Merck & Co. said it will cut up to 360 R&D jobs at three Merck Research Laboratories sites in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in a restructuring of its early drug discovery operations that will add positions to the nation’s two largest biopharma clusters.
Merck has not disclosed a precise number of jobs to be eliminated, but said that those positions account for less than 10% of the 3600 early-stage R&D jobs based in Kenilworth, NJ, near the pharma giant’s headquarters in that city, as well as in Rahway, NJ and North Wales, PA.
Merck said in a statement to numerous news outlets that it is “increasing our investment in exploratory biology in areas where biomedical research is converging, specifically in Cambridge, MA, and the San Francisco Bay area. Unfortunately, these changes will result in workforce reductions.”
In Cambridge, the company continued, Merck Research Laboratories is scheduled late next year to open new laboratories: “Research will focus on emerging science, agnostic of therapeutic area. Initial exploratory research will include host–pathogen interactions and the role of the microbiome in disease processes.”
In South San Francisco, CA, Merck added that it expects to recruit aproximately 100 scientists for interim labs set to be open by early 2017, to be followed eventually by a new research site that will specialize in cardiometabolic disease and cancer drug discovery. The pharma has yet to disclose where in the Bay Area that facility would be built, or when.
“We are in the final stages of our search for a long-term location, where we will ultimately consolidate our Oncology, Immuno-oncology, Biologics and CMR discovery work into a combined research site,” Merck stated. “Our Palo Alto site will continue to focus on Immuno-Oncology and Biologics and Vaccines discovery until the long-term facility is up and running.”
The company added: “Within Merck Research Laboratories, we are making some organizational changes within our discovery, preclinical, and early development area to enable earlier access to emerging external science and technology to augment our leading discovery and development capabilities.”
The latest layoffs are among the most by Merck since 2013, when the company announced it would eliminate 8500 R&D and commercial operations jobs companywide through 2015.
Merck ended 2015 with 68,000 employees companywide, the company stated in its annual Form 10-K regulatory filing—down 32,000 from the 100,000 employees reported by the company at the end of 2009, the year the company acquired Schering-Plough for $41 billion. Merck’s U.S. workforce, including Puerto Rico, has shrunk nearly 38% during that time, falling from 42,000 in 2009 to 26,200 at the end of last year.
The company’s R&D spending has shrunk nearly 40%, from $11.111 billion in 2010—the first full year of the Merck–Schering Plough combo, but before cost-cutting took effect—to $6.704 billion in 2015.