Novartis said today it will eliminate up to 500 pharmaceutical division support jobs in its headquarters country of Switzerland this year, but create an equivalent number of jobs there in research as well as manufacturing.

The pharma giant said the workforce moves would better position it to support new product launches as well as increased cancer drug R&D.

“Product launches are planned in 2014 in areas such as respiratory tract (branded and generic), lung cancer, dermatology, [and] heart disease,” Novartis said in a statement released in German and translated via Google Translate. Those products, Novartis hopes, will include the acute heart failure treatment serelaxin injection—an FDA-designated breakthrough therapy to be discussed February 13 by the FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee—and the moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis drug secukinumab.

“Several hundred additional jobs will be created, for example, in oncology development and OTC manufacturing. On the other hand, up to 500 full-time jobs will be cut in supportive areas at our headquarters and in operational roles in pharmaceutical development to free up resources,” Novartis stated.

The company said it has started consultations with affected employees, who are being reassured that it has “a good track record [for helping] employees [find] good solutions if they are affected by job cuts.”

“Nevertheless, and due to the low natural attrition, layoffs cannot be excluded,” Novartis cautioned, while adding that it will make severance payments to displaced workers as part of a “generous social plan.”

Novartis said the personnel moves would not shrink the total size of its Swiss workforce, which climbed last year to 15,000 after rising by 750 people, a 5% increase; 2013 marked the fifth consecutive year of Swiss job growth.

Since 2005, Novartis said, it created more than 4,000 new jobs, especially in the Basel region. Switzerland accounts for about 12% of Novartis’ total global workforce, though “only about 1% of revenue is generated here,” the company pointedly added.

“Some positions are to be concentrated in fewer sites,” Novartis added, without offering details on which Swiss sites may be vulnerable to cutbacks.

Those sites are unlikely to include Basel, which in addition to housing corporate headquarters is one of three major Novartis R&D sites worldwide; the other two are in Cambridge, MA, and Shaghai. The pharma giant said all active clinical programs in Switzerland would be retained, adding that it still sees Basel playing a major role in the company’s future: “Basel is still one of the most important centers of innovation of Novartis.”

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