In Another Round of Cuts, Biogen Lays Off Unspecified Number of Employees

Pictured: Biogen sign in front of an office building/courtesy of John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty

Pictured: Biogen sign in front of an office building/courtesy of John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty

Biogen is laying off an unspecified number of employees, according to a article published Monday by the Boston Business Journal.

A Biogen spokesperson confirmed the layoffs in an email to BioSpace but declined to reveal the exact number of affected employees.

In a LinkedIn post published in late March, Matt Winton, former senior vice president and head of the company’s U.S. multiple sclerosis franchise, announced that he was leaving Biogen. He wrote that he was proud of his team's work in the MS and SMA communities. Winton served Biogen for more than nine years.

The Biogen spokesperson did not explicitly confirm to BioSpace whether the job cuts would primarily affect the company’s MS business.

Christopher Viehbacher, president and CEO of Biogen, foreshadowed these job cuts in the company’s Q4 and full-year 2022 financial results presentation in February 2023, referring specifically to the “declining revenue base” of its MS business.

Still, the company needs to be careful to “find the right balance” and not take too much from multiple sclerosis so as not to worsen already-declining sales, he said. For 2023, while Viehbacher expects to implement cost-reduction measures for its MS franchise, he said he anticipates some new investments, particularly as Biogen re-evaluates its general and administrative expenses for MS.

The spokesperson said the MS franchise is an important part of Biogen’s base business and that the company would continue to invest as appropriate.

“However, we will need to find the right balance across the entire portfolio to support the Leqembi and zuranolone launches [and] to sustain innovation in R&D," the spokesperson said.

Monday’s layoffs follow a sweeping headcount reduction implemented throughout 2022 that saw the planned termination of as many as 1,000 employees. The cost-cutting initiative was meant to help Biogen recoup losses from the launch of its troubled Alzheimer’s medicine, Aduhelm. 

MS is Still Biogen’s Top Earner

During the investor call, Viehbacher said the MS franchise still supports most of Biogen’s revenue. 

In 2022, Biogen’s MS business earned $5.43 billion dollars, accounting for nearly 68% of the company’s full-year revenue. Still, at constant currencies, MS sales dropped 9% from the year prior due to generic competition and pricing pressures.

Of its MS assets, Tysabri (natalizumab) remains Biogen’s strongest seller, earning more than $2.3 billion in 2022. Approved in 2004, Tysabri is a monoclonal antibody that binds to T cells and prevents them from attacking nerves in the brain and spinal cord, a pathological hallmark of MS.

Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), an activator of the Nrf2 pathway, is Biogen’s second-highest-selling MS asset, bringing in more than $1.4 billion in 2022. Tecfidera was approved in 2013.

Biogen’s MS franchise also includes the fumarate-based oral drug Vumerity (diroximel fumarate), the interferon medicines Avonex (interferon beta-1a) and Plegridy (peginterferon beta-1a) and the oral drug Fampyra (fampridine), which is being marketed by Acorda Therapeutics as Ampyra in the U.S.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com

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