Biopharma Companies Wrestle with Staffing Situations and Shortages from Pandemic

Layoffs Reduced Workforce_Compressed

Work-at-home arrangements created to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced numerous companies in most sectors to reevaluate their work deals. This has also resulted in rethinking site locations and real estate needs. Here’s a look.

Sanofi Closing Pennsylvania Plant, Laying Of 75

Paris-based Sanofi has announced numerous expansion deals this year, including a $476.26 million site in Singapore and a $703 million manufacturing site in Toronto. However, it indicated it plans to close a facility in Malvern, Pennsylvania, by September. The site handles the packaging and distribution of clinical supplies. It is expected to cut 75 jobs.

“This was a difficult decision,” stated a Sanofi spokeswoman, “and we plan to undertake this process responsibly and assist our employees with this transition. We are investigating other options for the site.”

It will still maintain operations at its R&D and manufacturing campus in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania. That site is producing Sanofi’s Fluzone vaccine.

The company also announced this week that it has a deal with Moderna to manufacture Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine. This is Sanofi’s third deal to manufacture a vaccine since its collaboration to develop a COVID-19 vaccine with GlaxoSmithKline failed to come together in a timely fashion.

Pfizer, Novartis and Moderna Studying Onsite/At-Home Work Arrangements

Pfizer is trying to decide what to do with its 1.89-million-square-feet office and laboratory space in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Some of this has to do with ambiguity over the future of in-office staffing post-COVID-19 pandemic. The company indicates it is looking for a more “modern and flexible” workspace for returning employees.

Pfizer has shared the space with Dow Chemicals since 2019. About 2,000 worked at the site prior to the pandemic.

One of the options they are considering is selling the space, although it also weighs options such as consolidating and renovating the existing space. It is consulting with a commercial real estate group to “understand the interest level in the current site.”

“The decision to do so is primarily being driven by the company’s evolving flexible working model, providing employees with greater flexibility to work remotely while still maintaining the ability to connect and collaborate regularly on-site,” the company indicated.

Novartis is also making similar decisions. According to a Bloomberg report, it is developing a hybrid at-home/in-office work scheme and, as a result, is trying to determine what to do with its offices. 

Vas Narasimhan, chief executive officer of Novartis, told Bloomberg that such a move would help it tap into new talent pools it didn’t have access to before the pandemic. Novartis launched its “Choice with Responsibility” initiative last summer, allowing eligible staffers to choose their worksite arrangements.

At the time, the company stated, “The global pandemic has accelerated our organizational need to explore new working models and our associates have expressed a strong desire for more flexibility in how, where and when they work.”

Similarly, Moderna indicated in late 2020 that it was working to determine how to pull in talent regardless of geography. The company’s chief executive officer, Stephane Bancel, indicated that moving forward, business travel will be different, and Moderna may look at more remote job applicants based on how effective remote work has been during the pandemic. Previously the company has chosen not to hire people because of “relocation challenges,” Bancel said.

Switzerland’s Lonza Recruiting Nestle Workers

Swiss-based Lonza, a contract research manufacturing organization (CRMO), is temporarily recruiting workers from Nestle to fill vacancies at its vaccine plant in Switzerland, where it is producing ingredients for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.

The Swiss government facilitated the decision after Moderna said that there would be cutbacks on vaccine delivery in “a number of countries” because of deficits of “human and material resources” in its European supply chain. In particular, Moderna was citing problems in Britain and Canada. 

Lonza declined to comment but has previously reported that three new production lines were scaling up to manufacture the Moderna vaccine in Visp, Switzerland. However, it could take months to reach “cruising speed.”

There was a call for “volunteers” from the Swiss government to Nestle research center employees in western Switzerland. They were told they had until Monday to respond to a three-month assignment with Lonza. For his part, Stephane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said he was confident Lonza would filling the staffing gaps soon.

Although no specifics were noted, a Nestle spokesman said the company wanted to play “an active role in global vaccination.”


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