Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Baxter spinout R&D site chosen; JAX opens genomics center; NJ upbeat despite pharma layoffs.

The biopharma tools unit of BD (Becton, Dickinson and Co.) plans to lay off 60 staffers based in San Jose, CA, by next month—about 6% of the site’s nearly 1,000 workers.

California’s Employment Development Department on September 22 received notice of the layoffs, sent 10 days earlier by BD Biosciences. The workforce reduction is effective November 12.

“BD is taking strategic business actions to ensure that we are investing in the right capabilities to position the company for long-term growth and optimize efficiencies in our operating performance,” Abigail Cardona, BD manager, worldwide public relations, corporate/shared services, told GEN. “Continually reviewing and transforming how we do business is critical to remaining successful in a highly competitive environment. These decisions are extremely difficult and are not made lightly, but we cannot achieve our purpose without improving our performance.”

The layoff comes nearly a year after BD’s $40 million acquisition of Alverix, a privately held developer of point-of-care diagnostics based in San Jose. Alverix was BD’s partner and key supplier in developing the BD Veritor™ system, which is designed to provide healthcare providers with objective interpretations of diagnostic results within approximately 10 minutes.

“Where possible, we have eliminated unoccupied positions or have offered associates the opportunity to move into other roles. Where this was not possible, impacted associates will leave the company with financial support and job search assistance to find their next career opportunity,” Cardona added.

BD Biosciences is the BD unit that provides flow cytometers, reagents, tools, and services, all designed to support the work of researchers and clinicians.

BAXTER: Spinout Taps into Critical Mass.

Baxter International says its BioScience business’ decision to base the research center for eventual biopharma spinout Baxalta in Cambridge, MA, came down to numbers—namely the dense cluster of companies, institutions, and individuals in and around the city.

The drug-device giant said September 29 Baxalta will base about 400 R&D employees—as well as its business development, oncology, and biosimilars teams—at the planned global innovation and R&D center to open at 650 East Kendall St., owned by BioMed Realty Trust. Baxter’s 200,000-square-foot site will open in phases, starting with a 25,000-square-foot portion later this year.

“The biotech community around Cambridge includes more than 130 other biotech companies, 90 startups, 30 research and academic institutions, and more than 14,000 biotech professionals who may be potential partners to help us advance our innovation patient-centric platforms and leadership in clinical development, trials, and testing for new and emerging therapeutics,” Brian R. Kyhos, Baxter’s global communications director, BioScience, told GEN.

Other important numbers could come from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC), the quasi-public agency overseeing the commonwealth’s 10-year, $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative.

“We have communicated to Baxter that as a company that is adding jobs in Massachusetts, they are eligible to apply for tax incentives through the MLSC’s Life Sciences Tax Incentive Program,” which awards up to $25 million annually through a variety of credits and other tax breaks, MLSC spokesman Angus McQuilken told GEN.

Applications for this year’s round of the incentive program are being accepted through October 23, and are expected to be considered by MLSC’s board of directors in February 2015, McQuilken said.

JACKSON LAB: Genomics Center Embraces Location

The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) for Genomic Medicine opened its $111 million permanent facility this week in Farmington, CT—on the University of Connecticut (UConn) Health Center campus—with a staff of 150, and plans to grow by embracing its location between two strong biopharma regions.

Jackson Lab acknowledges one key factor in choosing Connecticut was financial. State officials led by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is seeking re-election next month, showered JAX with $291 million in bond funding toward the project.

“We were looking for a place where we could create a really deep partnership with a medical center and a university. We thought that UConn and its health center were just ideal,” since the state spent more than $800 million through its Bioscience Connecticut effort to build the health center, Mike Hyde, vp for external affairs and strategic partnerships, told GEN.

Companies and institutions typically choose one region or other. Jackson Lab took the unique approach of situating between Boston/Cambridge, MA, and the New York region.

“We felt that the location between New York and Boston offered a lot of advantages, which have proven out to be true,” Hyde added.

They include partnerships with institutions that include UConn’s health center and Institute for Systems Genomics—created to coalesce the interdisciplinary research of 10 university schools and colleges and Jackson Lab—as well as Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and Hartford Hospital.

Jackson Lab and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center last month established a multi-faceted collaboration that includes joint faculty appointments, arrangements to share grants and resources, and joint development of cancer “avatars”—mouse models that host a patient’s tumor tissue or tumors with a similar genetic background, for use in testing precision therapies.

As of September 30, the genomic center’s employees include 70 scientists with M.D. or Ph.D. degrees. The center’s areas of study include:

  • Basic research in genomic structure and variation, biology of the genome and computational biology
  • Translational research in cancer biology, cancer treatment options based on JAX patient-derived xenograft mouse models, human immunology, stem cells, and human microbiomes
  • Clinical translation using cutting-edge genomic technologies for developing new diagnostics

NEW JERSEY: Report Sees Strength Despite Pharma Cuts

New Jersey’s BioNJ released a report whose numbers reveal the size and strength of the state’s biopharma industry: 66,451 employed directly, with another 146,105 jobs indirectly supported; and an estimated $30.1 billion in annual expenditures.

The report also showed the statewide effect of big pharma’s convulsive cutbacks—a 23.3% decline in jobs between 2007 (65,073) and 2012 (49,913). The segment was hurt in part by a 5.7% drop in number of pharma & medicine manufacturing establishments, though the overall number of pharmaceuticals establishments rose 9.1% to 947, as outsourcing grew.

Biotech jobs rose during the five-year period 2.1% or 856 jobs. The number of biotech companies increased to 379 as of September 15 from 340 in 2012, and about 300 in 2009.

Despite the varied results, BioNJ and other stakeholders aren’t considering segment-specific approaches to growing pharma or biotech: “Our focus is on creating opportunities, jobs, and companies across the wide spectrum of the life sciences,” BioNJ spokesman Bill O’Donnell told GEN.

BioNJ says the report’s statewide perspective contrasts with many assessments of the state’s life-sci industry that are based on metropolitan statistical areas. Those reports divide the Garden State into portions of the New York and Philadelphia regions, effectively keeping it out of rankings such as GEN’s List earlier this year of Top 10 U.S. Biopharma Clusters.

“With this report, we’ve put our energies into providing a perspective that we believe gives New Jersey its due in the life sciences,” Debbie Hart, BioNJ’s president and CEO, said September 22.

The report, “Life Sciences in New Jersey: Looking Beyond Biotech,” was conducted with EY, the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Office of Research and Information.

JOBCETERA: West and Boehringer Expand

  • West Pharmaceutical Services (Exton, PA) said October 2 it will employ about 150 at a new insulin injector manufacturing site it will build in Waterford, Ireland, as part of a global expansion of manufacturing. The site will grow to between 250 and 300 jobs and a total investment West said would be “in the range of” €100 million ($126.6 million).
  • Boehringer Ingelheim will create about 100 new jobs in Dortmund, Germany, by expanding its annual production capacity for the Respimat® inhaler to 44 million units, the company said September 30.

Share your biopharma job news and trends with JobWatch. Please contact Alex Philippidis via email at [email protected] or via Twitter at @AlexWestchester.

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