Amidst Restructuring and Executives Changes, AstraZeneca Lays off 210 in Colorado

Man crossing off people from whiteboard with red X's

AstraZeneca has filed a Worker Readjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) notice with the State of Colorado, indicating it plans to lay off 210 people in Boulder and Longmont.

The reason is the company is consolidating “the biologics manufacturing network in one large-scale drug substance facility” in Frederick, Maryland. This is in order to improve the company’s global supply chain, according to company spokesperson Michele L. Meixell.

Meixell told The Denver Post, “Approximately 210 employees are impacted and those employees will exit the organization (March 22) with full decommissioning of the facilities to be completed by fourth quarter 2019. We will work with employees on a one-on-one basis to assess opportunities, including other potential roles within the organization.”

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AstraZeneca bought its Boulder facility in 2015 and its Longmont site in the fall of 2016. Both were previously owned by Amgen. AstraZeneca expected to use the facilities to expand its biologics manufacturing capabilities. When it acquired the Boulder facility, the company estimated it would employ as many as 400 people.

Reportedly, these layoffs are not related to recent restructuring. The company signaled earlier this week that it was making changes to its main therapy areas. Included in those changes is the development of R&D and commercial units in its biopharmaceuticals (cardiovascular, renal & metabolism (CVRM) and respiratory) area and in oncology. Mene Pangalos, previously overseeing AstraZeneca’s Innovative Medicines and Early Development Biotech Unit, will head the biopharmaceuticals R&D unit.

“This new structure will support growth and sharpen the focus on our main therapy areas, speeding up decisions and making us more productive in our mission to bring innovative medicines to patients,” stated company Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot

AstraZeneca also announced that Jose Baselga will be the company’s new head of oncology research and discovery. Baselga was formerly chief medical officer of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He resigned from Sloan Kettering in September after allegations that he failed to disclose significant financial ties to various pharmaceutical companies in journal articles he published. He had held advisory positions with Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb. At Genentech, a Roche subsidiary, he played a key role in the development of breast cancer drug Herceptin. According to reports published by The New York Times and ProPublica, Baselga had financial relationships with more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies.

Baselga, in a recent Wall Street Journal interview, apologized for his disclosure failures, saying there was no excuse. Soriot told the Journal that, “the company’s chief ethics officer was satisfied that these omissions were accidental.” 

The company also reported that Mark Mallon, head of product and portfolio strategy, was leaving the company to head Ironwood Pharmaceuticals. Ironwood’s former CEO, Peter Hecht, left to head a spinout company, Cyclerion Therapeutics. Ironwood announced the spinout in May 2018.

At the recent JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, AstraZenca’s Senior Vice President-Market Access Rick Suarez indicated the company’s net prices on average across its portfolio will decrease this year compared to last year. “When we start having discussions that are truly focused on just a list price, we are not really getting to the core of what some of the challenges are that patients might have in terms of the cost of the pharmacy counter,” Suarez said.

He went on to say the company is attempting to increase pricing transparency and evaluating novel ways of pricing drugs, largely through value-based reimbursement agreements with payers.

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