Massachusetts’ biopharma cluster is among the world’s biggest and best with more than 56,000 jobs, universities like Harvard and MIT, and a rich heritage stretching from Genzyme’s founding in 1981.

But with growing competition for jobs, especially from Asia, Bay State industry advocates unveiled a strategy for keeping their region top-tier into 2020 and beyond, in a report released April 3 by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio). Impact 2020 recommends Massachusetts step up economic incentives—particularly to businesses that can mature into large “anchor” companies—and build industry segments beyond R&D, such as biomanufacturing and life sciences IT.

Peter Abair, MassBio’s director of economic development and global affairs, told GEN the state already has strong incentives—for example, up to $25,000 per job for mature companies creating 10 or more jobs in a year. Companies must achieve at least 70% of their job target in 12 months and retain the jobs for five years.

“There are some places in the world where you can have a factory built for you. That’s not going to happen here, and it’s not going to happen in the United States. Having something on the table for these companies to take advantage of is important in the decision making,” Abair said.

Many of Massachusetts’ incentives come from the $1 billion, 10-year Life Sciences Initiative, shepherded by Gov. Deval Patrick and set to expire in 2018. While critics deride the initiative as wasteful (“The billion dollars in private investment is likely to have come through anyway,” the Pioneer Institute’s Jim Stergios wrote last year), Impact 2020 disagrees. The report urges officials to reauthorize the agency that oversees the initiative, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, and expand its offerings for startups to include accelerator programs modeled after the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) or Connecticut Innovations.

With 600,000 liters of mammalian cell culture manufacturing capacity—biggest in the world, the report says—Impact 2020 envisions Massachusetts building on biomanufacturing strengths ranging from training programs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and University of Massachusetts (UMass) to plants run by corporate giants.

Such companies include Shire, Pfizer, Genzyme, AbbVie, and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), which built a Devens, MA, biologics manufacturing plant that employs 400, after winning $60 million in state and local incentives in 2006 under Patrick’s predecessor, Mitt Romney. In February, construction began on a $280 million expansion that will add 350 jobs and introduce biologics development and clinical trial manufacturing capabilities to the plant. That cost has risen since the project was announced last year.

“For the immediate future, we’re in a very strong position in terms of biologic manufacturing. When you look decades down the road, which might not be the case. That’s the key around any kind of manufacturing: It’s to stay at the cutting edge,” Abair said.

The report also urges the state to capitalize on big data’s expansion into healthcare by helping tech companies, incubators, and universities coalesce into a cluster that connects with the state’s biopharma industry to reshape drug development and patient care: “With its breadth of research activities and deep content knowledge, Massachusetts has the opportunity to be the leader in life sciences-related IT.”

LAYOFFS: Amgen, Teva, Bayer Swing Axe

The past month saw news of more biopharma jobs being added than reduced. First, the bad news: Amgen is axing 252 U.S. sales, operations and other corporate functions employees—about 4% of its 6,000-person workforce at its Thousand Island, CA, headquarters. Layoffs will take place by April 30, Amgen told California’s Economic Development Department.

“In January, we informed staff members that their positions are impacted. Each of the individuals notified was offered comprehensive severance benefits that provide cash, health insurance, and career transition services,” company spokeswoman Kristen Davis told GEN.

Also disclosing layoff plans is Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which told New York State’s Department of Labor April 1 it will eliminate 41 jobs at its Pomona, NY, plant between March 31 and July 31. “The announcement made last week is part of our plans to consolidate certain operations within the Teva manufacturing network,” spokeswoman Denise Bradley told GEN.

Bayer HealthCare will shrink its animal health workforce in St. Joseph, MO, from 180 to 125 workers in a consolidation combining three local sites into its South 48th Street campus. Bayer promised to retain all 125 full-time St. Joseph jobs after the City Council on March 17 approved issuing $21.05 million in Chapter 100 Industrial Revenue Bonds to finance new machinery and equipment.

“It is Bayer’s understanding and expectation that the agreement does not limit or specifically identify the types of capital investments that would be covered by the bonds,” Staci Gouveia, director, communications with Bayer, told GEN.

Through the bonds, Bayer receives a100% abatement for five years, followed by a 75% abatement for years 6–10 on all project-related personal property taxes. Bayer took over the St. Joseph site by acquiring Teva’s U.S. animal health business last year for $145 million.

HIRING: Acorda, Alexion, Covance, Jackson Lab

  • Acorda Therapeutics will add about 90 jobs over five years through expansion of its Ardsley, NY, headquarters. New positions will include drug-safety specialists, researchers, quality-assurance staff and market-development professionals. In return, the Westchester County, NY, Industrial Development Agency granted an exemption from 7.375% sales tax on $3.8 million in capital improvement costs, furniture, and equipment. Construction is set to start in August and create 35 to 45 jobs.
  • Alexion Pharmaceuticals subsidiary Alexion Pharma International Trading expects to create 200 new jobs over two years in Ireland, at a new, roughly €75 million ($103.5 million) global supply chain facility to be built near Dublin at College Park, Blanchardstown. Jobs will include supply chain, quality control packaging, warehousing, and supporting functions. Up to 200 new construction jobs are also expected to be created.
  • Covance will add about 100 new positions over five years by doubling its large molecule bioanalytical space, co-located with the company’s central laboratory facility in Indianapolis. The expansion is planned to open in the second half of this year. Covance also named Mike Holsapple, Ph.D., as executive director of global immunotoxicology and launched molecule management teams of experienced scientific leaders who work closely with clients on developing their biologics.
  • The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) for Genomic Medicine exceeded its hiring goals last year for its new Farmington, CT, facility. Jackson Lab told Connecticut officials it hired 79 employees in 2013, ahead of its target of 63. The number includes 48 senior scientists, more than double its target of 19. The 2014 goal is 125 employees, including 51 senior scientists.

Share your news of biopharma employment ups, downs, and trends with JobWatch. Please email Alex Philippidis at [email protected] or via Twitter at @AlexWestchester.

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