management incentives were tied to. So what happened? They killed all early stage projects that wouldn’t launch before 2017, took risky short cuts on all mid stage projects so that they could launch before 2017, and kept all their risky late stage projects going to maximize revenues in 2017. Needless to say all their mid- and late-stage projects failed, and they had nothing left to back them up so they just repeated the failed trials, which then failed again. Reckless gambling driven by dumb targets and even dumber management. I see no difference from AZ.

      1. Courier says:

        The madness can be traced back to the mid 1990s, when organisational toadies across the industry colluded with the mindset and mantra of “delivering drugs.” From then on we all became van drivers with PhDs.

        1. Functionary says:

          “From then on we all became van drivers with PhDs.” Brilliant.

          1. Courier says:

            Thank you.

  9. NoName says:

    As a former AZ employee I perfectly understand this decision. No reason to have big groups doing the same thing; testing and validating protein or small molecule therapeutics is very much the same and any valid lead can be sent to another location for evaluation. Everyone is slicing costs, this one is understandable and the company does not not seem to be divesting from any research area, probably just seemingly eliminating redundant jobs – no matter how terrible this always is for R&D people like me.
    A word on Soriot: in my view he is the reason why the company was not sold for peanuts a long time ago (perhaps even before the Pfizer bid). That being the case few jobs would be left from the current 55,000. Also, I am still puzzled to note how bold (or in his own words “candid”) he is; certainly not shy at saying he wants scientists at the bench, he sees too much bureaucracy, … He has a strong focus on science and also puts a lot of emphasis on company culture (perhaps a reminiscence from his days at Genentech?). Having served under a few CEOs in big biopharma I would say that Soriot comes across as the most inspiring and perhaps most capable to stir a company like AZ into a brighter path. Also, since he joined back in Oct 2012 the company stock went from GBP29 to 45 (+55%, LSE). Will the company make the US45 billion/year by 2023? An optimistic proposition.

  10. Tom says:

    Very poor leadership under Bahija Jallal. She should totally get a pink slip too!

    1. Melissa says:

      Why do you think she is doing a poor job?

      1. Tom says:

        Return on investment!

  11. andy howerd says:

    Know anything about the Speke, Liverpool, UK Medimmune site – layoffs, closure etc.?

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